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  • In Conversation: Network Awesome's Jason Forrest

    Apr 25, 2013

    Combing through the ever-growing glut of online clips on YouTube and elsewhere is an insurmountable task for even the most diehard cat video buff. Fortunately, a new kind of digital TV “net”-work has entered the viewing landscape to make the job a little easier. Former music critic/cut-and-paste recording artist Jason Forrest’s Network Awesome is part of the growing trend of curated video-sharing websites, wherein a team of tastemakers trolls the video super information freeway, creating a pleasant scenic route detour from select clips.

    What forward-thinking digital enterprises like Network Awesome offer that other video-sharing sites don’t is packaging – in Awesome’s case, vintage orphan archival treasures ranging from live music to old trailer mashups, all bound up in sleek retro-themed presentation. They are programmers in their own right, turning found footage into daily branded content that is as fresh and original as anything on traditional broadcast.

    Forrest recently sat down with Brief to discuss his inspiration for launching the company, the task of brand imaging for video-sharing sites and how social media TV networks will rival traditional broadcasters in the near future. What follows is part 1 of a three-part conversation.

    What was the impetus for launching Network Awesome?
    I wanted to get involved with TV for a few years. My first priority was to figure out what the current state of TV was but my research led me to the establishment of the cable broadcasting-era networks instead. I found the way the seminal cable networks established their brands in a crowded, emerging marketplace felt like a comparable situation to today's online video opportunities.

    At the same time, spending so much time in Europe traveling, I became extremely frustrated by confusing VOD sites filled with poor quality content, and even more disillusioned by the continued erosion of broadcast television quality. Eventually I reached out to my co-founder, Greg Sadetsky, who programmed the first version of Network Awesome in a few exciting days and we launched in January 2011. Our goal from the beginning was to establish Network Awesome as a brand that stands for discovery – a place where movie nerds and archivists are impressed and inspired. 

    Can you elaborate more on your programming philosophy?
    Network Awesome curates the best, most interesting content that has fallen through the cracks of the mainstream media. That means lots of art films, documentaries, video collections by theme and TV shows that haven't been on the air in some time. There is a whole world of amazing content that never made it back onto any US channels, but it remains popular and really cool.

    For example there are opportunities to connect music-related content with groups like heavy metal, punk and hip-hop fans, and we show a lot of documentaries that were on TV in the past which have no home. We also invite guest programmers to curate video collections about everything from contemporary artists to Indian disco videos to Russian animation. We curate six interesting and dependably surprising shows a day. Most of our users come back to the site daily just to see what we've come up with, and that sort of brand identification is what's missing from most people's TV habits these days.

    Network Awesome definitely fosters a communal synergy between its curators and viewers. How did that come about?
    One look at Network Awesome and you will see it's a site that is made with a lot of love and passion. As a result, we have a huge amount of people who have volunteered to help out. We're currently at around 250 volunteers: writers, video curators, artists, video editors – you name it. We have an open door policy and believe that our brand only gets stronger with diversity. Our team of around 30 video curators has amassed the largest meta-tagged database of YouTube video clips; around 65,000 clips that make up more than 7,000 films, documentaries and video collections. That's a lot of hard work!

    Network Awesome has the vibe of a really cool indie label. Since you have a background in the music business, is this by coincidence or design?
    For those who've never heard it, my music was extremely sample based; a sort of cut-and-paste pop-music that Pitchfork called "pre-Girl Talk.” What I created in Network Awesome was a platform to take these concepts and apply them to video curation and channel programming for a much larger audience.

    Are there plans to develop original programming?
    We have a handful of shows under our production arm Radosaur. The first series, “The Network Awesome Show,” is a sort of music variety show made in the image of Glenn O'Brien's seminal “TV Party” on public access in the ‘70s. The show has a more authentic feeling where musicians perform in an informal and more authentic way. It's proven to be far more successful than we expected, with about 40,000 views in the first month. We have nine episodes that are 15-30 minutes each in the first series and we're very excited to start Season 2 in the next month or so. We have a culture show currently in development called “Scavengers,” which invites creative types to talk about one thing that inspires them. It's a show that we hope reflects our own interest in discovering new concepts, people and experiences.

    What are your strategies for promoting content and establishing Network Awesome’s brand identity?

    We brand every aspect of our site and content. We run a lot of channel-centric video, from pre-roll introduction videos to network IDs, from programming ads to short title cards that help us put our mark on the curated content. Most people say they actually want more of our ads because they like them so much. But, to answer the question from an industry point of view, we seek to increase our profile by a number of ways: with continued top-quality curation, by hosting screenings and events, syndicating content, and production of original content. This game plan is part of our mantra: build community, be everywhere, achieve scale.

    Are there any challenges with branding an online portal versus a “traditional” network?
    We're doing something that is actually new and innovative. As such it can take people a few minutes to figure that out and in a world where the average attention span is based on the millisecond, that's a big challenge. Our company has been built largely with sweat equity, and I don't think many traditional networks were started that way. While we feel it's a strength to our story, it's also a handicap to not have a network’s deep pockets.

    Now for the devil’s advocate; can the television industry actually benefit from an online aggregated model?

    It's funny, I think the word aggregate doesn't really apply to us and I don't think it applies to Network Awesome any more than it applies to any other TV channel or network.  We're curators, not collectors, and if our goal was collecting the largest quantity of videos regardless of quality that wouldn't make us unique nor would it make us interesting. I think that one of the reasons why YouTube continues to win small battles against the entire TV broadcasting industry is because it's an open repository of content that is not focused only on current marketing trends. It's both short and long tail.

    Will this online-curated model/social media space affect the future of broadcast television and networks?
    Most definitely! Take a look around, it already is! But it is no secret that “TV-as we-know-it” is at a crossroads. On one hand, you have a change in technology: the rise of cord-cutting, second screens and IPTV/VOD services that are forcing a lot of people to ask a lot of questions. Additionally, you have a lowest common denominator approach to low-cost, high-profit content coupled with a bipolar pundit neediness which continues to drive the quality of daily TV content lower and lower. The two issues are linked of course and that allows for new opportunities. Future audiences will have increasingly broad interests and the future marketplace will also be more diverse than the current broadcast channels can serve.

    Are there plans to develop Network Awesome into a “traditional” network?
    We feel the concept can scale to that level. Of course starting as a website and building that into a broadcast channel is a lot of work, but we're up for the challenge!

  • Eric Mortensen and My Damn Channel Cable-ize The Internet

    Feb 26, 2013

    By Justin W. Sanders

    To a comedy nerd, Mortensen has probably landed the ultimate job. As the newly hired director of programming and acquisitions for the recently launched My Damn Channel Comedy Network, Mortensen is guiding the ship of one of the top-rated comedy websites on the internet as it transitions into an online multi-channel YouTube entity that will premiere hundreds of debut comedy series throughout the coming year.

    Many fans of Internet humor have been following My Damn Channel since 2007, when it launched with David Wain’s web series “Wainy Days.” Now in its fifth season, “Wainy Days” has been joined by dozens more popular MDC series including Grace Helbig’s “Daily Grace” and Sarah Silverman’s “Pilot Season.”

    Justin W. Sanders spoke with Mortensen about the “cable-ization” of the Internet, the secret to profitable digital programming and what on-air broadcasters can learn from web distributors.


    What led to the decision to becoming a YouTube network?

    We believe that the mass sea of content online is beginning to create the need for what our founder/CEO Rob Barnett is calling the "cable-ization of the Internet," where a small group of multi-channel networks are offering creators in certain entertainment categories the opportunity to find a wider audience as part of a network than they may be able to get on their own.

    Obviously, My Damn Channel is boosted by excellent content, but what other developments resulted in the 300% revenue increase over the past year? Is it that people are more and more willing to watch online programming or has there been a shift in your marketing strategy?

    Although I've just joined My Damn Channel recently, the company has been building a consistent and growing audience since 2007. Many of the breakout hits on My Damn Channel achieve significant traffic and revenue and the network has always worked with major advertisers to co-create branded entertainment for our original series [including shows such as the Subway-partnered “Tech Up” and the popular adult-themed tutorials “You Suck at Photoshop”]. Brands and advertisers continue to devote more attention and marketing dollars to online video because the audience numbers continue to show massive increases.

    How would you describe your strategy of distributing content and garnering a viewership?

    A big part of it is has been building a brand that is synonymous with quality and opportunity. Growing an audience is always hard, but it's nearly impossible to do if viewers can't find a trustworthy venue for discovering new things. Our brand is that venue. It makes it worthwhile for people to take a chance on something new. And once we've helped a series get their foot in the door, a world of possibilities opens up.

    What's the secret to producing profitable digital programming?

    The secret is in budgeting and time. Don't assume you're going to get a return right away. It takes time to build value. Focus on the horizon, be honest with yourself and spend accordingly. Do more with less.  And give your audience the time they need to find you.

    Two examples of My Damn Channel original series that have seen success this way are “Wainy Days” and “Daily Grace.” The company teamed up with writer/director/actor David Wain when launched in 2007, and season FIVE – something almost unheard of in this business – was nominated for Best Comedy Series at this year’s International Academy of Web Television Awards.  Meanwhile, every weekday since April 2008, we have seen Grace Helbig’s star shine brighter with each new daily video she uploads to and YouTube.  Today, she is averaging 3,500 new YouTube subscribers per day, and fans reward her consistency with hundreds of thousands of views per video. 

    What digital moves should on-air networks be making to stay competitive?

    They should be collaborating with outside content creators. They should be using their influence to support people who are trying new and different things. And they should be learning from those people. Everyone who's not involved with traditional on-air networks is essentially experimenting in public, 24/7. In the long run, the experimenters will come out ahead and they'll be way smarter. Look to newspapers for inspiration on the experimentation and collaboration front. Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight is a great example.

    Before My Damn Channel, you were
    senior director of content and network programming at web series distributor Blip. How will your experiences at Blip inform your role at MDC?

    My experience at Blip was in building something from scratch and continuing to build it for years. I view all of these indie series as startups. I've been there. I know how much work it takes. I know how much time it takes. And I know that the investment of time and effort can pay off if you stick with it. The ultimate success may be down the way a bit, but it likely won't happen at the flip of a switch. It will happen every day. Growth can be a constant if you put in the work.

    We are in the thick of "TV Everywhere." How would you describe the next phase of television consumption?

    First there was radio, then broadcast TV, then cable, then My Damn Channel. The next phase is the Internet doing to cable what cable did to broadcast. It will continue to be a gradual thing, but its effects will be visible to the naked eye. What we really need to do is make it easier for viewers to find great content. We can throw technology at the problem all day, but this is ultimately going to be solved by human beings with focus and good taste.

    Alexa Brown contributed to the article.
  • FRESH/REFRESH: SuperEstudio Spiffs Up Film Zone

    Feb 14, 2013

    By Justin W. Sanders

    After fully rebranding the channel in 2009, SuperEstudio returned recently to refresh the look of Fox Latin America’s Film Zone with some spiffy new 2D and 3D animations. Read on for some highlights from the project.

    Creative: Fox Latin America, concept and design; SuperEstudio, network package design and original production, 3D and 2D animation.

    Campaign Led By: Andre Takeda, VP of creative services, Fox Latin America; Soledad Podesta, creative director, Fox Latin America; Nicolás Sarsotti, art director, Fox Latin America; Juan Mariano Sola, CMO, Laptv/Film Zone; Juan Mascali, director of creative services, Laptv/Film Zone; Ezequiel Rormoser, creative director, SuperEstudio.

    Target Audience: Men and Women 18-49

    Objective: To renovate and improve Film Zone’s promotional design and animation by reinforcing the concept of good stories, all while preserving the avante-garde simplicity of the channel’s 2009 rebrand.

    Steps Taken: Dominated by a bold, brightly hued font and a cheerful, circular logo, the radical 2009 overhaul of Fox International Channels’ Film Zone turned the Latin America movie destination into something playful, colorful and warm. But a few years later, the network decided it wanted something “with the same spirit, but more modern and renovated,” said Ezequiel Rormoser, creative director at SuperEstudio, whose company worked with Fox on the 2009 rebrand and executed the 2D and 3D animation for this refresh.

    SuperEstudio made the round Film Zone logo ball-like in both appearance and function, letting it bounce, swirl and spin through a series of enticing language blocks such as “Popcorn & Cine.” But while the logo’s stylin’ dance moves are fun, the real star of the refresh is the shape-shifting typography, which squiggles, leaps, explodes and bends with fluid grace through movie clips, program announcements and more. It’s a dazzling merge of form and function.

    Fox, for its part, wanted “a branding that will work just with typography,” said Nicolás Sarsotti, art director for Fox Latin America, and Andre Takeda, VP of creative services for Fox Latin America (who chose to be quoted as a singular entity for this piece). “This was a decision we respected throughout the design process. The typography is design in itself. A type of design that communicated the value of words. That is the key to the success of this project.”

    Lessons Learned: The experience for both companies was “a GREAT example of teamwork,” said Sarsotti and Takeda, with which Rormoser fully agreed:

    “It was great teamwork,” said SuperEstudio’s creative director, “and this great result was achieved because there was a clear purpose from beginning to end.”

  • Emerging Media Workshop: Members' Questions Answered!

    Feb 12, 2013

    By PromaxBDA Staff

    On January 31, at Trailer Park in Hollywood, PromaxBDA’s latest Emerging Media Workshop informed and enlightened a packed house with speakers from Roku, Trion Worlds (and its new game/TV show “Defiance”) and Machinima. Following each presentation, members could use their mobile devices to ask questions, and many took advantage.

    Below, we present the complete set of member questions from the Roku and Trion Worlds presentations and the companies’ corresponding answers. We will be posting answers from the Machinima presentation in the near future, so stay tuned!

    Questions for Roku, Inc.
    Answered by: Tricia Mifsud, Senior Director of Corporate Communications
    Please note: While Roku’s questions are answered below by Tricia Mifsud, the Roku speaker at EMW was Steve Shannon, GM and SVP of content and services.  

    How will Roku compete with the growth of smart TVs that have streaming video apps?

    We believe growth in streaming usage will be centered on both streaming players and smart TVs.  We are focused on both of these areas. We have extended the Roku platform beyond the set-top box and into smart TVs and others devices through the Roku Streaming Stick – a small, wireless device that plugs into the TV. We have announced 14 partners to date. We have more partners than Google TV and Yahoo! combined.

    How are you leveraging yourselves against Apple TV?
    Today we split 90% of the streaming player market with Apple TV. That’s a fairly remarkable accomplishment given the size of our company versus the size and footprint of theirs.

    Are you publicly traded?
    No, we are privately held.

    Where did the name Roku come from?
    Roku means six in Japanese. Roku is our founder’s sixth company.

    What does Roku offer that Xbox and PlayStation 3 do not?
    Roku streaming players are very affordable, starting at $49. They are significantly less expensive than game consoles. People who want a box to stream to the TV buy streaming players over gaming consoles. We also have channels that are not available on those platforms. For example, TWC TV is only available on Roku.

    In what ways do you feel having a streaming piece of hardware is more advantageous than streaming software that can be adopted by many types of hardware?
    Today the Roku platform is delivered through hardware which allows for us to control many aspects of product design and the user experience.

    Do you foresee Roku creating or acquiring exclusive content?
    We haven’t made any announcements regarding this and I can’t speculate about the future.

    Will Roku offer search engine capabilities?
    If you mean a browser, probably not. We don’t see it as part of the TV viewing experience.  We have a new search feature that allows people to find entertainment available across the major channels on Roku.

    When do you foresee Roku incorporating Kinect-style motion gestures and voice commands in lieu of a remote control?
    People really like the remote control so I can’t imagine that going away. However, we do have a mobile app that allows people to use their smartphones and tablets as a remote control.  We are always listening to our customers and looking at new features. Having said that, we also believe that Roku should be incredibly easy to use. People like to relax when they watch TV.

    Zeroing in on such a heavy TV-consuming demographic, and given the positive growth of Roku, do you see an opportunity or social value in positioning your device educationally a la iTunes university?
    Our main focus is on the consumer market.

    Questions for Trion Worlds
    Answered by: Georgina Verdon, Global Brand Director
    Note: This portion of the transcription may not be republished or reproduced without prior, written permission. 

    What's the difference between multiplatform and transmedia?
    Multiplatform in gaming terms means cross-video-game platforms – PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Wii, etc. Transmedia relates to brand (IP) extensions across other forms of media (NOT in the same genre as video games), for example, TV, film, comic books, e-books, etc.

    What will happen if one part of “Defiance” works while the other fails (specifically, the show versus the game)?
    The game has been developed with its own brand identity and storyline – if the show does not succeed the plan is to keep the game going.

    How will actions in the “Defiance” video game influence the TV show? Can the game players actually change the outcome of the TV series?
    Basically we can gather data, run contests, etc., in the gaming space that can affect the end of the first season and certainly that can influence the second season. As you probably know, the nature of TV series production doesn’t allow immediate impacts due to lead times, but when the roles are reversed – TV to game influences – we have the ability to trigger instant “events” in the game that mirror what is happening in real time in any particular episode. THAT is all about careful planning and roll out.

    The core of this experience is story, so how do you account for participation via MMO?
    The TV series has its own story arc. The video game has a separate but similar/familiar story arc that will bridge that gap between Season 1 and Season 2 of the TV series. There is a common story thread that runs between both entities, but the common “experience” is different between the two. As per the presentation, for example, YOU the gamer are the main character lead in the video game. So you’ll have hundreds of thousands of main character leads creating their own storyline in an open world environment in the game, whereas the character leads in the TV show are pre-planned.

    Gamers have certain expectations and preferences that differ from a general viewer. Does this limit the thematic and narrative possibilities? Is this ultimately just a niche versus a peek at the future?
    Not really, because the core narrative of “Defiance” has been created in such a way that it can be manipulated differently for each entity. The “Defiance” UNIVERSE is just an umbrella, with a core set of principles (time, place, situation) that act as a guideline. We build out the video game experience from there and as long as it fits within the lore that has been created, we can pretty much go anywhere we like.

    What if people unlock all the codes in the “Defiance” world? Have you now taken that into account?
    Yes! We only activate codes in batches, not all at once, so that on the “back end,” our system will only recognize officially activated codes. 

    How do you keep the game play exciting for hyperactive users?
    We “drip feed” content to hyperactive users, drop a little piece at a time – enough to keep them satisfied but not enough to totally scratch that itch. We have regular posters on the forums who YELL at us to release more codes. We have created a community of “Arkfall” code junkies!

    Will there be an iPad game?
    Not at launch, but it has been discussed for post-launch.

    Launching in English, German and French... but not Spanish? A huge audience that's not being tapped
    what’s the strategy behind that?
    Very good question. We are launching a new IP and there is always risk in that, so I guess it was a business decision to launch with the top three languages (based on video game research) with a plan to roll out a Spanish version once it’s a success.

    Do you feel that non-players of the game (the viewers) will feel alienated if they
    are not playing the game?
    Absolutely not. Both the TV series and the video game have been developed so that on their own, they are a complete experience. That “Defiance” experience is merely enhanced when both are consumed together. Someone who plays and watches will be rewarded further and should feel smug about being able to identify the links between the two/those light-bulb moments when the “dots are joined.”

    Do you feel the recent mass shootings, the national debate on gun violence and specifically, the role violence plays in video games, will have an impact on emerging media in the future?
    The video games industry has its own regulatory rating boards – the Entertainment Software Rating Board in the States – and as such, we as publishers and developers have to adhere to very strict guidelines when it comes to releasing promotional/advertising content to the public. This includes the use of age gates on any mature-rated content, trailers, etc., and clear age-appropriate markings on any packaged goods AND digital goods. The list goes on. I think moving forward that other forms of digital media WILL be impacted in a similar way, but feel the current level of control in the video game space will suffice.

  • Check Out The Full Two-Part Hall Of Game Awards Promo

    Feb 10, 2013
    2013 Hall of Game Training Montage 

    Client: The Creative Group, Cartoon Network
    Production Company: Nola Pictures
    Director: Bruce Hurwit, Nola Pictures
    Executive Producer: Charlie Curran, Nola Pictures
    Senior Producer : Cheryl Ward, Nola Pictures
    Producer: Coni Lancaster, Nola Pictures
    Director of Photography: Andres Sanchez, Nola Pictures
    Senior Executive Creative Director: Michael Ouweleen, Creative Group Cartoon Network
    Senior Art Director: Jacob Escobedo, Creative Group Cartoon Network
    Copywriter: Craig "Sven" Gordon, Creative Group Cartoon Network
    Senior Producer: Heather Reilly, Creative Group
    Designer: Brian J. Smith, Creative Group Cartoon Network
    Editor: Jon Dilling, Cartoon Network
    Sound: Brent Busby, Cartoon Network
    Music: Angie Aparo

    2013 Hall Of Game Dry Cleaner Spot 

    Client: The Creative Group, Cartoon Network
    Production Company: Nola Pictures
    Director: Bruce Hurwit, Nola Pictures
    Executive Producer: Charlie Curran, Nola Pictures
    Senior Producer : Cheryl Ward, Nola Pictures
    Producer: Coni Lancaster, Nola Pictures
    Director of Photography: Andres Sanchez, Nola Pictures
    Senior Executive Creative Director: Michael Ouweleen, Creative Group Cartoon Network
    Senior Art Director: Jacob Escobedo, Creative Group Cartoon Network
    Senior Producer : Heather Reilly, Creative Group
    Designer: Brian J. Smith, Creative Group Cartoon Network
    Copywriter: Matt Peccini, Creative Group Cartoon Network
    Editor: Mike Voulgaris, Turner Studios
    Sound: Robert Ferguson, Turner Studios

  • Super Bowl XLVII TV Promo Roundup

    Feb 04, 2013
    By Justin W. Sanders

    As we have come to expect, this year's Super Bowl featured no shortage of memorable spots, from old stalwarts such as Budweiser and Taco Bell, and from surprising new contenders such as Oreo (who won the night overall, according to some analysts, thanks to a brilliant black-out tweet). Not surprising in the slightest was the fact that many of the best spots were TV promos, with work featuring big-deal product integrations, big-name directors such as David LaChapelle and other big game-worthy accoutrements. Check it all out below, in our Super Bowl XLVII TV promo roundup.

    Famed director David LaChapelle served up this lavish spot for 2 Broke Girls, offering a bold, brassy taste of what the show does best: mix humor with sex appeal.

    Here, The Big Bang Theory cannily replicates a typical high-octane NFL promo to typically hilarious effect. 

    This clever Time Warner Cable/AMC integration brings The Walking Dead right into your home. Literally. 

    Simple yet powerful, CBS' teaser for the upcoming Under The Dome smartly focused on the show's awesome website, which lets users enter an address to see the home/building of their choice get swallowed by the menacing dome.

    For its new line of official Dunder Mifflin office supplies, produced a Super Bowl ad that makes very little sense at all. But there's a cat in it, so we're cool with it.

    This mashup of hit CBS comedies is a marvel of editing, splicing a stream of audio-friendly clips into Stomp-esque rhythmic gold.

    After David Letterman stunned the nation in 2010 with his last Super Bowl spot, in which he appeared on a couch with Oprah and Jay Leno, the legendary host returned to XLVII for a lower-key, yet still effective clip involving a simple game of catch.
  • The Art of Rock & Roll, Part 2: Yo! MTV Laughs

    Jan 16, 2013

    By Tony Best

    Following the dissolution of Monty Python in the early '80s and the waning popularity of National Lampoon, MTV would breathe new life into the sardonic humor genre with a series of on-air promos that further established the network as a harbinger of cool. In search of the funny, MTV promo producers looked outside of their in-house talent pool to begin the tradition of tapping into a not-so-obvious source of satirical content: unknown stand-up comedians and comic actors. The gamble would pay off in spades when these jokesters went on to develop a cast of characters that rivaled those on mainstream TV, oftentimes becoming stars in their own right. The fresh new material helped evolve MTV’s identity beyond a quirky music video destination and, in some cases, was expanded into television properties and even feature films, supporting the careers of the then-unknown talents.

    Here’s a look at some of those early promos:

    Donal Logue
    Donal Logue’s loveable greaseball and bon vivant Jimmy the Cab Driver appeared in a string of iconic IDs in the early ‘90s, made memorable by the Canadian actor’s delicate balance of endearing pathos and creepiness. Here, the baby’s expression speaks volumes for Jimmy’s appeal: intrigue and mild disgust.

    Jim Turner
    If MTV had a mascot in the late ‘80s, it would have been Jim Turner’s Randee of the Redwoods, whose loopy adventures were documented in a series of spots culminating with the network putting forward the half-baked hippie as its dark horse candidate for President.

    Gilbert Gottfried
    Before he was a Twitter shock-meister and disgraced voiceover artist for Aflac, Gilbert Gottfried starred in a succession of bizarre, improvised interstitial MTV sketches that highlighted his neurotic take on music television programming. His rants are often nonsensical, but the uniquely irate persona on display was enough to launch him into stardom.

    Denis Leary
    Speaking of rants, no one ever did them as well as Denis Leary, who touched a chord with alternative youth through a string of MTV promos riffing on everything from REM to, as seen here, the dangers of drug use.

    Judy Tenuta
    TV geeks may remember Judy Tenuta from her stint on The Weird Al Show and other obscure ‘80s cable shows. Today, the accordion-wielding comedienne is perhaps best known for her portrayal as the "Petite Flower and Love Goddess" in this seductively strange ident.

    Mike Epps
    Taking a cue from Def Comedy Jam, MTV tapped into the burgeoning urban comedy scene with the funny-as-shit Your Motha’ promos (which would bequeath a TV show of the same name). Look close at this spot for a glimpse of Jam veteran, and future Day-Day Jones portrayer in the Friday films, Mike Epps.

  • Gannett's Bold New Graphics Package

    Jan 11, 2013

    By Justin W. Sanders

    The big local TV rebranding news to kick off 2013 comes courtesy of Gannett, which has implemented a bold new graphics package uniting its more than 20 broadcast stations' newscasts. The updated design, drawing from a darker, glossier palate of red, gray, blue and black, also coordinates with "USA TODAY's" color scheme, thereby connecting Gannett's properties across multiple platforms.

    New opens, accentuated in the first clip below, are big and flashy, dominated by reflective cubes and swirling lines that create momentum leading into the opening segment. From there, the visuals get much more pragmatic, with an array of boxes along the lower third of the screen announcing coming stories and delivering supplemental information. The headline text atop the display doesn't always match the preview text corresponding to it in the queue, resulting in a cognitive leap that confused my brain at times. But, we're still in the early stages of this new package, and the premise is sound. In time, Gannett's new look should provide a stylish and practical guide to the coming newscast, with stories ticking off in a timely and visually pleasing manner, pulling viewers along for sustained engagement.

  • Long Live the PC: Designing for Web in the Mobile Age

    Jan 04, 2013

    By Jeremy Porter

    As we rush pell-mell into the raging rivers of mobile, it seems like discussions of plain old web design get increasingly overlooked in favor of that hot new app or cutting-edge technology. But the best websites are still connecting points for campaigns’ myriad platform experiences and, in terms of web design innovation, “it’s been a while since we’ve seen this much change in so little time,” wrote Jeremy Porter, unified communications director at Definition 6, in a recent piece wrapping up 2012. After attending Mashable's Media Summit in November, Porter was inspired to jot down four guideposts for web designers, concocting a handy primer for engaging experiences across the board, be they website-related or no, and a nice jump start for those looking to hit the new year running. 

    1.      Reactive > Responsive

    The post-PC era is here. It no longer makes sense to design web experiences around the desktop as the primary device. Device proliferation requires a new solution, one that optimizes the experience for every reader. The most buzzed-about approach to designing for this new era is responsive web design, where the experience adjusts to the device and browser used by the visitor. But responsive web design only scratches the surface of addressing the problems of device proliferation. Expect a new term, reactive web design, to creep into the lexicon in 2013. Reactive web design as a label expands upon responsive approaches and strives to adapt the digital experience to predicted needs of the user. For example, using IP lookup, geolocation, or some other known visitor data, the web experience (and content) can be tailored to render a more contextual online experience. These will be exciting times for content marketers.

    2.      Social > Search

    There’s been a lot of talk about social being the new search. I don’t like this, because social is not search, but I get the point. Old-school SEO tactics aren’t what they once were before Google upgraded to Panda, a version of its search results ranking algorithm that suppresses the ranking of low-quality sites. Content that is shared aggressively will drive more consumption than content that is simply linked to a lot. Shares impact SEO – in many cases, impacting search rankings more than links. When planning your content strategy, search should follow social in order of importance. Writing a great, sharable headline that gets readers to read is more important than getting high authority links to that same piece of content. If it’s shared at a high frequency, search engines will reward you and the traffic will come.

    3.      Visuals = Traffic

    Mashable reports that it generates eight times more traffic on a post with a video than plain text. Brands should use images and video liberally on their content sites, and those images and videos should be easily shareable. In many cases, the images and video themselves serve as micro-content that users will share independent of the content on the site. This is particularly evident across the newer image-centric social channels such as Instagram and Pinterest. If you have high-quality images and video in your content, people will share your content across these channels. Remember, 90% of the information transmitted to the brain is visual. Visuals are processed 60,000 times faster, and posts that leverage video generate three times more inbound links than plain text.

    4.      Ads = Content

    If you have ads on your sites, you need to remember that they are content too. There was a lot of talk about native and responsive advertising at the Mashable Media Summit. Stated plainly, responsive advertising is the application of responsive web design to the ad units. Your ads should look great across any experience. You don’t have to be a responsive web design expert to capitalize on responsive advertising. Expect ad-serving platforms to support your responsive advertising needs in 2013. Slightly different from responsive advertising is native advertising, where advertising is built into the content experience itself. Facebook’s sponsored stories or Twitter’s sponsored tweets are an example of this evolving ad unit. 

    As we move into 2013, expect to see more site experiences built around content, context and conversations.

  • Family Values: How ‘Sons of Anarchy’ Leveled the Playing Field

    Dec 28, 2012

    By Jennifer Konerman

    2012 was a year that saw cable start to level the ratings playing field with the big four networks, and no cable channel played a bigger part in this trend than FX. While “American Horror Story” and “Sons of Anarchy” tied for the No. 1-ranked FX telecast ever in the demographic of adults 18-34, it was “Sons” that achieved the even greater feat of repeatedly ending its night as the No. 1 show of its time period in key demographics across cable and broadcast.

    To garner ratings for “Sons” that rival broadcast networks, Stephanie Gibbons, EVP of marketing and promotions at FX, and her team have cultivated a level of engagement that transcends preconceived notions of what fan involvement can be. By tapping into the show’s very specific yet universally recognized niche, they have discovered “a world within a world,” Gibbons said. “There’s a lot of fodder for fans to really dig into in terms of motorcycle culture.”

    FX has proven itself unafraid to go deep into, and even become part of, that world, as evidenced by its Ride Free or Die tour in 2009 and its annual takeover of Sturgis, the summer motorcycle rally held in South Dakota. The show’s actors deepen the connection by greeting fans at events, taking photos, and gladly accepting the pomp and circumstance along with the criticism. Among the series’ contributors, perhaps no figure exhibits its open attitude more so than creator Kurt Sutter, who treats diehard fans as part of his family.

    “What’s great about this show is that it’s almost a publicist’s dream. You have Kurt Sutter, who’s great with the media and media loves to talk to him,” said Dominic Pagone, VP of media relations at FX. “You have the cast, whom everybody also loves to interview and know what they’re doing. And then you have the fans that eat up everything.”

    Sutter satiates those fans’ ravenous appetite by responding to their feedback directly on Facebook and supplying an exclusive “Before the Anarchy” video series that delves behind the scenes of “Sons,” looks at on-set direction, and assesses why certain decisions were made and the purpose of certain characters.

    “He is such an incredible resource for us because he’s so active,” said Gibbons. “He has such a distinct voice, and he is so embracing of allowing fans behind the curtain. That makes him an incredibly special creative partner for us from a marketing standpoint, which I really feel, in the social realm, has given us such a great leg up. There’s an authenticity and honesty to it and an intimacy that he has with his fans that, to me – in addition to the essence of the show – has been our biggest marketing leverage point in terms of being able to connect in a very real way on social media.”

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