HBO, Jay Z and the #SecondScreen opportunity for #PicassoBaby

Jay Z’s not just a rapper and he’s more than a businessman (or a business, man); he’s a cultural force. From Rocawear to marrying Beyonce, from selling a million copies of an album before it’s released to a subliminal shout-out from a Presidential candidate.

We could talk about his Livestreamed concert at SxSW last year, or his fledgling sports agency, but for right now, let’s focus on Picasso Baby: A Performance Art Film which will be premiering on HBO tonight at 11pm eastern. Here’s a taste:

As a fan of Jay Z, and an HBO subscriber, I’m certainly planning on tuning in. As a marketer, and Content Advisory Board member to the 2nd Screen Society, I’m intrigued by the possibilities. HBO and Jay Z are both rightly lauded as innovators in their respective fields. This seems like a perfect opportunity for going beyond the traditional and extending the experience to a mobile device or tablet.

Marketing strategist Rob Fields thinks it’s a missed opportunity: “Since it’s only 11 minutes, HBO should make it available on HBO GO for, say, $1.99. Whatever the price is, it would open up the viewing legally to a whole new audience. They’d get the revenue and the consumer data, which is probably more important. It’d be a huge prospect list.”

This sort of content, from an innovative thinker like Jay Z is ripe for something like a 2nd screen experience.  I spoke with several 2nd screen industry innovators to get their take on what they’d like to see, or what they would have recommended:

Jeremy toeman, CEO Dijit media:  “In this era with such rich apps and a huge, excited, engaged, and obviously mobile, fan base, seems like there’s a lot more to offer an audience. From alternate camera angles to making of/extra footage to interactive social experiences, it seems like a great second screen opportunity!”

Aaron Williams, Founder/CEO of SocialSamba“The most exciting part of the whole concept for me was seeing the fans, 

Jay Z at Pace Gallery. Photo via Pace Gallery

Jay Z at Pace Gallery. Photo via Pace Gallery

participating in and recording their experience with the performance.  Think about it this way – it would only take 14 different fans hitting record to rack up a thousand different takes, angles and perspectives for every second of that song.  That’s a pile of content that begs to be mashed up by amateur fans and pro remixers alike.  There’s a kick-ass startup called Switchcam that does exactly this kind of syncing across multiple fan cams to allow everyone to mashup their favorite take on a shared experience (like concerts and weddings).  Jay should give them a call and put all that content to great use.”

Gitamba Saila-Ngita, Chief Innovation Strategist at Deft Collective had a different take:  “If you’d seen the process of creating the video you’d know that Jay Z spent almost 8 hours performing the song as “performance art” to random strangers and celebrities, with some joining in. Somewhere in that process a second screen experience should have been born that would enhance the experience when viewing the content on mobile or tablets. I think adding second screen to this [the HBO presentation] would be purely novel and nothing quite innovative or ground breaking. That said, it could explain why this is being pushed as something you have to watch on our downtime Sunday night.” 

Rob Fields counters, “The second screen experience could be interesting.  Remember that Jay filmed 6 hours, so there’s a lot of footage that could be teed up.  Point at which audiences on laptops, tablets and phones could go deeper.  They should definitely offer bios and video perspectives on the other artists that Jay included.  For example, I’m only broadly familiar with Marina Abramovic, and the broader population may be less so.  Also, do they have footage of Jay talking about why he chose the other artists?  It’d be great to hear his own words on this.  A win for HBO would be to have the 2nd screen experience be incredibly immersive so that you’d stay on the HBO site long after those 9 minutes were up.”

Rather than from purely the content aspect, I look at it from a brand opportunity point of view.  Jay Z’s deal with Samsung, the one that allowed Samsung mobile owners to download the new album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, a few days early – the one that got Jay Z a million sales before the album proper even dropped – was criticized for certain privacy related issues. Could providing those consumers with exclusive 2nd screen content to the HBO program have been a nice apology or surprise and delight bonus? Perhaps.  What about Pace Gallery, where Jay Z did his 6-hour performance art piece? Surely a 2nd screen experience highlighting the gallery or the history of performance art would have made sense.

As many above noted, there is a lot of material to work with and perhaps we’ll see it come to life at a future date. In the meantime, we’ll watch tonight and wonder what might have been.

Advertising Week Update

Advertising Week Panel on Sponsoring an Innovation Culture

It’s been a hectic couple of days for me at Advertising Week 2012. Here’s a rundown:

Monday, Oct. 1 NASDAQ Tech Futures 

I was the moderator for a panel called: The Imminent Power of 2nd Screen Consumer Engagement

The panel was packed with experts from a variety of fields, so we had a lively and diverse conversation:


  • Jordan Berkowitz, Executive Director, Creative Technology, Ogilvy & Mather
  • Sue Kaufman, Managing Director, GroupM
  • Brody O’Harran, Sr. Director, US XBOX Specialists Sales at Microsoft
  • Thomas Engdahl, CEO, President & Founder, Magic Ruby
  • Joe Inzerillo, Sr. VP, Multimedia & Distribution, Major League Baseball Advanced Media

Tuesday, Oct. 2 Sponsoring An Innovation Culture

As the marketing landscape evolves, creating an environment that inspires innovation is a key driver of business success. I was part of an eclectic panel of agency and market leaders who shared insights and experiences on how all businesses can stimulate and leverage innovation. The panel also featured:

  • David Shing, Digital Prophet, AOL
  • Brian Yamada, Executive Director of Channel Activation, VML
  • Yoni Bloch, Founder and CEO, Interlude

Advertising Week – Sponsoring an Innovative… by advertisingweek

Tuesday, Oct. 2 The Great Debate 3:00pm

COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY squared off against the VCU BRANDCENTER in the inaugural “Great Debate.” Student teams competed before an All-Star jury of industry leaders to defend whether second screen is the “New Normal” or just a passing fad. The debaters explored ways to monetize second screens and how content owners, distributors, and advertisers should plan accordingly.

I was one of the judges for this, and it was great to see the students tackle the issue. You can view this one split over two videos, here and here.

Wednesday, Oct. 3 Live from the AWE Stage 11:00am

Guy Finley, Executive Director of the 2nd Screen Society, and I spoke about the emerging 2nd Screen ecosystem and what it means for brands, agencies and consumers.

AWE_Second_Screen_Society_100312 by advertisingweek


Also, I was quoted in a Digiday piece, Can Agencies Solve the Talent Problem?, and here’s my first piece for The Huffington Post about Advertising Week – 99 Products and I’ll Pitch Each One –  where I explore the connection between Hip Hop and Advertising.


Eyecube Interview: Grant McCracken, Author of Flock & Flow

I’ve been reading Grant McCracken’s website, This Blog Sits At The Intersection of Anthropology and Economics, for a while now. There are a lot of blogs that cover marketing, culture, advertising, etc., but I read Grant’s because he truly has a unique perspective. It’s rare that I read something on his site that I have read somewhere else. That’s because he’s a cultural anthropologist and comes at these things from a different angle. He’s also written several books, most recently Transformations. I’m working on that one, but just finished Flock and Flow – Predicting and Managing Change in a Dynamic Marketplace. It’s a really thought provoking book that had me contemplating not only the work I do, but how I position ‘my brand’ as well. Grant was kind enough to engage in an email conversation with me regarding the concepts in Flock and Flow:



eyecube: Growing up in California in the early 80s, the “Preppy” look wasn’t huge, but at around the same time the skateboard culture was. And in New York the hip hop culture was also just on the verge of exploding. Clearly these were three trends, all coming out at around the same time, that would have massive influence on pop culture. So, if two decades ago it would have been tough to pick just one trend to ride, can a company do so today or must they hedge their bets?


Smirnoff uses the cultural shorthand of the Preppie – Green Tea Partay



Grand Master Flash signals the dawn of rap/hip hop – The Message



Skateboard culture begins in SoCal with the original Z Boys of  Dogtown 



Grant: Hedging bets is the name of the game.  The corporation should be tracking all of these.  Hip Hop has come and gone, waxed and waned, all of this should have been captured by the big board [a company’s internal tracking mechanism].  As these trends demonstrate, the days of one big trend are over.  It’s now about managing the perfect storm of contemporary culture as best as possible, and getting early warnings of change as soon as possible.


eyecube: In the book you talk about the music industry and looking for signs of the next trend, which is often a rejection of previous trends. What does the music industry do now with the emergence of mash-ups? If I can listen to a song, produced by someone outside the music industry, that blends 80s hair metal stalwarts Motley Crue with current UK grime princess Lady Sovereign, how can the music industry possible know which way to go? It seems like the traditional swing of the pendulum is gone, in fact the whole pendulum has been blown up.


Southern California 80s hair metal meets 21st Century UK Grime – Lady Sovereign v. Motley Crue


Grant: More evidence that the days of one big trend, “just-go-ask-the-temp-what’s-cool” are over.  And this makes a good listening system all the more important.  Anyone of these little trends could rise up to be a major player.  And these days it will happen fast. So early warning is the name of the game.  Edge finding is the name of the game.  Having a rough idea of what’s “out there” helps us understand what it is we’re facing when the Nor-easter comes ashore.


This question also raises the issue of content creation and relay, and the brand as a content creator and relay system.  It’s essential for brands to take both parts.  They need to create content that consumers can repurpose.  This is one way to remain in the game, to be part of that when consumers take content and use it for their own purposes, there will still be characteristic grammars or signature for how things can be “repurposed.”  And brands can’t do this unless they have their ear to the ground. 

  Continue reading

Barack Obama: DINU Brand

As I think more about this concept of the Deeply Immersive Narrative Universe (DINU), I wondered if this was an idea that worked for things like science fiction stories (Star Wars) or video games (Halo) especially well, but maybe not for the vast majority of brands, properties and franchises. But the more I thought about it, the more I see it across a wide variety of brands.  I think presidential candidate Barack Obama is a great example of a brand that quickly developed a DINU with truly remarkable results.

The development of Obama’s DINU has worked because not only has he been consistent with his message, but his supporters have embellished and built upon the foundation in a way that has meshed incredibly well. But, first, let’s take a look at what was most people’s first exposure to Obama, his speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention:

So he’s established his universe: A dynamic speaker with an odd name who is going to change the way the game is played. He’s piqued your interest because he’s offering something uniquely different. But not so different that you can just dismiss him. So, now, you want to know more about him, dig deeper into this Universe. Just about this time his first book, Dreams of My Father is republished. More of the Universe is revealed, more foundation is set from which to build upon as we learn his backstory.

Fast forward to 2007 and now Barack Obama is running for president. As an anti-establishment candidate, he deftly embraces social media and the power of consumers who not only are sick of politics as usual, but are hungry to produce, not just consume.

First, we see Obama Girl:

Not perfectly on message for the Obama campaign, but it opens the doors. Now, things that were never associated with political campaigns are available. People have license to participate.

The media begins to provide threads to the narrative as well, as Andrew Sullivan pens a defining piece in The Atlantic:




Obama himself continues to build the DINU, as his second book, The Audacity of Hope starts to get traction. More parts of the Universe come into focus, and new territories open for exploration. As the primary season begins and Obama scores a suprising victory in Iowa, the narrative changes. The unknown, no-hoper, suddenly becomes a vessel for the hopes and dreams of many, and we go from Obama Girl to something entirely different:

Wait a second, now we have to reevaluate what we thought about consumer-generated campaign videos. and a host of Hollywood celebrities collaborate to produce a video of a quality that the campaign itself would be proud of, but the fact that it wasn’t created by the Obama campaign fits perfectly in his narrative. This campaign is about his supporters, not about him. Again, new territories are opened for the narrative.  Soon, remarkable campaign posters are created, again not by the campaign, but by artists like Shepard Fairey, the guy behind Obey Giant:










Or clever tweaks like this one:


Obama, Irish? Only in a DINU do people have the permission to do so (note – as some commenters noted, Obama may in fact have Irish blood through his mom. But still, you get the point). Somehow you want to believe that yeah, he is Irish (or Jewish, or Chinese…) because Obama has embraced the concept of consumer generation. Each time he does so, he gives persmission for someone else to build new parts of his DINU. How revolutionary is that for a political candidate? Where are the spin masters and handlers, managing his every word and image? How can they let this happen? Because they have accepted and embraced it as part of his narrative. This is so powerful and a big reason he is in the position that he is in right now. Yes, people bought in to him, but he bought in to them just as much, and in doing so he strengthened and grew his Deeply Immersive Narrative Universe. His story just sounds like a movie doesn’t it?

His speeches, their words and cadence just lend themselves to music. Music and politics have had an interesting history over the last two decades. You’ll recall Bill Clinton used a Fleetwood Mac song to symbolise his younger, hipper campaign when compared to George H. W. Bush. Now, Obama has re-invented the music connection and once again deepened the narrative with his ‘Dirt off your shoulder’ moment, a reference to a Jay-Z song. It took someone about a day to then put together this mash up.

Barack Obama has created a DINU not only delivering a consistent message across a variety of channels, but by laying the foundation for others to build upon it. In that way he is comparable to George Lucas, who built the Star Wars universe that has been so richly developed by others.