|"Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward; they may be beaten, but they may start a winning game." ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe|
Reprinted with permission from Denison Magazine, Spring 2007
BY DAVID BERMAN ’05
With an industry summit approaching, Phil McIntyre ’93 was looking for a way to promote his company, PGM Artists, which pairs advertising agencies with production companies. So he plucked from his own roster Hart+Larsson and commissioned them to create something, anything, that would whip potential clients into a frenzy. The result? PhilTube.com – a YouTube doppelganger featuring McIntyre himself in a series of tongue-in-cheek videos that call to mind the role played by fellow Denisonian Steve Carrell ’84 in “The Office.”
The site featured a page design noticeably similar to YouTube and a framework inside which Mcintyre, who had never acted before, and other bit players – including PGM employees Michael Lobikis ’06 and Carol Collins ’05 – could improvise. Included in the collection of videos were spoofs of YouTube’s accidental celebrities lonelygirll5 and the Star Wars kid. But the video that became the most popular and went viral – tech speak for material that becomes ubiquitous in cyber space – was “Did You Say Blogging?” Soon after PhilTube went live, the clip caught on and links began appearing on – what else? – blogs all over the web. And to “underscore the phenomenal purity of something going naked viral,” as Mcintyre puts it, “during it’s run someone out there in the ether put the clip on YouTube.” (Readers playing along at home can search that site for “I’m Blogging”.)
Four weeks, tens of thousands of hits, and one cease- and-desist letter from YouTube later, PhilTube was an undeniable success. At its peak, according to alexa.com, the site was the 25,421st most popular on the web (by comparison, denison.edu is the 103,501st most popular). Beyond bloggers, the mainstream press took notice. “1 declare PhilTube funnier than ‘The Office’,” said Aaron Barnhart of the Kansas City Star.
“I’m tickled the Google-YouTube merger happened in the middle of all of it,” McIntyre said. PhilTube was greenlit before the search engine giant shelled out $1.65 billion for the video site. He immediately complied with the YouTube order and pulled the plug, but its spirit lives on in the collective memory of the blogging community, as well as that one, ironic corner of YouTube. Now PhilTube is being developed in-house at Comedy Central. McIntyre said further episodes are being scripted and he expects them to debut, in one form or another, during the first quarter of 2007.
The Comedy Central version may, or may not, star Mcintyre. But he’s not sweating it because he has plenty of work to do. In addition to PGM Artists, Mcintyre also owns and runs The Brand Gallery, a brand strategy firm. The two companies peacefully coexist in the same New York City office space.
While PhilTube was a master stroke in self-promotional mimickery, Mcintyre refuses to take full credit. Like a proud father, he seems most excited at the prospects of seeing one of his own shine. “As off-the-cuff as it looked, there was a lot of work behind it,” he said. McIntyre has confidence in his own companies as well as those he represents. So did he expect for all of this to happen? “To be honest, I’m not that surprised,” he said
“We put the B in blogging. It should he BGM, not PGM. . .BGM Blartists!” spoofs a hyperdriven Phil McIntyre (right) of his own company and the grassroots Internet craze in one episode of the now “ceased-and-desisted” PhiIThbe.com. Watch for its resurgence on Comedy Central this year.
A panel of experts featuring leaders in health care, online gaming, open source and branding met at the University Club in New York City on March 1, 2007. The panel included Brian Loew, CEO of ClinicaHealth, T. Ron Davis, President/CEO of Intellect Marketing Group in Redmond, WA, Michael Lobikis, Account Executive of The Brand Gallery of New York, NY, and moderator Sydney Williams, President of Lyceum Associates.
An emerging trend of online communities serving the dual purpose of building brands while giving consumers a sense of community within the brand has been in rapid development over the past few years. Why this is happening may be obvious, but how to successfully implement such a community poses a much more difficult challenge.
Colgate-Palmolive is experimenting with new ways to mine data from consumers and professionals by creating exclusive online communities. One of their most successful communities is made up of working mothers with children under 12 years of age. While mothers are sharing opinions and advice about dental care, the community has also involved into a bit of a “maternal club” where members go beyond how to get your six year-old to brush for two minutes twice a day. Other Colgate communities include groups made up of dental hygienists based in the US and internationally. Companies like Colgate that rely heavily on customer feedback are finding that online communities act as around-the-clock focus groups that can be maintained with less cost and more efficiency than traditional data gathering methods.
ClinicaHealth is revolutionizing the way patients with serious illnesses seek emotional support in this age of increasing technology. ClincaHealth’s online communities for patients suffering from diseases such as lung cancer or ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) double as a support group where patients can share advice and experiences. CEO Brian Loew explained that one of those most important things in the healing process is emotional support, “A patient recovering from a heart-attack may be told by their doctor what they might experience, but through our communities patients are able to share personal experiences of what they have actually experienced. This also leads to suggestions for rehabilitation and alternate treatments; this sense of community adds significant value to the recovery process.”
Open source coding and LINUX were also hotly debated topics during the 2-hour panel discussion. Open source software systems benefit the user in the long-run because bugs and problems can be fixed by individual users through the software coding community. This process lives in stark contrast to closed-source, proprietary software developed by Microsoft and Apple. While this type of community is significantly different than the previously mentioned groups, it is the common goal among participants that drives the success and collaborative nature of the community.
While representatives from MySpace and Facebook were not in attendance, these successful online communities were brought into the discussion when the following question arose: “What makes an online community successful?”
The answer? “It’s anyone’s guess.”
While there’s no significant formula, there are certain elements that exist in all successful communities. Often times there is community that will break ground and provide a new service, much like Friendster did in 2002, only to be taken over by juiced-up more user-friendly versions like MySpace and Facebook. At this point in time it appears that Second Life, which operates much like an MMORPG (Massive Multi-Player Online Role-Playing Game), will eventually be the “Friendster” to the next, better 3-D online community that mimics real life. The biggest hurdle for such a community is to connect the user’s “second life” to their first life, the one that really matters when they wake up in the morning. This connection is something that all successful online communities do with seamless integration, whether we’re talking about tooth paste, lung cancer, or pictures of Friday night’s party. To ask a user to create a profile, or a life, outside of their physical being and existence is the reason that Second Life has seen its active user base fall in recent months.
The common thread in all communities is the desire to express individuality and seek a common bond with other users. This applies to recovering cancer victims, LINUX programmers, over-worked mothers, and hung-over college students alike. As online communities grow and flourish, and as corporations find new ways to use these communities to grow and strengthen their brands, marketing executives will no doubt experiment with new tools, features, and other fluff to attract users. While these new gadgets and advances might attract a media buy from Madison Avenue, at the end of the day an online community must create and provide an atmosphere in which users genuinely care about one another.
Lyceum Associates is a financial research firm based in Greenwich, Connecticut. As an alternative to traditional Wall Street service, Lyceum offers interactive, full-length workshops and roundtables, which feature thought leaders from a variety of backgrounds and expertise. Lyceum comments periodically on themes relevant to investors through a monthly newsletter called Perspectives.
For more information about future panel discussions of Lyceum Associates, Inc, please contact: Sydney Williams, President Lyceum Associates, Inc http://www.lyceumassociates.com 203-542-5208.
BOSTON, MA – March 01, 2007 – The Grid Institute has appointed visual effects pioneer Jeff Kleiser a fellowship to participate in the design and development of Media Grid rendering and digital cinema standards
Kleiser, whose career spans nearly three decades, is widely recognized as a leader in animation and visual effects. He has produced and directed visual effects for numerous award-winning television commercials, and has created unique location-based entertainment projects such as the 3D stereoscopic films Corkscrew Hill (for Bush Gardens), Santa Lights up New York (for Radio City Music Hall), and The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man (for Universal Studios). Kleiser’s film credits range from Walt Disney’s Tron, the ground-breaking CGI movie released to critical acclaim in 1982, to recent Hollywood releases such as X-Men (including X-Men 2 and X-Men: The Last Stand), Fantastic Four, Scary Movie (3 and 4), Slither, Son of the Mask, Exorcist: The Beginning, and many more. In 1987 Kleiser and partner Diana Walczak founded the visual effects studio Kleiser-Walczak and together coined the term “synthespian” to describe digital actors (synthetic thespians). In 2005 Kleiser and Walczak founded Synthespian Studios (synthespians.net) to create original projects for animated characters. In 2006 Kleiser was a keynote speaker at Boston’s first annual digital media summit (mediagrid.org/summit/). He is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and serves on the board of directors of the Visual Effects Society, Williamstown Film Festival, and Norman Rockwell Museum.
As a Fellow of the Grid Institute, Mr. Kleiser will participate in the design and development of Media Grid standards for rendering and content delivery. Media Grid reference implementations will be developed and tested in cooperation with Synthespian Studios using the firm’s recent Sun-Maid and Santa Lights Up New York projects:
Sun-Maid “Grapes and Sunshine” Campaign – The Sun-Maid Girl, famous for her red bonnet and for holding a tray of freshly picked grapes, received a digital make-over for her 90th anniversary. Working closely with Sun-Maid, directors Kleiser and Walczak carefully guided the character’s make-over as Synthespian Studios designed, developed, and produced an ad campaign comprised of two pilot commercials, several print ads and visual imagery that today appear in a variety of marketing and public relations applications including Sun-Maid’s website (www.sunmaid.com).
Santa Lights Up New York – For America’s most beloved holiday theatrical, “The Radio City Christmas Spectacular,” starring the world-famous Radio City Rockettes, Kleiser and Walczak directed a 3D stereoscopic film that takes audiences on a thrilling sleigh ride with Santa through New York City. The film plays at Radio City Music Hall for more than 200 performances each Christmas season. Liz Smith, writing in the New York Post said, “It is simply magnificent! When they hand you the program, stapled to it is a pair of 3D glasses which you don for Santa’s sleigh ride through the canyons and over the buildings of NYC. This is the best short movie of the year!” After screening this film and Corkscrew Hill, Lenny Lipton, author of “Foundations of the Stereoscopic Cinema” and one of the world’s leading experts on 3D imagery, said these films “show a complete mastery of the medium. I have never seen anything better.”
X-Men: The Last Stand image Copyright 2003-2006 20th Century Fox and its related entities. All rights reserved.
Sun-Maid Girl image Copyright 2006 Sun-Maid Growers of California. All rights reserved.
Santa Lights Up New York image Copyright 2001-2006 MSG Entertainment, a division of Madison Square Garden LP. All rights reserved.
About Synthespian Studios
Synthespian Studios is a story development, design and character animation studio launched by creative directors Diana Walczak and Jeff Kleiser who, as partners, helmed the bicoastal animation and effects house Kleiser-Walczak Construction Company. Founded to create original projects for animated characters, in 2005 Synthespian Studios was commissioned to develop, design and produce two pilot commercials for the Sun-Maid Raisin Growers of California and their iconic Sun-Maid girl. The success of these spots lead to the development of more commercials and print ads for Sun-Maid as well as projects for entertainment clients. In addition to their spot and print work, Synthespian Studios recently designed and produced an all-CG animated dance sequence spoofing War of the Worlds for Scary Movie 4. Kleiser and Walczak’s latest visual effects work may be seen in shots created for X3 (X-Men: The Last Stand) and Fantastic Four.
About the Media Grid
The Media Grid is a public utility for digital media. Based on new and emerging distributed computational grid technologies, the Media Grid builds upon existing Internet and Web standards to create a unique network optimized for digital media delivery, storage, and processing. As an on-demand public computing utility, a range of software programs and Web sites can use the Media Grid for delivery and storage of rich media content, media processing, and computing power. The Media Grid is an open and extensible platform that enables a wide range of applications not possible with the traditional Internet alone, including: Massive Media on Demand (MMoD); Interactive digital cinema on demand; Immersive education and distance learning; Truly immersive multiplayer games and Virtual Reality (VR); Hollywood movie and film rendering, special effects, and composition; Real-time rendering of high resolution graphics; Real-time visualization of complex weather patterns; Real-time protein modeling and drug design; Telepresence, telemedicine, and telesurgery; Vehicle and aircraft design and simulation; Visualization of scientific and medical data.
The Grid Institute leads the design and development of the global Media Grid through the MediaGrid.org open standards organization in collaboration with industry, academia, and governments from around the world.
To learn more about the Media Grid and Synthespian Studios visit http://MediaGrid.org and http://Synthespians.net