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03/27 2015

In Memoriam: Two Great Musical Upstarts

Blogger’s note: From time to time we’ll salute upstarts here at the Tongal Blongal — take a little time to remind our readers (and ourselves) that people everywhere, at any age, can do creative work that’s beautiful and timeless.  After all, that’s what we’re all about…

The folks at Tongal wanted to share our condolences and a few brief thoughts on two momentous deaths last week in the rock and roll / pop music world.  Two of the great prodigies of the 60’s and 70’s: Michael Brown – most famous for his songwriting work with orch-pop legends The Left Banke; and Andy Fraser, the inventive bassist and songwriter for Free, died three days apart. The proximity of their deaths is notable because of their distinguished careers, but also because of the very young age at which they both made their mark. As you know at Tongal we love our own upstarts very much — so we thought we’d share a little bit about these two:

You almost certainly know Andy Fraser’s most famous song: Free’s All Right Now – a gutbucket blues-rock number released in 1970 that went # 2 in the UK, (#4 in the States).  Dial up the video – it’s from UK’s Top of The Pops – and dig that loping bass! Worth noting is the fact that Andy Fraser was 17 when that single was released.  Actually, he was an old-hand by then – having played with John Mayall when he was a mere sprout of 15.

If you’re the deep-tracks type (or your dad, ma or older siblings are) you might also have come across some of the abundant evidence that Andy is one of the most inventive rock bassists in history. Many of the memorials that came out last week acknowledged that despite his youth, Andy was indubitably Free’s leader. How’s that for an upstart? Extra credit: if you want to hear Andy and Free at the height of their powers, the Tongal rock professors suggest looking for the (eponymously titled) record pictured above.

No, it’s not Oscar Wilde… but Michael Brown of the Left Banke.

The song you probably know of Michael Brown’s is Walk Away Rene, by The Left Banke. Brown was just 16 when he joined the band, and he wrote this timeless pop torch-song about the bassist’s girlfriend. (Which may have something to do with his quick departure from the group in 1967.)  Your deep-cuts connection might be able to tell you about Brown’s later work with Montage, Stories, and Beckies – but if you’d like an extra helping of his angelic music today – gorge yourself on Left Banke’s other hit: Pretty Ballerina.

Brown also gets extra points for being scrappy. The string section on both of these hits? Arranged by his dad, Harry Lookofsky.  Not that Beck Hansen would know anything about that…

Tongal raises a toast to Andy Fraser and Michael Brown – and to the many sympathetic and open ears who knew when they were hearing something sublime – no matter how old these musicians were.

Thanks for reading – and feel free to tell us about your favorite prodigy – in music, film, art, or business – and you just might see him or her in a future Blongal post!

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03/20 2015

Tongaler of the Month – Beautimus Productions

Announcing (drum roll please) our Tongaler of the Month and #tongies2015 winnersBeautimus Productions! Jordan Dunn, Michael Kvamme and Mark Lester are the dudes that put the party in filmmaking! They also happen to be super talented and blessed with a great sense of humor. Don’t just take our word for it though, read on for some great laughs and a few surprises…

Izzy Francke: What’s your filmmaking/production background? Did you go to film school?

Beautimus: Actually, only one of us went to film school, the rest of us have various backgrounds in production/entertainment ranging from sketches to award winning short films to interpretive dance to improv/standup.

IF: Awesome! How did you find Tongal?

Beautimus: In a fortune cookie. HAHHAHAHA! Just kidding, Jordan’s Dad.

IF: Big thank you to Jordan’s dad from #teamtongal! And, Congratulations on your Tongies win for Best Wildcard Video! Beach Day for HP DataPass What Can You Do When You’re Connected is a great one! How does it feel to be winners?

Beautimus: Honestly, we were too drunk to remember. We woke up in bed with the Snap Bros.

IF: Sounds like you did the Tongies right! By the way, your acceptance speech is pretty infamous here at Tongal HQ! Can you tell us more about the process of making that Video?

Beautimus: Since it was a Wildcard, we really threw a lot of the production together last minute. We’ve been incredibly happy with the response it has gotten.

IF: Great! While we’re reminiscing on the Tongies, I thought I’d ask you about Little Swiss Treat for the Ricola “I Found Chrüterkraft” Project, which was nominated for Best Original Song at last year’s Tongies! How did the writing process for this go? Also, Michael, what was it like to star in your own Video?

Beautimus/Michael Kvamme: Steven wrote a hilarious song and we went from there. And as for me, Michael Kvamme, it was a really fun part to play, and not too difficult of a role considering that’s what I wear everyday anyway. However, the other guys made me go through an extensive round of callbacks and I only got the part because Jaden Smith backed out. I also slept with one of the producers (Mark).

IF: Classic Jaden. I hope he at least tweeted about it. What’s your favorite work you’ve done for Tongal?

Beautimus: We did a 312 character Pitch for Duracell ten minutes before it was due. Gotta say, some of our best work. That and the Whatever List series we did for Bud Light Up For Whatever Pilot Project.

IF: That’s a fun one! What would be your dream Project on Tongal?

Beautimus: Taco Bell. Hands down. Make it happen.

IF: I second that — I’m obsessed with the Crunchwrap Supreme! What are your daily must-reads?

Beautimus: Your mom’s Facebook page! OHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

IF: Wow, I got nothin’… So, we’ll just move on. Tell us a fun fact or surprising hobby about yourselves.

Beautimus: We’re all dentists on the side. Beautimus DDS.

IF: Do you take insurance? And, more importantly, do you have any advice for other Tongalers?

Beautimus: Floss daily.

IF: What’s next for you, on Tongal or otherwise?

Beautimus: Well there is a dental convention in Phoenix that we’re all pretty pumped for. There is gonna be a presentation on a new route canal procedure that we are very intrigued to see.

Definitely intriguing. Enjoy Phoenix, guys! Thanks so much for letting us pick your brilliant brains about your Videos and dentistry skills. We look forward to seeing your next great Tongal Project!

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03/10 2015

#tongies2015 Recap

Well Tongal family…we did it! #tongies2015 was a roaring success! There was food, drink and merriment all around – plus, a photo booth to capture it all. Congratulations again to all of the nominees, it was an honor to meet (and dance) with each and every one of you. If you’re curious to see who took home a Tongie, check out our Tongies page. Cheers to all of you in our awesome, creative community, and to the businesses that believe in our community. We are so grateful for all of you. Now, bring on the Tongies 2016!

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03/2 2015

Skyfall: Is Your Marketing Department Prepared for the Crash of the TV Market?

On February 19, 2015, The New York Post business section ran a story with this headline: Millennials Ditching Their TV Sets At a Record Rate

The article went on to make good on the headline: traditional TV usage has fallen at a rate of 10.6% among the 18-34 set between September 2014 and January 2015. This is on top of a steady loss-rate of 4% annually since 2012. Nielsen figures quoted indicate that an audience of 21.7 million viewers in 2011 is now only 17.8 million strong.

Ladies First? Late last year (November of 2014), AdAge reported a 13% fall among females in this age group – 17% for younger females (18-24) – during roughly the same time period (Fall 2014).

This is a market crash, right?
Sure looks like one to me. And so it appears we are now living in the midst of what can only be called an epic transition. With perhaps the exception of the NFL and The Oscars – the national / communal television experience is becoming a thing of the past. Reports that the NFL was in negotiations with Netflix for a package of Thursday Night Games have been quashed, but at this point, this feels like a stay of execution.

Nobody’s waiting – least of all Netflix. They’re projected to invest 5 Billion on content in 2016. They’re even raising $1.5BN in debt to finance it. That’s a huge bet and a major step to completely upending advertiser supported TV as we know it. Hey, they’re spending more than HBO, Amazon and Showtime did in 2014…combined. And as ESPN has just announced that they are going “over-the-top” – that is, straight to your lap – how long before the NFL follows suit? Set your iWatch…

Thus the money quote from the Post article: “If the TV as an anachronism trend holds, the implications for the media industry are huge, possibly causing a seismic shift in the $80 billion TV ad market.”

No surprise where these eyes are going – they’re going where Netflix, ESPN, and others are betting – investing – to move them. And why is it that the networks are so open to disruption? Perhaps it’s because of broadcast TV and broadcast TV advertisers unwillingness to do one simple thing: allow viewers to watch content on their own schedules.

The same is true in Hollywood. 2014 Domestic Box Office was lower than it’s been since 1995! Clearly, audiences aren’t interested in “window protection” – yes, absolutely, they’re interested in content, but not on your schedule.

This is NBC Universal’s audience research chief Alan Wurtzel – also from the NY Post story: “The change in behavior is stunning, the use of streaming and smartphones just year-on-year is double digit increases. I’ve never seen that kind of change in behavior.”

Less TV, But More Video: Wurtzel points out that the deterioration in TV viewing is happening at the same time that an up-tick of 22% in subscription viewing, via Netflix, Amazon, Hulu Plus, Vudu, iTunes and many more.

What’s A Brand To Do?
When you boil it down, there have always been only two ways content gets paid for: either a consumer pays for it, or an advertiser does. We don’t think the advertiser-paid / TV model will fade completely into the sunset. But it seems a certainty that profound change is ahead – and sooner rather than later. And with that inevitability, we’re guessing those who are planning, testing, and thinking about shaping rather than reacting to the new media environment will gain significant advantages in the immediate future.

SIX STEPS INTO THE FUTURE

Here are six steps we’re starting to see lots of brands talk about (and some even do!) in order to respond to TV’s  “Skyfall”:

1. Stop Saying “Digital” when you’re talking about your marketing plans and strategy. We’re past that, right?

2. Think Holistically — ads alone won’t cut it; Youtube’s “hero, hub, hygiene” and several other models help marketers grasp the thrilling (but more complex) opportunities beyond “this year’s new spot.” The link takes you to a great case study courtesy of Brendan Gahan.

3. Find Your Tribe: The better you know the interests and passions of your crowd, the better you can serve them. Social Listening services like Networked Insights can provide a depth of insight that can guide action and reaction. They help brands know what their customers are talking about, where, and how –and also how they’re talking about the brand.

4. Think harder about that 3rd W. (Where?) Put more money and time into researching your ideal venues — and think about venues in relationship to your holistic strategy.  By all means research and leverage programmatic capabilities – but use them to guide creative as well. Where you play should have everything to do with what you play, and vise versa.

5. More is More. Whatever your strategy is or becomes, a greater diversity and faster pace of output will almost assuredly be part of it. Gear up to create / sponsor / guide a lot more content. Look at platforms, partners…and look closely! And don’t be afraid to ask you tribe to help you create this content.

6. Action! Yes you have to think longer term, but you will learn more as you GO. Use the diversification of your markets and the fragmenting of audiences to increase your pace of experimentation. This is precisely the spirit that has put Netflix, Amazon and others in the driver’s seat.

 
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02/23 2015

A Golden Touch: Brand Love, Oprah, and The LEGO Oscar

If you were watching on Oscar night, you saw one…and another…and then all of a sudden they were everywhere: LEGO models of the Oscar trophy.  Meryl Streep had one, Bradley Cooper…even Clint Eastwood!

And then there’s the picture above. Oprah — The Big “O”— two time topper of Forbes’ most powerful celebrity list, with a smile so genuine and so delighted it’s hard to imagine that even a seasoned pro like her could conjure it merely for the sake of the cameras.

Our guess is that the idea was born when The LEGO movie didn’t receive an Oscar nomination probably very shortly after (LEGO Movie Director) Phil Lord tweeted that he would build his own. LEGO artist Nathan Sawaya crafted the beautiful recreations — surely no small part of Oprah (and everyone else’s) delight was the fact that the prank was truly funny — but it also helps that the statuettes were works of art in their own right.

LEGO Turned Their Oscar Snub Into Pure Gold
If you’re a CMO or brand marketer, you had to be saying to yourself: “Wow…how did they do that?” If you aren’t either one of those, you may not have even noticed that, basically, LEGO pulled off the promotional coup of the century. Folks, that’s OPRAH up there! That’s the real Meryl Streep!!

Can you imagine Oprah (or Meryl??) posing for that picture with a can of Coke?

Flashing the keys to a new Cadillac? Sporting a new Samsung smart-watch?

In two words: no way. In one: never.

LEGO is in Rare Air
Evidently, making the world’s most powerful celebrity smile is the kind of thing you can do when you’re the world’s most powerful brand. It’s also a move you have the guts to make when you’ve doubled the net income of your company in a few short years, to become the number one toymaker in the world.

We’ve been lucky enough to have a ringside seat for LEGO’s transformation. And like everybody who comes into contact with LEGO, we’re not sure we did it by working or playing — as it has always felt a lot like both. Our community has helped them build their YouTube channel, and we’ve also been a player in their overarching strategy to open their brand up to encourage and celebrate the imagination and genius of their many fans. You can’t be any more real about that than LEGO Ideas (formerly LEGO Cuusoo) which allows fans to recommend a set for creation, gather support from other fans, and earn a share of resulting sales as a bonus.

We think it’s the openness of their brand is the ultimate key to the success of their Academy Awards coup. That openness was reflected in their ability to poke fun at themselves while also having a laugh at the expense of the Motion Picture Academy, and at awards-competitions in general.

You can see it all right there in Oprah’s off-the-charts smile.

Yes, today we’re just happy to call LEGO our cool friend.

They can totally take a bow.

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02/20 2015

Tongaler of the Month – Side of Fries

Introducing the latest Tongaler of the Month and one of our #tongies2015 nominees…Side of Fries! Jordan Allen and Luke Rocheleau are the fun, hardworking dudes that make up this team. Read on to find out about their unique approach, their passions and their funny casting sessions!

Izzy Francke: What’s your filmmaking/production background? Did you go to film school?

Jordan Allen: I actually started out by acting from the ages of 9-13 before making my jump to behind the camera. None of my friends growing up could edit, but they all wanted to make a movie so I, by default, took over that position with no concept as to how much I would fall in love with it. I continued to teach myself through high school and into college, eventually transferring to Chapman University with a major in film production. It was at this time Luke and I formed “Side of Fries” and something you need to know about Luke is that he is a very persuasive man, as he effectively talked me out of going back for my Junior year, telling me to save my money and learn on set! Something I never thought I would do, but I have to say it is the best decision I have made so far and for that I owe him a good ol’ tip of the hat.

Luke Rocheleau: Movies were such a big part of my life growing up, I think this was my first film school without even knowing it! Attending the cinema was like entering a dream chamber; anything could happen if you wanted it. In high school I learned about non-linear digital editing and started to make my own little shorts, which eventually led me to attend the Academy of Art in San Francisco. Looking back I’m glad I went but I would encourage younger kids to do their best to get on set and keep making their own films. It really is the best classroom and you’ll save a fortune!!

IF: Cool! It’s great that you’re both happy with your decisions. How did you find Tongal?

JA: I was looking for alternate ways to make money on the side to pay for school. I believe I entered and took 4th in a contest for Jack Links. I was so excited I began following all the jobs that would pop up. A little while later I met Luke on set. We hit it off and began brainstorming some potential shorts we could do together, blending his camera work and my post work. This is when the brain wave hit and we decided to collaborate on Tongal.

IF: It seems like fate that you two are working together, and we’re glad you found Tongal. What do you look for in a Tongal Project and what specifically attracts you to one when there are so many on the site?

JA: The biggest thing that attracts us to Projects are the brand’s goals. Luke and I try not to box ourselves in with styles or genres but we have a very specific sense of humor and always love it when that humor lines up with a brand.

IF: It’s cool that you have a keen sense of your filmmaking style and stick to it.  How do you guys divvy up your responsibilities as a team? What are your specific roles?

JA: Luke and I write and direct all our Projects together. Luke’s background involves being a steadicam op and Eagle Scout, so as you can imagine this brings a keen understanding of camera builds and lens types, along with a can-do will-do attitude towards all things physical. You see, the sun gives him strength; the sun and I, however, are not on speaking terms as my background involves spending far too much time in a dark room, hunched over a keyboard. So as you might imagine, I handle the media and post side, including visual effects.

IF: Sweet teamwork! Your VideoA Day in the Life,” which won first place for Shutterstock’s Lights, Camera, Action Video Project was intended for the Brazilian market. Do you guys speak Portuguese? What led you to Pitch for that market in particular?

JA: We do not speak more than two words of Portuguese between us, and one of those words is “no” so you can imagine how fun it was running lines for a Portuguese voice over! We just kept telling him “we are trusting you with this” and in placing first I think our “beg and pray” method worked out great for us, so we owe him a high five and a nice fish dinner. As far as why we pitched, Luke and I both love Brazil and wanted to capture a little bit of the city’s essence and rhythm. We had some connections in the city and thought we could make something spicy, so we just closed our eyes and swung for the fences hoping Shutterstock would catch that same vibe.

IF: Impressive! Plus, you definitely captured the vibe. Your Video “Childsplayfor the Pop Secret Video Projectis nominated for a Tongie for Best Broadcast Spot. The kids in this one are so funny! How did you cast for this Project? What was it like working with them?

JA: We love the casting process simply because it’s a time to play with our script and see what all the different actors bring to the different parts. For this one in particular Luke just had all the bullies insult me. And I’m sad to say this is not the first audition that’s happened. The really creative ones aka the ones who insulted me in ways I’d never dreamed of, were selected. As for working with them on set, they were all really well behaved, which is an obvious blessing when working with 20+ eleven year olds. Our main kid (the one being bullied) was especially professional and we even saw him chatting up one of the extras during a break. We thought we cast a little boy, but it appears we cast a little man.

IF: Hilarious – I wish I’d been there to hear some of his pick up lines! I also love your Video “Fuel Your Fun” for the “Kool Aid TV Commercial Project.” You do a great job of combining animation and live action. Can you tell us about that process?

JA+ LR: This commercial was a monster to plan due to the fact we only had one day to shoot it, and when working with children that day is even shorter than normal. So we just took a few days to prep, looked at what we needed for each shot, and most importantly, planned multiple ways to capture each effect in case one method failed in post. That is always our motto with special effects: cover your bases!

A fun fact about this spot, however, is that in the first draft we were told not to show the Kool-Aid man in any way, shape, or form, so we obliged. Later in the revisionary round we were asked to find a way to insert the Kool-Aid man into the commercial, which was an uh-oh moment seeing as we never game planned for it. So after racking our brains as to where we could put him, we decided to just stuff him in the wormhole which actually turned out to be a pretty significant upgrade to the flow of the spot and a great “Oh yeah!” moment. Sometimes things just have a way of sorting themselves out!

IF: You handled that situation very well, the spot turned out great! What’s your favorite work you’ve done for Tongal?

JA: My personal favorite is still the Pringles commercial. Any shoot where I get to see child storm troopers, a break dancing wookiee, and a mini sith lord is a shoot I will cherish forever.

LR: My favorite Tongal Project to date is the Gain Project. I loved how quickly things turned to go down the “weird” path on set and how we ended up with something not originally planned. I like to think we’re not afraid to chase off the wall or dark concepts. Some of my favorite stuff is dark and way out there and I still laugh my head off when he asks the girl in the laundromat: “You know what cake is don’t you?!”— it’s not for everyone but I enjoy it.

IF: Great choices. What would be your dream Project on Tongal?

JA + LR: If we ever got to work with Old Spice, I think our heads would explode.

IF: I think everyone at Tongal HQ would love to see you guys make an Old Spice Video! What are your daily must-reads?

JA: I’m not personally into reading when it comes to film so I can’t really recommend anything. Instead I try to dive into potential effects or concepts I’d like to master on the post side and do a little bit of research each day on specific methods of execution – which sounds boring having just read it out loud, but I swear it’s not!

LR: I’m a sucker for American Cinematographer. I love to see what the world’s best filmmakers are doing with lights and it helps me keep up on the ever-changing world of digital cameras. I also visit the SteadicamForum daily.

IF: Good sources, Luke. And Jordan, we definitely don’t think you’re boring – your research method has paid off! Tell us a fun fact or surprising hobby about yourselves.

JA: A fun fact about me is that, like most of us, I have always dreamed of having a home movie theater and just 3 months ago I am proud to say I completed it! It’s a blacked out room with theater seating, 7.2 Dolby surround sound, and 120” projection. It is the reason I have forgotten the feeling of sunlight.

LR: I’m a drummer and love to get in a jam session whenever I have time. I finally got a lock out space with a buddy that provides 24 hour access so I’m super stoked. It’s great to clear your head or just let off some steam.

IF: Both of those are super cool. By the way, team Tongal is totally up for a screening in your home movie theater…we’ll bring the popcorn and candy! Do you have any advice for other Tongalers?

JA: I would say that if you are just starting out on Tongal, be wise in picking your Projects. Find brands that really share your vision/style and just go for it. When Luke and I first started out on Tongal, all of our pitches were rejected, but we believed that they would “love it once they saw it” and gambled with our own money. We turned out to be right and to this day I’m so glad we didn’t lose faith in our concepts!

IF: That’s sound and helpful advice. What’s next for you, on Tongal or otherwise?

JA + LR: I believe the old saying is “Man makes plans and God laughs” so to be honest we don’t know what’s around the next corner but we are excited for whatever comes our way. In the meantime we are wrapping up a few commercials while in the process of bidding on more! We are also looking to branch further into music videos, shorts, personal Projects, and hopefully are around the corner from a first feature.

Sounds like you guys have an awesome year ahead of you! Team Tongal is so glad we got to know more about Side of Fries’ creative process and work…we can’t wait to see your next Tongal Project!