Channeling Al Franken

11 Aug

[by Todd] It’s been another round of compulsory CNN viewing the past few days, thanking the travel gods I wasn’t on the road when all this went down. As I watched the same empty report for the fourth or fifth time, I realized how hard they were pimping their viewer video submission tool. Armed with my video phone, or a camcorder, I was teased with the lure of becoming an I-reporter for CNN.

Somewhere Al Franken must be laughing his butt off.

Back in the 80s SNL did this recurring gig during the news section. Al was "The One-Man Mobile Uplink," covering the presidential campaign from the god-forsaken wasteland of politics. The humor was that he wore this bizarre rig that had a satellite up-link on his helmet and a camera mounted on a big harness. By orientating himself to the skies just so, Al could banter with Dennis Miller.

Watching TV and skimming all the sites the past few days it became clear that Al was a visionary. For that matter, so was Matt Frewer and his alterego Max Headroom. He too was a one-man news crew.

Here we are 20 years later and it doesn’t take a satellite dish on your head to be a one-man news crew. Any more it’s not a big deal to have video of a big story unfolding. With umpteen million digital cameras, and YouTube sites popping up like weeds, the only surprise is if the video airs first on TV.

Of course CNN, and all the other networks, not to mention the local stations, are anxious for you to upload your video. They probably don’t want to talk about having to pay you for it, but they will if push comes to shove, and it’s good stuff.

So what does this have to do with advertising?

How much do you figure companies spend on marketing events, sports sponsorships, street marketing? And how many people attending those events, especially the cool ones, are likely snapping pictures and shooting digital video?

Every one of those customers should be encourage, nay rewarded, if they share that image or video online. Become your own news channel, with programming focused just on your brand. Rather than trying to create some lame video you hope will go viral, encourage your customers to go nuts at the next function.

Or, better yet, create your own coverage. Last summer, about this very time, our own Sunni Thompson (she of seldom posting, although more than Nancy, fame) was camping in broom closet at The Rio in Las Vegas. She was busy running a news operation dedicated to the 2005 World Series of Poker on behalf of a client, Harrah’s.

Over the course of the climactic week, Sunni and her crew of three (including a team from Snippies) shot, edited and posted video updates every day. Their job was covering the story behind the story that airs on ESPN. And they had no shortage of content, from celebrities to people waiting in lines. Only a couple years earlier such an operation would have been logistically impossible.

The payoff for Harrah’s was a massive extension of the event. Without a single ad about the videos, we were flooded with viewers. Our host moved quickly to opened up huge pipes and people filled them just as quickly.

So take a look around the next time your planning some marketing event. And ask yourself, What Would Al Do?

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