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How Hollywood and streaming series are revolutionizing virtual events

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How Hollywood and streaming series are revolutionizing virtual events


Paramount+ series Star Trek Picard, Season 2 premiere virtual event. Image: Little Cinema.

During the height of the COVID pandemic, Brooklyn-based studio Little Cinema helped Hollywood clients pivot from in-person movie premiers to virtual and hybrid events. Now, two years after the first lockdowns, they continue to push the limits of interactive engagement.

Nearly all Hollywood releases had to adjust their 2020 schedules, but now they’ve added virtual and hybrid events to their marketing strategy, embracing the same transformation as many organizations that have helped virtual events establish themselves as a channel.

At the time of the first lockdowns in March 2020, Jonathan Blair and his team were in London. They were a hands-on group that constructed and helped organize in-person events and experiential pop-ups.

Because on-site location shooting and most other aspects of movie productions were suspended, Blair wasn’t sure what this meant for his Hollywood clients. Enter the Zoom era, and increased demand for remote experiences and virtual events.

Virtual premieres begin to snowball

“We called a bunch of people and brought in some hired guns to help us,” said Blair, who serves as CTO for Little Cinema.

One of their first projects in this new pandemic environment was the HBO virtual launch for the Snowpiercer TV series. The event earned coverage in Variety, and from there Little Cinema took on virtual event duties for Hollywood studios and streaming series.

Picard Season 2 virtual premiere. Image: Little Cinema

Little Cinema is up past 80 staff members, and they’ve built an 11,000 square-foot studio in New York in addition to a studio in Los Angeles. To date, they’ve surpassed 350,000 unique on-platform attendees and 1.3 million viewers on simulcasts.

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Read next: Why we care about virtual events

Creating new virtual experiences

“We are very intentional about virtual and hybrid events,” said Blair. “We didn’t want to recreate the in-person experience. We wanted to take advantage of the medium we were playing in and lean in on live streaming and interactive broadcasting.”

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Before Little Cinema’s innovations, the typical Hollywood premiere was an exclusive in-person event for a few hundred insiders at the most. With virtual and hybrid events, these premieres can be opened up to thousands of fans online, across the globe.

Fans and insiders watch Star Trek Picard Season 2 premiere. Image: Little Cinema

A multi-part narrative can be built around the event, with characters who narrate a story based on the movie or series. Attendees can interact through messaging or text with characters on-site. Little Cinema builds sets from scratch that are based on what’s seen in the production. Or, they can incorporate elements from the actual set, or plant movie props in the design as “Easter eggs” for fans to discover and point out to each other.

Other parts of these virtual events have been gamified using trivia contests and virtual puzzle room formats. Blair stated that in designing these experiences, he veered from 3D-digital or VR experiences because his clients are committed to a 2D medium, namely films and TV series.


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“We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how we can make an experience for all types of viewers,” said Blair. “Every one of our events is a little different. We don’t have an out-of-the-box solution. Some might have chats, call-in options, video, and allow participants to engage with people on the screen.”

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A major goal for Little Cinema is to be able to support more engaged or “active” participants while also allowing for more “passive” attendees to watch the video live stream without having to solve puzzles, for instance.

“We tailor the creative and the technology to the specific viewers we’re targeting,” Blair said.

Trivia contest as part of Star Trek Picard Season 2 virtual experience. Image: Little Cinema

Expanding virtual and hybrid reach

“These were mostly industry events when we started, but now there are a lot more events toward fans,” said Blair. “Fans are super-engaged and content interactivity is an amazing way to reach them. Fan events are where we push the boundaries of virtual events.”

Little Cinema uses in-house technology to support the virtual events, and they’re getting prepared to release it as a product for other event marketers.

“You need to have options as marketers,” said Blair. In the world we live in now, there could be a new COVID-19 variant that would cancel an in-person event. What we’ve really seen is that hybrid and virtual events activate at a higher scale. From an ROI standpoint, you spend X dollars and now you can do both [in-person and virtual events].”

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He added that a recent premiere for the Netflix series Bridgerton was both a physical event and a digital premiere, happening at the same time.

“There were thousands of people who attended online that wouldn’t have been reached otherwise,” said Blair.


About The Author

Chris Wood draws on over 15 years of reporting experience as a B2B editor and journalist. At DMN, he served as associate editor, offering original analysis on the evolving marketing tech landscape. He has interviewed leaders in tech and policy, from Canva CEO Melanie Perkins, to former Cisco CEO John Chambers, and Vivek Kundra, appointed by Barack Obama as the country’s first federal CIO. He is especially interested in how new technologies, including voice and blockchain, are disrupting the marketing world as we know it. In 2019, he moderated a panel on “innovation theater” at Fintech Inn, in Vilnius. In addition to his marketing-focused reporting in industry trades like Robotics Trends, Modern Brewery Age and AdNation News, Wood has also written for KIRKUS, and contributes fiction, criticism and poetry to several leading book blogs. He studied English at Fairfield University, and was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. He lives in New York.

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Old Navy to drop NFTs in July 4th promo update

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Old Navy to drop NFTs in July 4th promo update

Old Navy will update its yearly Fourth of July promotions by saluting the metaverse with an NFT drop, going live June 29.

In honor of the year they were founded, the retailer will release 1,994 common NFTs, each selling for $0.94. The NFTs will feature the iconic Magic the Dog and t include a promo code for customers to claim an Old Navy t-shirt at Old Navy locations or online.

“This launch is Old Navy’s first activation in web3 or with NFTs,” an Old Navy spokesperson told MarTech. “As a brand rooted in democratization and inclusivity, it was essential that we provide access and education for all with the launch of our first NFT collection. We want all our customers, whether they have experience with web3, to be able to learn and participate in this activation.”

Accessible and user-friendly. Any customer can participate by visiting a page off of Old Navy’s home site, where they’ll find step-by-step instructions.

There will also be an auction for a unique one-of-one NFT. All proceeds for the NFT and shirt sales go to Old Navy’s longtime charitable partner, Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

Additionally, 10% of NFT resales on the secondary market will also go to Boys & Girls Clubs.

Support. This activation is supported by Sweet, who’s played a major role in campaigns for other early NFT adopters like Burger King.

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The Old Navy NFTs will be minted on the Tezos blockchain, known for its low carbon footprint.

“This is Old Navy’s first time playing in the web3 space, and we are using the launch of our first NFT collection to test and learn,” said Old Navy’s spokesperson. “We’re excited to enable our customers with a new way to engage with our iconic brand and hero offerings and look forward to exploring additional consumer activations in web3 in the future.”

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Read next: 4 key strategies for NFT brand launches

Why we care. Macy’s also announced an NFT promotion timed to their fireworks show. This one will award one of 10,000 NFTs to those who join their Discord server.

Old Navy, in contrast, is keeping customers closer to their owned channels, and not funneling customers to Discord. Old Navy consumers who don’t have an NFT wallet can sign up through Sweet to purchase and bid on NFTs.

While Macy’s has done previous web3 promotions, this is Old Navy’s first. They’ve aligned a charity partner, brand tradition and concern for the environment with a solid first crack at crypto.


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About The Author

Chris Wood draws on over 15 years of reporting experience as a B2B editor and journalist. At DMN, he served as associate editor, offering original analysis on the evolving marketing tech landscape. He has interviewed leaders in tech and policy, from Canva CEO Melanie Perkins, to former Cisco CEO John Chambers, and Vivek Kundra, appointed by Barack Obama as the country’s first federal CIO. He is especially interested in how new technologies, including voice and blockchain, are disrupting the marketing world as we know it. In 2019, he moderated a panel on “innovation theater” at Fintech Inn, in Vilnius. In addition to his marketing-focused reporting in industry trades like Robotics Trends, Modern Brewery Age and AdNation News, Wood has also written for KIRKUS, and contributes fiction, criticism and poetry to several leading book blogs. He studied English at Fairfield University, and was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. He lives in New York.

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