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Lions Entertainment: Day Two round up

created on Friday 23 Jun 2017

E-commerce company Alibaba returned to Palais II today to pad out the "special shopping event" CMO Chris Tung had hinted at in his talk at Lions Innovation earlier in the week. In a charming two-way dialogue with David Hill (Hilly Inc.), the pair described how they’ve created a new form of entertainment.

TMall 11.11 was a four-hour live entertainment show created for Singles Day in 2016. It appeared to be an incredibly high-end production of a variety show, except the games could be played by the audience from their mobile devices at home. One game involved an A-list Chinese celebrity taking off her Burberry-sponsored coat and throwing it at the camera. Viewers launched their phone apps and zoomed in on their TV set to see the coat fly in to their phones by AR technology. All those that clicked had the chance to win the coat. Fedex staff then appeared on stage, packed up the coat and couriered it to the winner within hours.

The joint venture received 238 million interactions from this activity alone. The intention for the show was entirely to boost sales for Alibaba’s Singles Day, and it worked. They’ll be back again to do it this year.

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Jeffrey Katzenberg’s interview with Michael Hassan of MediaLink featured a perspective not yet seen at this event: the wealth of opportunity short-form content offers traditional media. Katzenberg is so positive about it, in fact, that he's founded a new media and technology company, WndrCo. During their discussion, the former Disney chairman advocated ProGC, a higher-budget version of UGC with the talent and brand safety of Hollywood.

Katzenberg predicts that ‘New TV’ will overtake TV just like TV overtook golden film in the last century. Technology, form and consumption habit are what define content and therefore there are no less opportunities for those who make short-form content than those who made TV or film in the past. It was refreshing to see someone from the traditional media space being so positive about the transition of content, in contrast to yesterday’s panel about mobile content, where there was more 

A further panel today discussed the role of branded-content in long or short-form TV, film and documentaries. A plethora of examples were given, but ultimately the unanimous message was that branding has to be authentic. It was advised by Rupert Maconick, who produced Lo and Behold (directed by Werner Herzog, winner of two Cannes Lions last night), to hire a script writer and film director who do TV and film in order to increase your chances of people watching your branded content.

If it’s a documentary, he advised doing research with a proper documentary research team. The subjects will then be free of charge and you won’t have to pay an ad agency. He explained that the processes of filming documentaries, TV and film are different to creating adverts – that’s the main difference. Director Martin Campbell agreed, saying that short-term branded work is really interesting to film directors. He was very positive about brands in motion picture in general: "brands don’t impede on the drama as long as it’s not too obvious." From his experience, brands get involved from a distance. Campbell explained how directors go after product placement as well: "in order for advertising purposes, it helps with your budget no question – so you really push for it."

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WWE returned this year following their excellent session in 2016. They shared their five tips for engagement with fans or consumers: 

1. Tell stories
2. Super-serve your audience
3. Listen, respond, take action
4. Be authentic
5. Create a community

In creating their own TV network to air their live wrestling shows 52 weeks of the year, as well as a heavily involved social media programme, they'e created a "WWE universe" or a "big family," as Stephanie McMahon put it. The love they have for their fans was palpable, and it was incredibly inspiring to see. This was by far the best demonstration of engagement I’ve seen at the festival so far. 

Pop culture plays a unique role in their strategy, with famous personalities featuring in their shows and their own stars making cameo appearances in other TV shows. UGC is taken to a whole other level as well: consumers directly dictate the live show by the reception they give to the wrestlers. This is also the case on social media, where their reviews and fictional fan stories are used to direct the wrestling stars’ stories, aired on live TV the following week. Oh, and the stars also respond personally to the fans.

Authorship is the key to successful content creation, argued Zai Bennett, who was in conversation with Chaka Sobhani this afternoon. Ideally, he wants one person to be in love with the concept, but he believes the difference between good and great content is the capacity to make it. 

Zai Bennett was responsible for commissioning both Celebrity Juice and The Only Way is Essex on ITV, TV shows Brits will know well. Data, he argued, isn't always necessary: believing in an idea editorially is enough. There have now been 20 series of Celebrity Juice, which was all editorial (as opposed to data-led). He believes data would have killed the show early on, as it only kicked off towards the end of series three. Sobhani added that data can help you figure out whether your gut instinct is right or not; you don’t have to pick one or the other.

‘Outside of data, how are you finding out about more tactile trends your audiences are into, Sobhani wondered. Bennett explained that the commissioning teams in their genres are completely engrossed – the drama team are always in the theatre, while the comedy team are at comedy shows twice a week.

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He spoke easily on AI, having had experience with it. It seemed to me that he was much further ahead with it than some sessions at Lions Innovation suggested the industry is. "It’s good at recreating what you’ve done before though not yet good enough to pick out something new. You can cut a movie trailer well though." A whole musical on Sky has also been scripted by AI, which he had first-hand experience with.

On diversity, Bennett had strong views: "It’s truly, utterly a shambles – we’re not representative [and] that’s fucking awful. There's no excuse for not having diversified on screen casting anymore; it’s your responsibility."

To finish off the day, Wyclef Jean performed a surprise set in Shazam’s session, providing those on The Terrace with a freestyle session, a blast from the past in the form of the Fugees’ ‘Ready or Not’ and a world-exclusive of material from his new album.

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