Nano-fame: one line on the Sopranos

So you’re a.n.other actor wanting to be famous, and you get a minor part in a major show.

Is it possible to use that fleeting moment to market yourself globally?

Sure is. As the b3ta newsletter* explains,

You probably don’t remember Erik Weiner’s performance in The Sopranos. His single line was, “Leon, take your break at two.” Erik is now stretching out his small moment of fame, for comic effect, and thereby making himself much more famous as a result. Clever stuff, Erik.

* often nsfw

The early days of viral marketing – pure Genius

Way back in 1994, I was Assistant Brand Manager on Draught Guinness. I was dutifully learning the blue-chip marketing ropes, but really far more captivated by this fledgling thing we then called, wonderfully, the Information Superhighway.

It’s to the eternal credit of my then manager, Jason Nicholas, that he signed off a £25k budget to investigate further. Over the following months, I worked with great people at Ogilvy & Mather (especially Saul Klein) to create Guinness’ first website. We didn’t have the brand domain, so it was hosted at the clunky URL of http://www.itl.net/guinness (sadly not captured on archive.org’s wayback machine). We stretched the limits of  Mosaic/Netscape to offer not only images (woo) of a pint, but also an animated gif (double woo!!) of, er, a spinning globe. We even put that address on a TV ad.

But by far the most successful and illuminating piece of work was the Guinness Screensaver. As a format, screensavers went on to be be hackneyed quite quickly, but at the time it was wildly original. It’s not too much of a brag for it to lay claim to being one of the first pieces of viral marketing.

Guinness had just launched a new ad, Anticipation featuring a guy dancing round a pint to infectious mambo music.  The idea was to bring to life his inner excitement while waiting for the pint to settle and be ready to drink. It was fresh and wildly popular.

O&M created the screensaver and we put it on the website. But back then, very few people had internet access and this file was a mammoth 1.3 megabytes(!) In the end, we branded up hundreds of 3.5″ floppy discs and put the file on there (it just fitted, thankfully). We seeded a few to friends and colleagues and suddenly the requests came pouring in. By letter! I had a box under my desk and spent most of my day stuffing envelopes. People would take the discs and pass them around friends and colleagues. People loved having beer imagery in their workplaces. There was a point in 94/95 when it seemed every office had screens saved to Joe McKinney dancing round a pint.

[edit] thanks Leo for the screencap!
Can anyone help preserve this small piece of web/marketing history? It’d be great to screencapture it to a movie file and put it up on YouTube for posterity. The .exe file ran under Windows 3.1 and if you’d like a copy, please email me hello (at] contrarymarketing dot com or via Twitter @cslyons

Dangerous PR opportunity

Boing Boing reports that, due to legal issues with his label, Danger Mouse is to release:

a blank CD-R in a jewel case with art and liner notes. Fans can just download the music off a P2P site and burn it to the CD-R.

I’m sure this is a genuine case of label/artist differences, but if it were a PR stunt cooked up to raise awareness of the album, it’d be genius.

Imagine: once the hype around Danger Mouse’s audacious blank CD release has peaked, both parties could suddenly come to an agreement to release the album for real and cash in on the publicity.

How to get people to pay for content: make it easier

The web is awash with reaction to Rupert Murdoch’s plans to charge for newspaper content online. Is he a rare voice of reason or does he just not get it?

I think people will pay for digital content – if it’s easy enough.

The problem with handing over £0.99 to read a newspaper online is not the price – it’s just too much hassle. You have to fill in your details, confirm your email address, enter your credit cards etc. Urgh. Simple micropayments have never been cracked on the web.

Apple have shown the way forward. No-one was buying digital music till they made it easy. No-one bought mobile apps till it became a breeze to do so. The sweet integration of device (iPhone), content (apps, music, tv) and store (iTunes) removes all the barriers. They’ve made it almost fun to spend.

When paying for good content on the web is this easy, people will do it.

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btw, would anyone have bought iFart on the web using a credit card?

Beats working

Want to attract the best talent to your company? Releasing videos like this is far more effective than running ‘inspiring’ posters in airport corridors

The full 18 mins are worth watching, but if you want a flavour, start at 10’14”

Lost in space

The promoters of the new Star Trek movie hijacked the Lost opening credits to show the Enterprise warping through the logo.

A brilliantly inventive and talkable use of media – playing perfectly to Lost fans’ love of the unexpected.

lost-trek