I attended, and was a speaker at, iSummit 2006, March 29-31, 2006 in Toronto, Canada. This entry is the second of two featuring my notes from the sessions I attended.
Xbox 360 Live Arcade
John David, the Lead Program Manager for Xbox Live Arcade, gave attendees a tour of this next generation videogame console’s Arcade service and revealed some other interesting factoids about the 360:
- Arcade gives Xbox 360 owners who connect to the Xbox Live service the opportunity to download and sample ‘simple’ arcade games. All are free to sample, but in most cases a small fee is required to play the full game.
- 50% of Xbox owners so far have connected to the Xbox Live online service.
- According to John, Arcade is a way for Microsoft to get the game console "back into the family room" where it will be used by all members of the family, not just the hardcore gamers.
- 3 million arcade games have been downloaded through Arcade.
- Microsoft had expected an average 8.5% conversion rate of Arcade game trials to purchase, but have been getting a remarkable 20% conversion rate instead.
- I learned a new term; John referred to a few of the Arcade games as "wife crack," meaning a game, usually puzzle based, that is highly addictive to the female spouse of a male gamer. (Of course, lots of women play videogames, but "wife crack" refers to games that appeal to spouses who normally never play videogames.) Microsoft is very interested in these "secondary" gamers (the spouse) because that’s where the growth in the videogame market lies. See also "gamer widow."
- While Microsoft’s focus is still on making the 360 "an awesome games box" the Xbox 360 console has other capabilities that make it directly competitive with current and future offerings from other major players, including cable and satellite companies.
- Microsoft will soon be adding music videos and song downloads to the Xbox Live Marketplace, some free, some paid. Hello, iTunes? It will be interesting to see what will happen when (not if) Microsoft adds TV shows and movies to the menu. Background downloading of large media files is apparently in the works.
- Xbox Live is also a communications platform: 600,000 text messages a day are exchanged on Xbox Live between its members.
Branded Entertainment: R U 4 Real?
This session provided an overview and examples of "branded entertainment," long-form content that is partially or fully funded by advertisers as an alternative to conventional advertising tactics such as TV commercials. Examples featured during this session included:
- The Ringing: Created by GJP Advertising in Toronto, this three-minute online horror movie spoof is actually an ad for Covad Communications, a VOIP start-up. The movie features staff at a small business being terrorized by their phone system, before being saved by a Covad employee.
- The Swarm: On behalf of M&M Minis, BBDO Worldwide created a custom comic book with Marvel as well as an online "CyberComic." The objective of this campaign was to drive engagement with the brand by tweens. Shawn Zupp, BBDO’s Director of New Content, told the audience that branded entertainment was chosen because it was deemed a "less passive and less predictable" media experience for the target market.
- The Adventures of Seinfeld & Superman: These short movies, dating back to 2004 and no longer online, featured comedian Jerry Seinfeld kibitzing with an animated Superman on behalf of American Express. Dave Sylvestre, Group Creative Director at Organic, described these as "opt-in entertainment" and said the goal was to be 95% entertainment, 5% advertising. For the record, I still consider the whole Seinfeld & Superman affair a PR stunt more than anything else.
- Nike Full Ride: Jeff Spriet, President of Chokolat (the "branded entertainment" arm of Taxi Advertising & Design) suggested that "associated entertainment" is a better name for the strategy as its goal is to create brand associations. To address what he called "TV commercial wear-out," Chokolat produced "Full Ride," a series of four 30-minute shows for Nike about up and coming college football players. Broadcast on ESPN last August and also available 24/7 on the Web at www.nikegridiron.com (although not any more, it seems), these ‘TV shows’ cost less to produce than a typical 30-second television ad and received a 0.2 share of the 18-49 year-old TV audience.
Finally, and as luck would have it, at one point during iSummit I found myself sitting next to Salim Ismail, Co-Founder of PubSub. If you’re a blogger, or interested in staying on top of what bloggers are writing about, then you must check out PubSub. It’s described as "a matching service that instantly notifies you when new content is created that matches your subscription." Fair enough, but you really have to try it to see its power. If you’re familiar with the Google Alerts service, then you will have some idea of the usefulness of PubSub, which ‘reads’ over 23 million blogs. While not a new service (it’s been around since 2004), PubSub isn’t that well known among the bloggers and marketing practitioners I have spoken to. I’m on a mission to rectify that! ;+)