A Report Back from the Digital Front Lines

A week ago, Giant Interactive participated as a co-sponsor (with OVGuide) in the Entertainment Merchants Association‘s June Digital Salon. The topic of the evening:

How do content providers attract consumers ‘where they are, when they are’ in a marketplace which is filled with numerous digital offerings and seems to be adding more choices every day? Beyond fine-tuning search and discovery, more than optimizing SEO, how do content provider/marketers rise to the top of viewers minds and win a share of the growing amount of time consumers spend consuming mobile media?

As co-sponsor, we chose this topic (in consultation with the folks at OVGuide and the EMA) so that we could get a better understanding of the challenges faced by the digital entertainment merchants so that we can work better with them. We weren’t participating to offer answers, but we definitely want to learn more about the challenges faced by the digital entertainment merchants (DMAs) to better align our business with theirs, whether indirectly through Giant’s digital encoding/prep services or directly through our digital marketing team. Our co-sponsor, OVGuide, operates in just this space. They’ve built their business specifically to direct viewers to digital content wherever it may be found. CEO Sanjay Reddy made a powerful case for OVGuide as both a clearhouse of information as well as a content exhibitor as well. Yet this was only one part of the answer to the question at hand, and a part that marketers have very little control over. As the discussion progressed, several speakers noted that establishing and nurturing a relationship with the marketing executive of the content distribution platform is critical in getting a foothold on the front page or the ‘featured’ list. This real estate is in high demand since such spots are the first areas seen and the largest draw for traffic. Being able to make the case for a particular title to the platform marketing executive, supported by a theatrical box office history, a marketing campaign and strong fundamentals (i.e.: cast, story, genre) was critical in capturing that real estate. But it wasn’t long before one of the chief themes of the evening emerged: the increasing reliance on social media to inform viewers of content AND where to find it. How important is it? According to one survey, the value of social media, as demonstrated by the perceived value of one Facebook ‘like’, has grown in value to brands, from $110 in 2010 to $178 now, a 28% increase. Giant’s own Dave Nichols spoke of the success that our work with Roadside Attractions in promoting recent indie releases like Much Ado About Nothing. Recommendation engines were also mentioned as being an critical part of drawing users to content once they were within a platform. Yet some participants noted that a recommendation engine, even as good as they have become, would still provide a less than completely satisfactory experience. No engine would be able to correlate information in real time, measuring a viewers mood and present state of mind. The potential contribution of social media again was again noted — if your friends were interested in superhero movies, would you be likely to welcome recommendations leaning toward that genre. The discussion become more lively as the evening wore on, but no definite solution was reached. Several important challenges continue to challenge DMAs. (1) Real estate..how do INDEPENDENT companies, transporting content without the benefit of a high profile theatrical can key placement, let alone marketing gain, traction (and viewers) in the digital marketplace? (2) What are the tools to both create awareness of the existence of these titles and then foster actual engagement or better yet, monetization? (3) Content can be everywhere..but there is a cost to get it there and how do DMAs recover that cost most efficiently? As the digital marketplace continues to evolve, so will the answers to these questions. We look forward to listening the continuing discussion…and contributing when we can.