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Improv Rules for Storytelling – CMWorld 2017

Links for Content Marketing World 2017 presentation:

Why Van Damme’s ‘Epic Split’ Was the Perfect Storm for One NYC Creative Director http://adweek.it/2wv9hZ7

Meaning > messaging.  Don’t change how people talk; change how they think

Improv rule #1:  Support your partner

Documentary:  Phone company in a box https://youtu.be/OaZWkpOVtlY

Improv rule #2:  There is order in chaos

RT @BrianCurtisNBC5: Convoy of @HEB disaster relief trucks staged near Goliad, TX today. #Harvey http://ow.ly/MUXA30eZnhk

For juxtaposition exercise for inspiring creativity, try https://randomwordgenerator.com/

Juxtaposition: How Circuses and Bacon Can Boost Your Creative http://ow.ly/O1ro30eZqjx via @CMIContent  @MarciaRJohnston   #cmworld

Improv rule #4:  There are no mistakes, only gifts

Haunted Stanley Hotel: The Ghost Behind Stephen King’s The Shining, Room 217 https://youtu.be/XqvaL5d37Gc

Improv rule #5:  “Follow the Fear” – Del Close

Mainframe: The Art of the Sale, Lesson One https://youtu.be/MSqXKp-00hM

Filibuster Cablevision iO TV commercial  https://youtu.be/scTFsGQ78qs

More nonsense:

Mockumentary:  Mystery Solved: The Rescue of Helen of Troy http://ow.ly/5Psj30eZoAt

Movie Trailer:  Improv with the CIO https://youtu.be/cL5bjJCpJIY

The Perfect Gift for Valentine’s Day… from Cisco https://youtu.be/Z1xKpm0nURk

#CMWorld

CMI: Comedy Pro Reveals How to Bring Funny to Content

Figures don’t lie.  Statics maybe, but not figures. 

Part of producing a corporate comedy video for YouTube, Facebook, etc, is the approval process.  I’ll often face the objection, supported by research, from a committee member arguing that not everyone will appreciate the humor.  Possibly a small business owner in Burma.  ‘Our content needs to be global.’

So, I’ve conducted my own research as a rebuttal.  See figure 1.

I shared a bit more about the process of using comedy principles with the Content Marketing Institute.  Read the article here, and join us at CMWorld in Cleveland this September.

The Gaslamp Peanut Butter Cheeseburger

It wasn’t the first time I allowed peanut butter to ruin a love affair.  Asking the waiter to smear it on my cheeseburger — without being coerced — nearly killed my passion for the delicacy.   It simply wasn’t a good choice for me despite a plethora of online rave reviews from a diverse set of professional, anonymous food critics on Yelp.

On most of these comedy & cheeseburger blog excursions, I’m more interested in soaking in the ambiance of some hole-in-the-wall joint, like at a burger barn.  This place had kind of a diner vibe, which, on the interior design aesthetic scale, I’d rank somewhere between a coin-operated carwash and an abandoned building.  Of course, the experience in any location is always partner-dependent, and since I was joined by my kids, Martin Jones and his family, we ended up having a crazy fun time.  I assume that would be the same case for an abandoned building.

gaslamp_Peanut_butter_cheeseburger

Cheeseburger Pro Tip:  Skip the Skippy

I appreciated the diner’s “safety first” approach.  They installed a fire escape immediately outside the front door, so in the event of a kitchen fire on the street level, we could safely finish our meal on the rooftop.

fire escape

Thanks to Lyft for sponsoring #SMMW16 and providing transport to the San Diego Gaslamp district.  The ride-hailing app companies created a brilliant business model, even though they are mired in controversy around hiring practices, skirting taxi regulation, and selecting a mustache for a logo.  Marketing experts say the ‘stache is a reckless choice for the brand.  Possibly, but when I’m in vendor-selection mode evaluating product attributes,  I’ll always choose reckless.  Although maybe that’s not the best criterion when deciding on a driver.

Lyft Range Rover

 

More from the blog: 

 

A Call for Comedy at the UN Climate Summit

Let’s hope there is a lot of laughter pouring out of General Assembly Hall today.  As the UN Climate Summit begins this week, what would be possible if Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and team consider what John Cleese preaches about the power of laughter:

“The main evolutionary significance of humor is that it gets us from the closed mode to the open mode quicker than anything else. I think we all know that laughter brings relaxation and humor makes us playful, yet how many times have important discussions been held where really original and creative ideas were desperately needed to solve important problems, but where humor was taboo because the subject being discussed was ‘so serious’.”

Not only does laughter open your mind, it opens the minds of those on the other side of the debate.  We usually tune out to an argument that we have already concluded is wrong.  But laughter is a powerful interrupter.  If we’re being entertained, we’re more likely to pay attention, and be less defensive.

John Oliver, Bill Nye, and the Last Week Tonight team produced what The Guardian dubbed “the best climate debate you’ll ever see.”  [Note:  use headphones for the first 1:08 if you’re at the office]

Much of the sketch’s brilliance is the stunt that would qualify it for  Edward Tufte’s “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information” Hall of Fame.  Combined with Bill Nye (who received a rockstar ovation from the crowd when he walked on stage, and was genius improviser during rehearsal) and brilliant comedic writing (“Are there hats?”), the comedy sketch makes for an attention-grabbing, concise, persuasive argument.   As The New York Times best-selling author Chris Mooney said:

“I feel like they said in 4 minutes something I’ve been saying for 10 years with like tens or hundreds of thousands of words”

At the summit today the UN will honor Leonardo DiCaprio with the title Messenger of Peace, although his name tag for the luncheon reads “Wolf of Wall Street.”  Leo’s presence will certainly bring more exposure to the conference.  But if John Cleese had booked the event talent, the opening keynote speaker would have been John Oliver.

 

BMA Chicago: Late Night Comedy Meets Corporate Storytelling

A few links from #BMA14 presentation:

Mainframe: The Art of the Sale, Lesson One: http://youtu.be/MSqXKp-00hM #BMA14

The Perfect Gift for Valentine’s Day http://youtu.be/Z1xKpm0nURk #BMA14

John Cleese on the 5 Factors to Make Your Life More Creative http://ow.ly/xoPZR

Mini documentary: Phone Company In A Box http://youtu.be/WHaQY2MlHV8 #bma14

Smart building: Internet of Everything video https://vimeo.com/89159331

Humor and B2B Marketing: A Love Story. Improv with the CIO http://shar.es/VkNWi via @annhandley

Stephen King, Failure, Ghosts of The Stanley Hotel http://disq.us/8ilzm9

John Oliver’s viral video: the best climate debate you’ll ever see http://gu.com/p/3pb3c/tw via @guardian

 

 

Tony Hale Talks Veep, Arrested Development and Chicken

tony

Tony Hale asked me to moderate his interview on Apple TV’s “Meet the Filmmaker.”   Here’s some of the wisdom he shared (not all of this made the final cut of the show.)

Gracious Leaders Inspire Creativity

Armando Iannucci, creator of HBO’s Veep, built a brilliant team of genuinely friendly and supportive people, which gives the cast a great deal of freedom.  The actors don’t need to be cautious to tiptoe around egos.  This fosters a fun, relaxed environment that encourages risk-taking.

I would imagine that kind-hearted actors are also required for the show, since much of the comedy comes from hilarious, caustic insults, certainly to be true to life inside the beltway.  One of the first audience questions was “What’s your favorite Jonah insult?”  Turns out it’s a barb from Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ character, speaking to Matt Walsh about Timothy Simon’s character: “You let that unstable piece of human scaffolding into your house?” Critics agree — that berating ranked #3 on Hollywood.com’s list.  If you’re still considering your favorites, reference the research from the Chicago Tribune and Rolling Stone (headphones are suggested for this video).

Bloom Where You’re Planted

Early in his career, Tony was acting in plays and  TV commercials in NYC as he focused on his dream of working on a sitcom.   After he finally landed the role, he realized it didn’t offer the satisfaction he had anticipated, and later reflected that there was no way the experience could ever live up to the expectations he had imagined.  He had missed out on being in-the-moment and truly enjoying some of his earlier experiences.  This lesson of contentment inspired him to write a children’s book, Archibald’s Next Big Thing.

Follow the Fear

Tony shared insight into some of the scary moments in his life.  One was on the morning of the 2013 Emmy awards, when  Julia Louis-Dreyfus called him with an idea for a comedy bit to use in an acceptance speech.  A last minute, unrehearsed live routine in front of 18 million people — what’s scary about that?

The other fear that controls Tony’s life:  Claire Underwood.  BuzzFeed documented the brutal Twitter threat-down.

ClaireUnderwood

Watch our discussion on Apple TV or download via iTunes “Meet the Filmmaker” episode 25.  https://itun.es/i66n8RD

For more on the poultry theme, watch Tony as the mustachioed video store owner-turned detective and Andy Richter sidekick in one of the best ever TV comedy episodes in the history of the world.  Andy Barker P.I., produced by Conan O’Brien.  “Three Days of the Chicken, available on Hulu+, Amazon or iTunes.

Andy Barker P.I.

Catch Veep on HBO, Sundays at 10:30 PM ET.

UPDATE:  Tony Hale on The Hollywood Reporter’s Roundtable

, on being content where you are.

Veep_Tony_Julia

 

Mitch Joel: Humanizing the Brand

What makes an interview interesting is when the guest feels comfortable enough to let his guard down and be vulnerable.  Mitch Joel has a special gift for enabling this moments.  On his podcast Six Pixels of Separation, we set out to talk about how big brands can use storytelling and humor to humanize, and found ourselves in a much deeper discussion about surviving failure.

I shared a bit about my work on IBM’s Smarter Planet campaign and at Cisco, and also explored the challenges faced by a creative person working as a full time employee at a large corporation.

Listen to the podcast on this link or in iTunes, SPOS #396

Mitch Joel Ctrl Alt Delete

Entrepreneur Magazine: Humor in Marketing

entrepreneur_logo

For Ann Handley’s latest article in Entrepreneur Magazine, “4 Ways to Use Humor as a Marketing Tool,” we talked about how companies can take some simple approaches to entertain their audiences.

One of the key misconceptions about corporate humor is that it requires a huge budget.   All of the comedy YouTube videos that I’ve produced at IBM, Cisco and other freelance gigs have cost considerably less than our average production budget .  In some cases, we produced videos for less than 10% of the average marketing video budget, and received over 100 times more views than average.  Laughter  yields a significant ROI.

“Humor is effective in marketing because it humanizes and surprises. You can play it straight and write a blog post that clearly and emphatically states how your computer router can handle up to 6.4 terabits of data. Or you can get the point across and create something relatable, charming and (of course!) shareable. Cisco did this by positioning its decidedly impersonal router as the perfect “forever” gift for Valentine’s Day: “Nothing says I love you like the Cisco ASR 9000.” The former is boring. The latter infuses the message and brand with a human element that’s anything but expected.”

Avoid the overhead of the big agency and put the money into the right places — a strong comedy writer, director, editor, and of course actors with comedy skills.    It takes some legwork, but your customers and broader audience will be thrilled with the effort.

Read more in Ann’s article.

Improv with the CIO

Our Voice of the Customer marketing team has been exploring creative approaches for our customer interview videos.  At a recent CIO conference we asked a few adventurous executives if they would be willing to try something a little more entertaining.

Dinner with the CIO

At any C-level executive event, there is a lot of pressure on the events team to make sure everything goes smoothly.   The agenda is managed very closely, so we only had about 15 minutes for these interviews.   Thankfully, it was one of those wonderful occasions where everything went our way.  Our amazing events team worked with the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel staff to get us access to film in one of the restaurants during the day before it opened for dinner.   All of the CIOs were fabulous!  We had created just enough structure to the scene to make it easy to improvise, and they all seemed to have a fun time and enjoy the experience.

Ann Handley shares more of the backstory in her post, Humor and B2B Marketing:  A Love Story.

 

Sunset at Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel

Forbes: How to Add Humor to Marketing

I had a fun visit with Ekaterina Walter for her Forbes article, B2B Marketing Does’t Have to Be Boring.  She cites the Nielsen Global Survey of Trust in Advertising which found that 47% of respondents agreed that humorous ads resonated the most.  We discussed a few brands, including B2B brands, that are successfully using humor to connect with their audiences.   One of my favorite is “Mr. W.”

Mr W

If you’re not following Ekaterina on Twitter already, you must in 2014.

Forbes_logo