Is talking the new advertising...
I'm not a huge fan of Kevin Smith's movies but I am a huge fan of Kevin Smith. Let me explain, I'd seen a couple of his movies and they just didn't connect with me (but neither does Stanley Kubrick films, except "Full Metal Jacket"). But being the "making of" guy that I am, Netflix suggested a documentary called "An Evening with Kevin Smith." It's basically a cobbled together 2-hour video of different speaking engagements Smith did on college campuses. I say "cobbled together," not because it's bad production but it interconnects footage from all these different venues and there's one particular campus where Smith is sweating like crazy and it's funny when they go back to that footage. Anyway, I was hooked. It's basically Kevin answering questions from the audience, his fans, and telling stories about the making of his films. And much, much more from how he met his wife to meeting the artist formally known as Prince (do we still call him that?). Now Smith has a speaking tour, a book and a network of podcasts. Always being on the forefront of technology, Smith created message boards at viewaskew.com back in the dial up days and he was personally active on them because he knew he needed to stay connect to his audience.
Spring forward 15 years, today Kevin Smith is releasing a movie called "Red State." He wrote a script in 3 days. He, and his producers, found private funding for $4 million. And he made a movie completely outside the studio system. Okay, great. Lots of indie film makers do the exact same thing that's why it's independent film making and they do it for a lot less money (including Smith's original "Clerks"). But here's where it gets interesting (at least from a marketing standpoint), Smith is promoting the film completely through his own social network. Smith's 1.7 million Twitter followers got daily updates on the production of the film. Some of them even got to be extras when Smith would send out a "call to arms" via Twitter. He created a specific podcast called "Red State of the Union"which brought in different members of the cast and crew to talk about the process. Smith calls it film school. And now he's going more main stream with a Sundance appearance, interviews on radio, TV and magazine and a speaking tour. But all under the goal of not spending a dime on traditional media. His favorite traditional media faux pas was when "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" was advertised on Lifetime. These are the same traditional traps he's trying to avoid, not over-spending on marketing to the point where it makes his small movies look like a financial failure. From having listened to Smith for the last several years, I believe this is largely because of the what he felt like was a bad marketing strategy around "Zack and Miri Make a Porn" which at one point the marketing team retitled simply "Zach and Miri" to hit a different audience and different media opportunities.
So what does this have to do with Creative Storytelling? Smith describes himself as a storyteller and that film was just a venue for his stories. So now his podcast and Twitter and touring have become his medium of choice to tell his story and his story is his new film. So let's see, together, if storytelling can be the new form of advertising as "Red State" launches and see how much audience he can deliver. Keep in mind that out of Smith's 14 different shows in his Smodcast network, at least 4 have been in Apple's top ten downloaded podcast and reach over a million listeners, combined. He has almost 2 million followers on Twitter. And he sells out speaking engagements all over the US and Canada. You do the math. I'm excited! And even if I'm not a big fan of his films (or horror movies!), he's almost got my $10 and that would be a "big bucket of win."
Go check out his site. It's great. He even has an iPhone app that he claims you should buy because, "you've spent .99 cents on way dumber crap."