Q&A: Philips’ Online Film Earns Kudos

NEW YORK Since launching three weeks ago, a Web film depicting a bank robbery gone awry for Philips’ new super-premium television has generated nearly 300,000 unique visits to www.philips.com/cinema and Twitter shout-outs from the likes of Ashton Kutcher. The 2 minute and 19 second film uses frozen action and a long-tracking shot to illustrate the cinematic qualities of the product, now only available in Europe.

Adweek senior reporter Andrew McMains discussed the online effort Friday with Philips head of integrated marketing communications Gary Raucher and Chris Baylis, a creative director at Philips shop Tribal DDB in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Adweek: Why was a Web film the way to go for this product?
Raucher: We’ve had quite some experience in trying to promote our Ambilight range of televisions. And what we have learned over that period of time is that seeing is really believing. . . . If people don’t actually have the opportunity to actually experience Ambilight on and Ambilight off and now with the launch of Cinema 21 by 9 don’t have the opportunity to experience the difference between watching a television in 21 by 9 [aspect ratio] versus 16 by 9 format, people really don’t understand what they’re missing. So, we thought that due to the success of the Ambilight player — something we launched a few years ago, where we really saw that people were spending a lot of time online, interacting with content, experimenting with the Ambilight function going on and off and then realizing how much they missed Ambilight once it was gone — we wanted to be able to reach as many people and drive as much traffic to this new player as possible. That’s why the whole strategy was to use different channels to try to drive people online, so that they would have the opportunity to really toggle back and forth and see for themselves.

Baylis: The reason we went for a film and a cinematic experience online is that the TV is very much aimed at film lovers. It’s a film lover’s TV set, so we knew that we were going to have to create something for the Web that was also going to pull in a film-loving audience. It really had to feel like an event that people wanted to talk about, would want to go and see.

Adweek: Because Cinema 21:9 isn’t available everywhere, did that inform your decision to not go heavy into mass media for this campaign?
Raucher: It was more a matter of in these economic times we wanted to make sure that we reached people in the most efficient way. We wanted to minimize any waste. So, we really decided to pick a medium where we knew we’d be able to target the people smartly and that we’d be able to give them a great experience. It was a more cost-effective way for us to deliver our message.

Adweek: How important is online to your marketing mix and how has that increased in the last five years?
Raucher: It continues to increase. In fact, just today [Friday], in 22 markets around the world, we’re launching a value campaign. Typically, we invest about 10 or 15 percent of a campaign budget online. For the value campaign, it will be closer to 40 percent. So, I think that the Web has in fact become a very important tool for us. It’s always part of our integrated mix. We develop all our campaigns with a 360-degree approach, using multiple agencies in what we call a loop approach to make sure that there’s full integration. Online always plays a critical role. And given the success that we have had with previous campaigns, it gives us more and more confidence to invest more heavily online with this campaign and also with future campaigns.

Adweek: Is it also because the Web is where most of your consumers do their research?
Raucher: It will vary by category and, more importantly, by target audience. So, we always do a very deep dive, a deep analysis of our target audience and understand what is the best channel strategy to reach that target audience. And when the digital strategy makes sense, we will pursue it aggressively.

Baylis: The thing about electronics is that people will naturally be doing their research online anyway. The way that Tribal thinks about online is that the people using it are doing one of two things: either saving time or wasting time. The interesting thing in a purchasing funnel is you can get people to do both. You can stop people from wasting time by entertaining them and then you can help them save time by making a fast decision on what they want to buy.

Adweek: What inspired the style and subject matter of the piece?
Baylis: We sat down just to make something that we considered to be cinematic. The way we worked with the filmmakers on this was we knocked around a lot of ideas. We could have had a lot of things like car chases and heists. But originally as an agency we knew that we wanted to do a long-tracking shot. That was really because we know that in cinema the tracking shot is kind of revered. You’ve got films like The Player, Atonement. If you look at the film blogs, the things that people marvel at . . . are these long, seamless tracking shots. The interesting thing about that is that it could really double up as a housing for the Web site. We wanted to put these educational messages in: Ambilight, picture quality and 21:9, which are in the Web site as the hot spots, the films within films. So, our plan was to do a tracking shot that was behind the scenes. We then went from there and found the tone and the subject we knew had to be cinematic. But we were pleasantly surprised at how far we went with it, how far Philips was willing to go with it.      

Adweek: What inspired the look?
Baylis: It’s films like Heat. There are the mask and bank robbery sequences in things like Point Break. There’s a film called Killing Zoe as well, which is a [Quentin] Tarantino spin-off. Then [there was] the look and feel of the masks themselves, the whole clown thing. There’s a misconception that it came from Batman. It actually came from the fact that we had a lot of masks on the table and they were the most colorful. And they worked with Ambilight.  

Adweek: What was the thought behind the frozen-moment approach?
Baylis: Adam Berg, the director [from Stink Digital], said, “How about this frozen-time approach?” And we worked with him to figure that out. . . . The advantages were that it looks stunning and . . . it kept our loading times down. It made a film feel more like a Web site and less just like a broadcast experience. . . . You can take control of that frozen time, you can make it move it backwards and forward. 

Raucher: That was important to us as a client because one of the three [selling points] that we wanted to emphasize was picture quality. And because these are all moments in time, you could freeze and go back and forth. It’s every little detail. One of my favorite scenes in the entire film is the image of the police officer coming through the glass wall on the first floor because [the sight of] every shard of glass is a great way to reinforce [the message] that this television can capture every single detail.  

Adweek: Were there any downsides to that approach?
Baylis: The only downside is that it started raining on the shoot. It moved the shooting times out by about four hours because we were all waiting for it to stop raining. 

Adweek: How long was the shoot and where did it take place?
Baylis: We got there on a Friday evening and we wrapped up 4 in the morning on a Monday. It was in Prague.

Adweek: How did you seed the film initially?
Raucher: We had a comprehensive approach, but a campaign like this just kicks off on its own. And it wasn’t the plan. We have a media push that supports this campaign and it still hasn’t started. As of this morning [Friday], we have over 280,000 unique visitors [to www.philips.com/cinema] who are spending more than 5 minutes per visit on the site. And this is really just coming from word of mouth. When you have the campaign that is buzzworthy and that warrants being passed around, it [takes] off on its own. That has pleasantly surprised us. Of course you hope for that result, but you never plan for that.

Baylis: People are not only talking about the film but it’s making them talk about the product. Quite often you end up with a viral piece that people talk about but you forget what it’s for.

Adweek: Where is the site traffic coming from?
Raucher: It’s mainly referrals. It’s probably about 60 percent referrals.

Adweek: What’s your reaction to celebrities keying into this — the Aston Kutchers of the world?
Raucher: It’s quite interesting to read. Ashton Tweets and then someone replies, “You know, I’ve heard about that video on Kanye West’s blog.” The funny thing is that we have entire campaigns sometimes that are built around celebrity endorsements. And this time, because we really were focusing on a different target audience with a different strategy, we hadn’t even considered celebrity endorsements. So, I think it’s fantastic that it’s happening. But it’s happening on its own, which is wonderful.

Adweek: Can you elaborate on your core target here?
Raucher: It is movie lovers. We decided a long time ago with our television business that we can’t be all things to all people. So, we decided that we really would focus on being the brand that stands for cinematic viewing experienced at home. Obviously, people who are looking for the cinematic viewing experience are people that have lots of personal experience having gone to the cinema. Until this moment in time, there has been a lot of disappointment because other brands and other companies have promised to replicate that experience at home [with little success]. But with the launch of Cinema 21 by 9, we’re really able to bring that home in a legitimate and credible way. 

Adweek: Is the target predominantly male?
Raucher: We know that the purchase of a television is a joint decision. It’s a big decision in homes. Yes, our target audience is towards men, but it has to be something that men and women will talk about together and decide together to have in home.

Adweek: What’s the retail price?
Raucher: It is a rather high price point. It retails for 3,999 euros (about $5,300 U.S.). But this is the flagship of our entire Ambilight range and the flagship of all Philips televisions. So, we’re hoping that the people that experience this television will realize that we are able to bring the cinematic experience home for three main reasons — the 21 by 9 format being one of them. But also because of the Ambilight experience and our superior picture quality. 

Adweek: Where will the brand roll out this year and when might we see it in the U.S.?
Raucher: There will be 13 markets that are rolling out the campaign. The U.S. is not the priority market for Philips at this moment. We’re still in discussions as to when Philips may bring this to the U.S.

Adweek: Is there any thought to extending the piece further and actually developing it into a longer-form film?
Raucher: We always planned on this being a pilot for us. In fact, the initial media push is only planned for three markets and we were going to expand it [depending on] how successful the campaign was. We always evaluate our campaign and then decide how we’re going to roll it out. So, anything is possible. But we’re going to wait and evaluate and see if we’ve met all of our objectives, and then decide how to adjust and how to go further.