Ross Martin Reps Scratch @ Media Summit

Daina Amorosano by Daina Amorosano, Viacom

Ross Martin heads Scratch, Viacom's in-house creative SWAT team.

The description for the 2012 Media Summit’s “Branded Media Marketing Across Platforms” panel didn’t whitewash its tricky subject matter. Truth be told, it’s daunting for clients, agencies and content creators to elevate their messages above the din of our content- and device-saturated world.

But the takeaway from the discussion was fresh and overwhelmingly optimistic.

Ross Martin, head of our in-house creative SWAT team Scratch – which channels our creative talent, consumer insights, and connection to Millennials to drive brands – participated in the panel and weighed in on this increasingly complex environment.

According to Martin, the challenge of breaking through the clutter in today’s marketplace actually makes this a fantastic time to be a content creator – as long as marketers get how creativity must drive business, and that art and commerce have converged.

“We really can’t let corporate inertia separate the creative from the business,” he said. “The most successful companies have figured that out.”

The panelists spoke to the reinvention of the relationship between entertainment and marketing, the evolution of branding, and the shift from product placement to now-critical integrated media.

Once upon a time, product placement was as straightforward as Elliot in E.T.: The Extraterrestrial luring E.T. with Reese’s Pieces.

Not so much anymore. Hitting people over the head with a brand won’t cut it, particularly with what we know about Millennials; context and seamless integration are more important than ever.

The moderator, calling out MTV as “the pioneers, innovators, the starters of audience engagement,” called on Martin to show how they’re upholding this legacy.

Martin used Scratch’s work with Dr. Pepper Snapple Group as an example. Two years ago, the company’s CMO came to Scratch looking for a fresh approach.  He asked the group to take a look at its portfolio of 70 brands, and find the opportunities for reinvention.

“MTV is great at creating character and story,” Martin said.

And that’s exactly what it did with Dr. Pepper Snapple’s then-83-year-old citrus soda “Sun Drop.” They created a character and a story around the soda – Sun Drop Girl – who publicly dances ridiculously to Snoop Dogg’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot” whenever she opens a can of the citrus soda. Much to the credit of Scratch’s Creative Director Brian DeCubellis, who created the Sun Drop content, the commercial went viral, earning millions of views online and making the Sun Drop Girl a top-selling Halloween costume in the fall.

They just kicked off season two of the story – “Citrus Soulmates” – in which Sun Drop girl meets her soul mate, Sun Drop guy. See for yourself below.

“We’re not creating content – we’re creating experiences – feelings, things that you feel when you watch, that cause you to take an action,” Martin said.

Safe to say that the Sun Drop ad, the soda’s first national ad, incited action. In addition to the millions of views on YouTube, the commercial inspired countless parodies.

“We ultimately answer to consumers and viewers, not CEOs or CMOs,” Martin said. “Does our audience love it or pass it on? It’s either good and I share it – or it sucks, I never want to see that again, and I resent you for showing it to me.”

Gauging Success

A major question facing the advanced media world is how to gauge success when there’s no standard measurement – is it Facebook likes? Shares? Interaction?

Another panelist, Russ Axelrod, senior brand strategist for Microsoft’s Branded Entertainment and Experiences Team, cautioned that statistics and KPIs can be dangerous, using completion rates as an example.

Martin made a solid point against them, too.

“In social media we know it’s a hit if you can’t keep it to yourself,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you watched all 29 minutes of [the Kony video]. What matters is that you know who Kony is. You win if I pass it on – and they did – I passed it on five seconds in.”

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