Sunday, July 15, 2007

How The Web Will Topple Television, Raketu takes the first step

Many of you know how I have been pitching this whole direct sponsorship thing as far back as 1990 in The Ren and Stimpy Show and then on the web in 1997 with the first online cartoon series, The Goddamn George Liquor Show.

It's an idea that should have clicked long ago, but the business world has been slow to embrace this idea, even though the technology has been here for at least 8 years to completely change the way entertainment and advertising works.

It looks like the time may have come for it to finally happen.

The whole advertising business is trying to figure out what to do now that no one is watching ads on TV anymore. Sponsors know that the web is where they need to go, but no one yet has figured out how to best take advantage of it...even though I've been telling everyone for so long!
In 1997 till about 2000 I marketed the whole concept by calling every magazine I could think of and pitching the idea to Wired, Yahoo, Millimeter and tons of others.

Unfortunately, I was too early. The Internet boom crashed around 2,000.

So I shook my head, went back to TV and waited until the business caught up with the idea.

When I discovered the blog model last year, I thought, "Hmmm.... maybe I should just write up all my ideas and put them online myself and see if anyone notices." I figured it would be a good way to do some underground marketing.

When the blog caught on, Mark Frauenfelder from Boing Boing called me to interview me, and he told me about Federated Media who was buying him ads. FM, founded by John Batelle (who also was a founder of Wired Magazine) met with me and I pitched him my idea of online direct sponsorship and he got it and said he would get his team to help pitch the idea to his sponsors.

You know all those Google Ads on the sides of websites? I've never understood those. Why is there so much money being spent on them? No one reads them. We automatically just tune them out when we visit websites. We don't even see them.

It seems like a huge waste of money to me. I also don't understand popups. Popup ads just piss everyone off! Like TV and movies. Modern corporate thinking has a strange habit of doing things to make the audience mad:

Commercials in movie theaters.
Network bugs crawling all over the TV screen when you are trying to watch your favorite shows.
Commercials that are obnoxious.

It used to be that big companies would compete with each other by making their products more appealing and attractive.
Movie theatres ran short cartoons before the movies.
TV Networks tried making shows better than other TV networks.

I pitched my idea to John and the FM shows. It's so simple:

Make an attractive animated banner ad that the sponsor places on various websites.
If it is fun and attractive, people will notice it and click on it.

The banner then takes you to another site where there is full blown animated content.

The content can be pure entertainment, or entertainment coupled with ads.
BUT!!! The ad has to be entertaining too, or no one will want to watch it!

Joe Kressaty at FM called me last November or so and told me he found a sponsor who was interested in the idea. They wanted to do some more adventurous type of internet ad that matched their adventurous internet product: Raketu.

I began working with Raketu's iconoclastic Irish marketing director Oliver McIntyre. I pitched him my general concept of making advertising entertaining online and he was already thinking along the same lines, so it was a perfect match.

Here are his own words:

Hollywood and the Cartoonist that changed my life:

Four months ago we embarked on the task of reinventing the Raketu world. We needed to differentiate the brand and transform it from one that merely offered a great service to one that had a personality. It had to entertain, be engaging and communicate the raft of different services to the very broad 15-75 year old target group. The brand had to be truly global.

In the ad agency world where I had spent all my life we always started by defining a brand’s USPS before drafting a strategy/positioning. However, Raketu had multiple usp’s and all appealed to different elements of the target audience. Every member of the family has different communication needs and I had to figure out how to show which aspects of Raketu would appeal to each.

My want was to create a Simpsons type cartoon family online, a family that could show off different elements of the brand/product.
The brief from my peers was to establish the Raketu family and drive downloads and users ASAP.

Then in mid November 2006 I talked on the phone to this cool guy called John K. The guy didn’t really say a lot during our initial telephone conversations but he was funny, talented and most importantly, he got it. I knew he was “the one” that would help me to develop the Raketu family.

Just before Christmas John came to NYC. Meeting in a cafĂ© on the corner of 38&8th we started to discuss/develop the family. I didn’t give him a break all day and I remember the guy must have had 20 Diet Cokes throughout the day.

John suggested creating a mascot, along the lines of Tony The Tiger for Raketu. He came up with Raketeena the space imp. Raketeena lives in the far future and she visits our time to show today’s primitive humans about how this great brand called Raketu can make their lives better. She would explain to each member of the family in a funny way which aspects of Raketu could work for them.

Raketu does so many things that it would take a lot of patience to read through pages of text, so having animated cartoons do the explanations in an entertaining way was the perfect solution for us. Who likes reading manuals? But everyone loves cartoons!

The role of the blog campaign was two fold, first to get some brand understanding and awareness here in the US and secondly to test the Raketeena concept. When we first put up the banner, the click through rate went through the roof and so we knew we were on to something hot and we decided to then redesign our website and use John's characters to pitch our products and services.

The past two months have been awesome and have had the late night calls, the occasional drama, the constant explanations but I have to say I have really enjoyed working with John and his team. He’s a true pro, and I want to thank him and his team as I think they have done an amazing job.


Oliver McIntyre,
VP Marketing, Raketu

I thought it might be a good idea to do a post about all this history just for press purposes.
Oh and here are some more of my predictions about the web from way back in 1997!

If you wanna know more about the history of direct sponsorship and how all this stuff works, here are some links to previous posts: