Tag Archives: current TV

Mario Anima, Current TV: “I’m in the club”

Like Ralphie in A Christmas Story, we all want to be a part of something. Ralphie wanted the BB gun, he wanted to be liked and he wanted this “badge of honor” to be included in something bigger than himself. Most of us are a lot like Ralphie, we may not want the BB gun, but we want to be a part of something different, something greater than ourselves.

In addition to this BB gun, Raphie also wanted to be a part of Little Orphan Annie’s secret club, using the decoder key that was sent to him that enabled him to decipher the secret message broadcast during the Little Orphan Annie program. Ralphie was part of a branded experience, a form of interaction and it allowed him to be a part of the action – while being a part of the marketing game.

Today we’re using the same technique throughout social media. People want to be connected to the product, to belong and to be involved in something bigger than themselves. It’s important, as community managers to get them involved into the product and its distribution. At Current TV, their mission has been inclusion, from The Rotten Tomatoes show to some of the earliest user-generated documentaries. Now, every show on Current TV has user-submitted content. Current TV does a weekly call-out to the community giving assignments for movies to watch and then the user-submitted content that is chosen to be on the program gets $100.

We see the example of the popular superhero movie, Kick-Ass from user-generated content to the professional hosts of Current TV, we see how being a part of the movie is a club – and we want to join. Do we need to join? Nah, but heck, the party is happening – I wanna come, too!

The most important aspect of the program is why and how you communicate your mission to the community. The Current TV team tells the community exactly what they want, be it a review for a specific film and that review only. They showcase the best of the best on the Current TV program, thereby providing examples to the community on what to do and what not to do.

Current TV also makes their staff members accessible through popular social networks. Using the example of That’s Gay segment host, Bryan Safi, we saw how Current TV hosts respond to their community. One thing to note is that the staff members do not have a Current TV speak – they speak to the community like real people, they ARE real people. If we’re B2B/B2C/Old School/New School, we must remember that we’re real people – is there really a need for corporate speak? After all, we just want to be part of the club and included in the conversation.

Current TV: The Tao of the Secret Decoder Ring

This is a picture of Ralphie, the protagonist of A Christmas Story, dreaming about the obsession of his childhood: The BB gun.

The BB gun, and what it represents, is an undercurrent of the film, but it’s less what the BB gun is than what it represents that so bewitches little Ralphie: he wants to belong to something, to be a hero, and he thinks the BB gun will get him there.

Current TV’s Mario Anima used this as his opening gimmick for a talk that focused primarily on how you can build community by catering to that most human of desires: the need to belong. And oddly, instead of harping longer on the BB gun, he used a separate Ralphie obsession to structure the rest of his talk: the Little Orphan Annie decoder ring campaign, a partnership between the ’30s-era radio series and Ovaltine.

How it went in the film: Ralphie, a dedicated listener of “Little Orphan Annie,” collects UPC codes for Ovaltine in order to acquire the aforementioned secret decoder ring, which is supposed to reveal a secret message about the future of the show. The ring is mysterious-looking and comes with a letter signed by “Annie” herself.

But when Ralphie finally decodes the message, all he finds is an ad encouraging him to drink more Ovaltine. PWNED!*

“A lot of what we’re doing is the new version of the decoder ring,” Anima says, wistful.

The purpose of the decoder ring campaign: to build inclusion, exclusivity, interaction, accessibility. These should also be your objectives. The trick is, at the end of the day, to not give your participants a Ralphie payoff. You want them to feel all their labour on your behalf has been worthwhile.

To illustrate how Current TV caters to exclusivity/inclusion, Anima gave the example of the Rotten Tomatoes Show, which solicits opinions for a given film, then stitches all the videos it receives from users into one big video response. It’s the old “You’re gonna be on TV!,” with lower barriers to entry.

Every show has obvious participatory/shareability elements, too.

Then there’s this question of interaction. Anima says most Current TV employees are on Facebook and Twitter; they’re accessible, responsive and solicit opinion. Consider Bryan Safi, the host of the popular “That’s Gay! video series. He answers questions users provide in a closed feedback system:

Curiously, after all this Anima hastened to add that you should encourage users to appear on Twitter, but how they behave on Twitter will determine whether you want to claim their profile as a company one – or, implicitly, even if you want to expand them as a social media star personality. (It’s not my view that this is something you can really control, but Current TV tries: not all of its employees are permitted to answer questions like Safi can.)

If you want, you can follow Mario Anima at @manima.

*The Wikipedia article on this campaign says that it was only an urban legend that kids got Ovaltine ads for all their effort. But hey, thanks to Ralphie, the urban legend is all we remember of the effort today. Tough luck, I guess.