Although still in its infancy, machinima — animated films created by using a number of different game or virtual world engines — is rapidly emerging as a surprisingly effective new tool for marketers.
Currently, most machinima is produced through the online virtual world Second Life. However, it is expanding to include other online games and virtual worlds.
“From a creative perspective, machinima allows you to do things that you simply can’t afford in the real world,” explains Chris Drury, CEO of New York-based Drury Design Dynamics, who has worked with brands such as IBM on machinima campaigns. “Computer graphics animation can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, while with machinima you can create the same thing for about a quarter of the price.” Its distinctive look also “gives companies the ability to do something new and clever that can position them on the cutting edge,” he added.
“What machinima is really great at is allowing you to take people into a virtual world experience without having to download or master any new software,” said Boris Kizelshteyn, CEO of New York-based Popcha, who worked with Drury on the IBM campaign and also has produced machinima marketing for other clients. “Not only is it hugely viral, but it allows the execs signing the checks to see what they’re paying for.”
As with viral video campaigns, Kizelshteyn notes you can embed links either within or at the end of a machinima piece that can drive consumers to a Web site, enabling marketers to track results.
Right now, machinima provides a compelling enough visual to attract viewers even beyond its target audience.
“For some of these viral machinima pieces, we ended up with 10,000 hits, which is an amazing number for a corporate video,” Drury says. “You’re going to see it emerge as a great marketing tool.”
Kizelshteyn agrees, adding the real value for marketers is that it allows you to deliver complex messages in a fairly-entertaining way.
“You can release a series of machinima episodes around the launch of a product or sell the creation myth around your company with a level of detail that was pretty much impossible for everyone but the biggest brands,” he added.
For IBM, Drury and Kizelshteyn created a series of machinima pieces that were posted on a dedicated Web site, attached to e-mails and included on social networking sites.
“You want to use as many different user touch points as you can,” Drury said.