This article resumes our PICNIC coverage on day two of the conference, which focused on the theme of “Exploding Media.” The second half of PICNIC’s Exploding Media coverage explores branding campaigns, location-based entertainment, and the development of special effects.
Jessica Greenwood, deputy editor of trendwatching magazine Contagious, took the audience on a tour of innovative branding and marketing campaigns that are all on the frontlines of the changing media landscape. One of the quotes she used in her introduction was one of Douglas Adams: “Anything invented before you were 18 has been there forever, anything that turns up before you’re 30 is new and exciting, and anything after that is a threat to the world and must be destroyed.” Adams’ quote raises an interesting notion, indicative of how innovations are often received. Greenwood elaborated on several innovations in the marketing field that did receive favorable receptions, and, probably more importantly, were also quite successful in reaching their goals.
The first case was Virgin Mobile’s Australian campaign Right Music Wrongs, which kicked off with a video of musician Vanilla Ice apologizing for his music, asking the public to vote on whether he was guilty or innocent of ‘music wrongs.’ The project had an initial budget of only $150k, launching an engaging campaign around the musician and the concert he was going to give in Sydney in March ’09. It ended up reaching 22 million people and getting hundreds of thousands of people engaged in several online activities.
It’s time for day two of PICNIC, and a new day means a new theme: Exploding Media. The theme brought with it an exciting schedule, filled with more on social media, but this time focusing on trying to find parallels between social media and brands and marketing strategies, as well as on games and interactivity.
The first speaker was movie director Chris Burke, who is also the creator of This Spartan Life, the world’s first and only “talkshow in game space”. I hadn’t previously heard of This Spartan Life and thus wasn’t familiar with the show’s format, where a host (Burke) interviews a guest (in this case, Gerri Sinclair, CEO of the Center for Digital Media), while playing Halo.
Apparently, This Spartan Life has been a big hit since 2004 and has gathered quite a bit of praise for its innovative presentation. I can see how the concept might work well with smoothly edited episodes showing Halo game play supplemented by added voiceovers. However, as a live concept, I thought it came off as a forced way of trying something new. The Halo backdrop compounded by the clumsiness of Sinclair trying to master the controls of the game were so distracting that I hardly followed the actual interview.
Sinclair, hailed by Burke as a “gaming professor who actually knows what she’s talking about” has a great track record when it comes digital media and narrative . Most of the times when the interview took an interesting turn, though, the conversation got interrupted by shrieks of “Oh no! I fell of a ledge!” and “someone is shooting at me!” or with Burke trying to keep track of where his interviewee went in the Halo level. It’s a shame, because I would have loved to hear more of what Sinclair had to say on gaming and the changing ways of delivering narratives.
Onwards to part two of the first day of the PICNIC conference schedule–this section of three consecutive panels and presentations was all about the shifts in demographics: the role that race and ethnic background play in producing theatre on Broadway and in emerging online communities, and the role of a changing audience and the way that audience divides its attention on “traditional” media.
First off was a presentation by renowned producer David Binder, who talked us through his experience bringing Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 play A Raisin in the Sun back to Broadway for a modern day revival. As A Raisin in the Sun is a classic African-American play, Binder wanted to honor its roots, which to him meant that he had to find an African-American director. Broadway isn’t exactly brimming with diversity (of the 40 directors active on Broadway last season, 36 were men and only one person of color), so Binder had his work cut out for him.
What followed was a mildly interesting relay of his quest for a director (he ended up working with the then relatively unknown Kenny Leon) and cast (he managed to snag Sean Combs aka P Diddy for the lead role). I think my appreciation of Binder’s excited monologue was slightly hampered by the fact that my knowledge of all things Broadway is virtually nonexistent and the fact that as a European, I’m a lot less used to such a heavy emphasis being placed on race, so some of his points sounded (literally) rather foreign to me.
On a personal note, Binder gets a lot of credit from me for having the creative guts to bring The New Island Festival to New York City. The festival is based on two important Dutch theater festivals, Oerol and De Parade. From what I gathered from his talk, reviving a play like Raisin in the Sun took a lot more guts than that.
Not your ordinary PICNIC: that’s the tagline I found plastered all over the Westergasfabriek terrain during PINIC ’09. And PICNIC indeed is something quite out of the ordinary.
I arrived Wednesday around 11:00am, a few hours before the official opening of the conference part of PICNIC, which meant that I could take some time to explore the impressive central area of the festival, the PICNIC club. A place to meet, to eat, to tweet (there was a Twitter tree set up in the main area, with UTP cables hanging down its branches) and to look at all the interesting stuff that PICNIC’s official partners, including UPC and Microsoft, were showing off.
The area was brimming with activity. During the morning, several sessions of PICNIC Young had already started, which is a collection of workshops and seminars for teachers and students, exploring technology and creativity and their possible adaptation to school programs. PICNIC Young is only one of many “tracks” running alongside the main conference schedule of PICNIC, and if you wanted to cover all of it, you would need at least 5 or 6 people on the ground.
Other interesting events were also already going on at the various PICNIC Labs that were scattered among the conference area, like the Digital City Special, or the Augmented City Lab, exploring present and near-future adaptation of various mobile augmented reality technologies. I did not attend any of these sessions, but if you’re interested in what augmented reality can do today, check out the iPhone 3GS app that the folks at Layar have launched at PICNIC.
The main conference has a different theme for each of its three days. The first day’s theme was “Turning Points”, focusing on social changes that have their impact on society and social media, and kicked off with a familiar face: Israeli conductor Itay Talgam. I had heard Talgam speak at PICNIC last year and his ideas on leadership really stuck with me. The one-liner he kicked his talk off with this year: “In these times of insecurity and crisis, people are sick of leaders. It’s about communities now.”
Wednesday September 23rd is a day a lot of people in the creative industry have been looking forward to, as tomorrow the fourth installment of PICNIC will kick off in sunny Amsterdam. Previous incarnations of this intangibly sparkly conference were self-defined as a “crossmedia conference” but this year, the organization of PICNIC didn’t even try to put a tagline on the event.
And I can understand why they didn’t: it’s hard enough to describe what PICNIC is really about, let alone catch its essence in a one-liner. The past three installments were a melting pot of creativity, attended by major and minor names from everywhere in media, art , the digital world and several other industries.
I’m really looking forward to attending again this year and reporting on the event for ARGNet. I just received notice from the people at PICNIC that the conference event is completely sold out, and the lineup of speakers is probably one of the reasons for that. I wanted to give you a short preview of things I’m looking forward to at PICNIC this year:
Question: What do you get when you combine interesting speakers, special events, hands-on labs, two contests, networking opportunities, an Ignite event, and dinner? Answer: The PICNIC event in Amsterdam, which kicks off its fourth annual festival in just under three weeks!
Once again, ARGNet is proud to be a Network Sponsor of the event, which has been an annual must-see for those interested in the fields of cross-media, transmedia and social networking for the past three years. This year’s festival is the biggest yet, and it’s going to be a test of endurance for our man-on-the-scene Daniel van Gool, who will be at the conference again.
The line-up for the week is formidable and wonderful, starting with keynote speeches from such people as Peter Molyneaux (Lionhead Studios), Niklas Zennström (Skype) and Ed Ulbrich (Digital Domain). Of the other speakers and presenters, Daniel will be paying close attention to Alice Taylor (Channel4), Dan Hon (Six to Start), Kevin Slavin (Area/Code), Matt Adams (Blast Theory) and Kati London (Area/Code) as they convene for the panel “Games That People Play” on September 24th. Daniel may also want to check out some of the special events scheduled for the festival — “Reality Continuum” is a really cool and interesting title which sounds like it could be fun to take in. Or maybe he’ll make his way over to the PICNIC ’09 Labs for some hands-on experiences at the Augmented City Lab. Any way you slice it, PICNIC ’09 is going to be magical and unforgettable, and we know Daniel is already counting down the days until it starts.
Of course, some of you out there are probably thinking of attending PICNIC ’09, and if you haven’t gotten your tickets yet, we’ve got great news for you. As sponsors of the event we have a special discount code for our readers, which we will tell you…. after the jump.