Arresting Audiences – part two

September 28, 2010 at 9:58 pm (Conferences) (, , , , , )

Identifying Your Audience – Dan Gregory (SMART and The Gruen Transfer)

Dan Gregory opened with the concept that “we’re all in marketing” – the way we present ourselves to the world, the way we engage in relationships, whether consciously or not is all an act of marketing ourselves. It’s a concept I’ve had presented to me before, at a Creative Women’s Circle event, only in that instance it was done more gently with an emphasis on talking about your work or business in a positive manner rather than a self-deprecating one because you never know who might be listening. Maybe it’s just me, but there does seem to be something repugnant about marketing when it’s divorced from honesty or fun, and the notion that relationships might be engaged out of self-interest rather than interest in the other is decidedly unappealing. Fortunately, fun is how Dan delivered the nine key messages for identifying your audience [my own emphasis in red]:

1. Accessable
– Audiences are becoming increasingly fragmented. You can’t just throw your product out into the world and expect an audience to be there. You need to know who they are, where they are, and what their interests are.
– Technology is changing ways audiences can be accessed – what used to be water-cooler conversation is now happening immediately via mobile devices.
– Dan used the branding of Nandos via a late-night tv campaign as an example, and for our entertainment included an anecdote about his business partner Kieran Flanagan bounding into a sex store asking for bondage outfits… that can fit chickens.

2. Unique
– Audiences can be identified by demography, geography and psychological behaviour.
– Identifying a unique audience allows you to speak to the “primary driver” and communicate top values.
– UK film recognises four audiences: Mainstream; Mainstream Plus; Afficianados; and Avids.

3. Defined
– Identifying an audience gets complicated by multiples.
– Need to think of distributors as well as consumers.
– Audience can be defined by who you DON’T want to talk to – who are you prepared to offend?

4. Identifiable
Identity beats quality.
Your brand needs to be ownable and identifiable. This identity needs to resonate with and be relevant to the audience, or they’ll tune out.
– e.g. Nike’s marketing campaign is not selling a shoe, it’s selling a lifestyle…

Remind you of someone?

5. Emotional
All decisions are emotionally driven.
– “Psychos are killing demos” – the commonality of consumer behaviour overrides demographic differences.

“People go to films to escape – if it doesn’t provide that you miss a key emotional driver.”
– Dan Gregory, via @GaryPHayes

6. Numerous
– Don’t confuse numbers with dollars. A small audience with passion can generate as much revenue as a large audience that isn’t engaged.
Target and engage your audience – get a dialogue going.
– e.g. For one campaign the tag “Choose your words carefully – you’ll only have four.” was chosen (based on the fact that at the peak of Mt Everest, the altitude prevents you from saying more than four words per breath). This was used in social media to open up a dialogue with the audience about what their four words would be.

7. Connected
– People don’t always know what they want until you give it to them.
– e.g. Audience had asked for a natural-tasting energy drink but when they got it (Mother) they didn’t like it.
– With audiences being more connected online, your product/campaign flies or dies faster.

8. Engaged
– Need to frame the old in a new way, that the audience hasn’t seen before.

9. Sold
– You need to be comfortable with selling and marketing.
– Need to develop an individual strategy.
Build an audience, don’t find it.
– Audience perception is greater than truth.
– To sell Australian film, make it congruent with the Australian “brand”. New Zealand has done this successfully with their film and tourism (100% Pure New Zealand).

Any insistence upon an Aussie brand irks me. As a genre geek with an affinity for fantasy I’d like to see, and would love to be a part of, films of that ilk being grown on Australian soil. Pipe dream? Maybe. Yet even Dan emphasised the importance of identity, and engaging with a target audience no matter its size. Surely the financial obstacles traditionally associated with fantasy films can be pruned, and a low budget version can find a home here? Sadly, the proliferation of “Aussie” flicks is a self-perpetuating cycle: funding bodies offer support for “Australian” themes and content, “Australian” films are made and promoted, so the audience expects “Australian” films, emerging film-makers think they have to make “Australian” films, so they submit for funding for “Australian” films…

Okay, so enough abuse of quotation marks. Maybe Aussie branding is the smart way to market a film – especially to an overseas audience. Like a franchise, it offers the power of a recognised brand and an established market presence. You may even find financial backing more easily. All you have to do in return is adhere to the product expectations. For me, this is too great a price – by tacking all our industry onto one identity we’re selling ourselves short. Let’s not be typecast. Let’s dream big.


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Arresting Audiences – part one

September 25, 2010 at 11:24 am (Conferences) (, , , , , )

Who Do You Think They Are? – Mark McCrindle (McCrindle Research)

Mark eased the audience into the world of statistics by comparing them to a book of 3D images – at a cursory glance they are just patterns and colours, but looking deeply reveals meaning and context. The sales pitch quickly derailed when he then examined a helpful little book on How to Survive the ’80s and started talking about the “timeless realities of us as humans”, temporals, and DNA. I half expected Doctor Who to make an appearance just to chip in with “wibbley wobbley timey wimey”.

Eventually, we got around to the 7 trends in audiences – of which I got 6. (And I don’t feel bad, because @FilmVictoria missed #3 as well. Or maybe it disappeared into a temporal wormhole.)

1. Booming

I can’t say I keep an eye on birth rates myself, so it was a surprise to learn that last year there were over 300,000 births – which is 30,000 more than the peak rate in the post-World War II baby boom. It seems Australians have been, well, productive since 2001, when we hit our lowest birth rate. Of course, we’re also increasing our population – and our multi-culturalism – through immigration.

Some film and television viewing stats about this booming audience that may piqué your curiosity:
– 85% say that they watch Australian content (film + tv)
– 1/3 of this group couldn’t actually name an Australian film that they have watched
– 1/5 of Australians do not watch Australian film
This last figure did not surprise me. I had recently hypothesised to a friend that Australian films can be categorised into three main types: larrikin, intense family drama, and horror. Regardless of debates over the quality of, or even the quantity at which we produce films – without having a greater variety there’s always going to be a fair proportion of the audience who is just not interested. This debate really came to the fore during the fourth panel Investigating Genre.

2. Changing
– Households are smaller (with single households, and couples without kids, being the fastest growing type of household).
– Age demographics are shifting: by 2020 there will be as many 15-19 year olds, as there are 60-64 year olds.
From this point on, an interesting rift developed in the summit audience. While Mark and audience members were telling anecdotes about “kids these days” and laughing at the generational differences, Tweeters (#fvaudience) started getting annoyed by the stereotyping, and the patronisation of “dot com kids” – the very audience that the industry is trying to “arrest”. I think @GaryPHayes highlighted the issue best when he tweeted:

‘seeing other generations as very different not a good stance, look for behavioral, psychographic common ground’.

3. ?

4. New lifestages
child > adult
child > teenager > adult
child > tween > teen > kippers > adults

While I contained my distaste at the term “kippers” (kids in parents’ pockets eroding retirement savings, approx. 20-24 year olds), Mark emphasised the time poor, sophisticated, and demanding nature of today’s audience (a “narrow bandwidth of interest”), and the Twitter debate continued.

5. Influences
Summit attendees were surveyed prior to Arresting Audiences. Turns out that within the industry itself – for every person who thinks the industry is healthy, three say it needs work.
So, according to these results, the industry itself thinks it needs innovation and change. And, according to McCrindle Research, the audience wants user-created content, social validation, and the fulfilment of short-term needs. Apparently the solution is not necessarily changing what you say, but how you say it. Because this is a…

6. Post-structural
…world full of young post-structural people with the attention span of- oh look! Something shiny!

In seriousness, Mark did demonstrate the importance of products evolving to meet changing audience needs with examples such as the recent questioning of the relevance of printing the Oxford English Dictionary, given its success in online publication.

7. Post-rational
Mark identified four types of post-rational relationships:
By engaging with your audience in both a cognitive and emotive manner, they will fully embrace your product. Or, as 10 Things I Hate About You puts it:

Bianca: There’s a difference between like and love. I mean I like my Skechers, but I love my Prada backpack.
Chastity: But I love my Skechers.
Bianca: That’s because you don’t have a Prada backpack.

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Arresting Audiences – the beginning

September 23, 2010 at 8:03 pm (Conferences) ()

I was lucky enough to secure a ticket to Film Victoria’s sold out summit Arresting Audiences, which kicked off its programme today with a bang and is set to wrap up the investigation tomorrow. If you are unable to attend but interested to hear what’s happening, you can follow the twitter hashtag #fvaudience, and shiver in anticipation for Film Victoria to launch their online portal of tools and resources.

The tone of a conference is set the moment you are handed your inaugral showbag, and Arresting Audiences did not disappoint. As well as items both practical and thoughtful (pen, notepad, and a Film Vic KeepCup), I was delighted at the crime-investigation themed folio of information:

The genre glee continued as the summit opened with Law & Order spoof opening credits (bom-bom), before getting down to some serious statistics and stimulation. For me, today inspired a lot of thoughts about genre, especially in an Australian context, that I really want to share and hear others’ thoughts on. I’m so keen about it that I started this gorram blog! (Well, blog-ish thing. Anyone who knows me knows I am a hopeless blogger.) Of course, I’ll also be sharing my general notes of each session, which are smattered with my subjective reactions and ruminations. For now, however, I’ve spent so much time setting up this space that the details will have to wait in favour of sleep.

Were you at the summit? Any initial thoughts? Unexpected reactions? Favourite sessions?

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Archive: Growing Ent-ish

September 15, 2009 at 7:36 pm (Lord of the Rings, Writing) ()

“The Ents” exclaimed Aragorn. “Then there is truth in the old legends about the dwellers in the deep forests and the giant shepherds of the trees? Are there still Ents in the world? I thought they were only a memory of ancient days, if indeed they were ever more than a legend of Rohan.”

“A legend of Rohan!” cried Legolas. “Nay, every Elf in Wilderland has sung songs of the old Onodrim and their long sorrow. Yet even among us they are only a memory. If I were to meet one still walking in this world, then indeed I should feel young again! [1]

Ents have often been overlooked. Their concern is with trees, and as the forests of the world have shrunk it is easy for the world at large to forget about them.

To me Ents have always seemed like an ancient clock which is slowly winding down. They are a dying race – the Entwives are lost; there are no more Entings. They live by the slow and steady tick of time, watching as the world around them grows small and dark, and everything they love disappears. And, eventually, they stop…

In Lord of the Rings Treebeard tells Merry and Pippin about Ents going “tree-ish”, and it seems likely that this would be the fate of all Ents as Middle Earth rolled on into its Fourth Age and beyond.

This bittersweet theme of endings is not unique to Ents in Lord of the Rings. We enter Middle Earth at a precarious time, where things will change drastically, for good or ill. Sauron’s strength is growing, the elves are passing westward, and the Dúnedain will walk uncloaked in the south once more. Yet to me the swan-song of the Ents resounds louder and lingers longer. Their longevity, their consideration, their care and patience is worn away by the world. Are there any among us who haven’t stood on the brink of loneliness and watched the world rush past? Imagine that moment of clarity, of melancholy, that thought of “no-one cares” stretched out into years upon years. This is the sorrow of the Ents.

Tolkien was very aware of the spread of urbanisation in his day, and its cost to both the natural world without, and the natural harmony within – our “inner Ent”, if you will. And we are still besieged – our westernised needs and wants consume with such a hunger and barely a thought. And there is no guardian, no shepherd left to stop us. Only we can stop. We can stop, and consider.

When wind is in the deadly East,
then in the bitter rain
I’ll look for thee, and call to thee;
I’ll come to thee again!  [2]

What is it you love?

Time was when I could walk and sing all day and hear no more than the echo of my own voice in the hollow hills. The woods were like the woods of Lothlorien, only thicker, stronger, younger. And the smell of the air! I used to spend a week just breathing. [3]

What would you fight to protect?

…My name is growing all the time, and I’ve lived a very long, long time; so my name is like a story. [4]

What story are you telling to the world?

The Ents are dead. Long live the Ents.

Alan Lee: Fangorn Forest


[1] Tolkien, JRR; The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers; HarperCollins Publishers; London; 2001.
[2] Tolkien, JRR; The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers; HarperCollins Publishers; London; 2001.
[3] Tolkien, JRR; The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers; HarperCollins Publishers; London; 2001.
[4] Tolkien, JRR; The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers; HarperCollins Publishers; London; 2001.

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Archive: Legacy

September 6, 2009 at 7:22 am (Jordi, Lord of the Rings) (, )

Today is Father’s Day here in Australia. The Lord of the Rings is one of the few enjoyments that I share in common with my own father; a fact that makes it all the more personal and precious to me.

Fathers in Lord of the Rings are few and far between. Many of the characters’ fathers are deceased, and those that remain tend to not be featured very heavily – except for Denethor, and we all know how well that turns out. Bilbo and Gandalf make wonderful father figures in their own ways, but to me it is old Hamfast (“the Gaffer”) Gamgee who takes the prize for the best father in Lord of the Rings with his rough-hewn affection and rustic wisdom.

I have mentioned previously that my first reading of Lord of the Rings was from one of my father’s editions. What I haven’t yet confessed to is how, once I’d read the book and fallen madly in love with it, I insisted upon dressing up as a Lord of the Rings character for the movie debut of The Two Towers… and that my dear, sweet, and loving family indulged me by wearing the costumes I had similarly prepared for them. Thus, in the early morning of December 26th, 2002, in a small country town better acquainted with burn-outs than books, two hobbits and a Ringwraith stood waiting outside the cinema. There wasn’t even enough people waiting for the premiere screening to form a queue…

One day I would like to tell my father how grateful I am – how his willingness to dress as a Nazgul, simply because I had asked it, represents a world of love to me. I would like to tell him how treasured this memory is, and how even thinking about it makes me well up with pride. And you know what? I guess now I have.

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Archive: The Virtue of Rosie Cotton

August 30, 2009 at 6:13 pm (Lord of the Rings, Writing) ()

One of the criticisms often levelled at Lord of the Rings is that it has an under representation of women, which seems unfair to me because writing is a very personal and complex business in which the author’s own mind and voice play a role, and where characters may wander in unbidden with a voice all of their own.

If representations of gender in Lord of The Rings are to be studied, then I for one am most intrigued not by the quantity of female characters, nor the amount of page time devoted to them, but by the quality of them. I’d like to take the opportunity to reflect upon one of Lord of the Rings’ small-but-important female characters: Rosie Cotton; hobbit lass, and love of Samwise Gamgee.

Rosie doesn’t appear in person until the final book – in the chapter ‘The Scouring of the Shire’ she blithely welcomes Sam back to the Shire with “Where’ve you been? They said you were dead; but I’ve been expecting you since the Spring.” [1] Yet her fondness for Sam is obvious, with her eyes a’shining at him and her demanding him to “come straight back as soon as you have settled the ruffians”.[2] Ultimately, Sam and Rosie wed, and together they have 13 children.

As wife and mother, Rosie perhaps holds the most stereotypical female role in the book – she has no power over the rains on the Old Forest, no Elvish wisdom, no yearning for battle or renown. To all appearances Rosie spends the majority of Lord of the Rings pining for Sam, as Sam explains it to Frodo:

It seems she didn’t like my going abroad at all, poor lass; but as I hadn’t spoken, she couldn’t say so. And I didn’t speak, because I had a job to do first.

This scenario of female repression, whereby a woman cannot even declare her feelings unless a relationship has been made explicit, is not dissimilar to our own past practices and societal conventions. Rosie may appear to be an outdated stereotype, but this doesn’t devalue her as a character. What Rosie represents – more than Wife, more than Mother – is a part of the Shire itself, pure and sweet, unspoiled by the works of Saruman. Rosie is love, and love is genderless.

Rosie is first mentioned in the novel by Sam, as he sits upon the slope of Mount Doom with Frodo, and the knowledge that even if, against all odds, they succeed in destroying the ring, ‘there they would come to an end, alone, houseless, foodless in the midst of a terrible desert’ [3]. Sam reminisces about the Shire, and Rosie is part of this thought, this strength, this motivation to succeed – Rosie is the personification of the home that Sam and Frodo are fighting to protect.

In the wake of all Sam’s trials, Rosie is his comfort and his healing. She is the end of the story, the Happily Ever After. When Frodo has left for the Grey Havens, it is Rosie that draws Sam into his chair, and places their daughter on his lap. We see this image of family, of love, and we know that in spite of the hurt and the loss, everything will be okay. Life will go on, and with love in it, it will be a happy one.


[1] Tolkien, JRR; The Lord of the Rings; HarperCollins Publishers; London; 1991; p 1045.
[2] Tolkien 1046.
[3] Tolkien 969.

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Archive: The Men of Middle Earth

August 1, 2009 at 8:04 am (Lord of the Rings, Writing) ()

They had a vision as it were of a great expanse of years behind them, like a vast shadowy plain over which there strode shapes of Men, tall and grim with bright swords [1]

It took me a long time to appreciate and understand the men of Middle Earth. Of more appeal to me was the otherworldliness of Legolas – a fine-boned creature of grace and time, whose memories and awareness stretched far beyond the reach of any man’s. Perhaps this is because I was so disenchanted with our own mortal race, here in the “real world”.

I thought Denethor a mad old fool, Faramir as angst-ridden as he was noble, and Aragorn even more so. Boromir I despised, both for his pride and his weak-will in regards to the One Ring.

My loathing of poor Boromir was of such strength that upon seeing the movie of The Fellowship of the Ring, I – who always cry at the screen for the lost and the lonely – did not shed a single tear for Boromir. (For Gandalf, on the other hand, I wept uncontrollably, despite knowing that he was not truly gone.)

I did not realise the gravitas of Boromir until I read his story written by a talented roleplayer (whose name I wish I remembered, and whose story I wish I’d bookmarked). I think the reason this writer succeeded in “selling” me on Boromir where Tolkien had not, was because their words were wholly devoted to his character. (A canon-based fanwriter need not concern themselves with plot, nor multiple viewpoints). This writer had taken the seeds of Tolkien, and given them what I had not – time.

Take, for example, this quote from Boromir, at the Council of Elrond:

sudden war came upon us out of Mordor, and we were swept away. …Only a remnant of our eastern force came back, destroying the last bridge that still stood amid the ruins of Osgiliath.
I was in the company that held the bridge, until it was cast down behind us. Four only were saved by swimming: my brother and myself and two others. [2]

Boromir’s tale echoes with images of bloodiness and despair, yet I had glanced over it several times. It is pieces like this – whole stories and histories hidden in a few sparse sentences, that make Lord of the Rings a delight to re-read.

I am grateful to that roleplayer, not only for introducing me to the character of Boromir in a new and wonderful way, but also for teaching me a valuable lesson about how to read Lord of the Rings – savour it. Give it time. Let the seeds take root and grow.

I now know the men of Middle Earth to be mighty. They are builders, they are hunters, and they are warriors. They are not infallible. But their strength and their courage, especially in light of their mortality, is inspiring.

Through that roleplayer’s story of Boromir, I now know the true weight of the expectations placed on his shoulders by his father; and that his pride was for his people, for his hope for their future in the face of almost-certain doom.

Through that roleplayer’s story, I finally understood the tragedy of Boromir, and I wept.

(Note: this YouTube user has disabled the embedding feature, so it will not play on-screen. I highly recommend following the link [click the video] to watch it on YouTube, as Melina’s fanvids are beautifully done.)

(This post was inspired by a conversation with the Urban Mariner, a modern-day Faramir.)


[1] Tolkien, JRR; The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring; HarperCollins Publishers; London; 2001; p 192-193.
[2] Tolkien, JRR; The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring; HarperCollins Publishers; London; 2001; p 321-322.

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Archive: The Fellowship of the Ring

August 1, 2009 at 6:45 am (Lord of the Rings, Writing) ()

It’s difficult to be blasé about The Lord of the Rings. One of the book’s most appealing features is its ability to inspire. Every person I’ve met (to date) that has read Lord of the Rings – in its entirety – has been enthusiastic about it.

There are so many great stories of Lord of the Rings being passed down through the family. The first copy that I read was my father’s old paperback – a squat and hefty tome containing all three parts, it was rather the worse for wear after I’d carted it about (to maximise reading opportunities, naturally).

There are so many great stories of Lord of the Rings providing solace through familiarity in new towns, and new schools. The Lord of the Rings binds us (in a non-Sauronesque way), both to the book and to other readers. We’ve all been on this epic, thousand-plus page journey together. In a rather beautiful parallel, Lord of the Rings literally builds a fellowship amongst its readers.

Its always such a buzz for me when I stumble across a fellow Tolkien enthusiast, or fall into a Lord of the Rings conversation. I’m currently very fortunate to have a few Lord of the Rings compatriots amongst my close acquaintances, but it hasn’t always been this way.

When I first immersed myself in the world of Tolkien, not one person from my circle of high-school friends had read Lord of the Rings. I believe they thought me whimsical when I started scrawling excerpts of songs and poetry from the book on scraps of paper and spare polystyrene cups. I’m sure they thought me odd when my school diary shed its pictures of Freddie Prinze Jr. in favour of pictures of small, rotund men with hairy feet.

Fortunately for me this was the age of the internet, and I found many like-minded companions on various Tolkien oriented boards and forums. The people in these places were similarly impassioned with Lord of the Rings fever, and were unfailingly kind and generous in nature. I have listened to their stories, and they have listened to mine, with a sympathetic ear, and a knowing nod of the head. Of these numerous online encounters, I have met several in the flesh, and let me tell you – if we are descended from the Kings and Queens of Númenor, they would be proud.

Of course, not everyone finds such appeal and attraction in Lord of the Rings. Many a time I’ve had people confide in me that they couldn’t finish it – the pace was too slow, the poetry too abundant, Bombadil too absurd. Yet for those of us who enjoy another night unwinding in Middle Earth, another tale of yester-years woven into rhyme, who may even secretly delight in the occasional “ring a dong dillo”, there is a whole world of camaraderie and geeky conversations out there. So… won’t you tell me your Lord of the Rings story?

Anke Katrin Eissmann: Tom Bombadil

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