It’s Halloween, and I’m in Los Angeles. Over in Santa Monica, foreign sales agents as well as distributors prep for the annual American Film Market (read Gregg Goldstein’s Halloween-themed preview piece featuring yours truly). Over in West Hollywood, organizers and filmmakers prep for the November 1 launch of this year’s AFI Fest. A few blocks from AFI Fest headquarters at the Arclight, a host of new-media industry folks are calling the Hollywood & Highland complex home with this year’s Digital Hollywood conference. I’m in town two days early, because I was asked to moderate a panel (“Get It Out There: Distributing Your Online Video”) this afternoon on promoting/distributing video content over mobile and Web technology. The panel just wrapped, and I think it went pretty well. We had a cross-section of content creators and distributors. The common theme: be strategic, in production and publicity and distribution. Know your audience.
My panel was part of day-long programming hosted by popular Web video digest site, The Daily Reel. Another timely and insightful panel on Wednesday, was “The Long Term for the Short Form Web Series,” which dipped into the world of episodic digital content. The panelists chatted about several trends, and perhaps advertising was the most provocative. In speaking about their various programs (including the recent hit show, Roommates), MySpace’s Jason Kirk commented, “Time will tell if product integration will work.” Roommates, for example, features prominent product placement with Ford cars. Kirk continued, “Advertisers are coming to us and asking ‘What can we do besides a banner ad?’ The users are looking for that, too.”
Following up on what Kirk said, Chris McCaleb (co-creator of hit Web shows “Prom Queen” and “Sam Has 7 Friends”) added “It’s important to make [product placement] organic. We all use products, so in some ways it’s more offensive to keep brands [onscreen] generic.” McCaleb even shared that, when producing the independent “Sam” series, the crew was forced to peel logos and labels off various goods. In the end, the panel reminded the audience that advertising for entertainment content is one of the oldest media tools there is.
The day of Daily Reel panels ended with “Viral Video All-Stars,” in which a collection of online celebrities chatted about their various roads to global recognition. Among the noteworthy points: “Obama Girl” producer Ben Relles shared an anecdote about an Ann Coulter parody his site, Barely Political, created after her ridiculous claims about Judaism. The clip didn’t gain much traction, until right-wing bloggers started criticizing it. The lesson? Sometimes you only become a viral video success when your critics attack you.