Bringing a Cult Film Festval to Your Town

8 06 2014

We have the great luck of a retail shopping destination client with a 500-seat cultural venue. On the not-so-great side, it’s a challenge to attract patrons and shoppers during South Florida’s off season – the incredibly hot and humid summers (with added bonus of hurricane season). Mainstreet at Midtown is known for its year-round outdoor festivals and events like a 16-week Music on the Plaza concert series (held during the drier and cooler months of the peak social season), its Peace Love & Wellness Music Festival, Children’s Festival, Cool Yule Tree Decorating Contest, and others.

swede fest palm beach 3So, we needed a summer event, and it REALLY needed to be indoors.

And then NPR did this great piece a couple of years ago about an underground film event that sounded like the perfect idea we could get behind and make our client’s own. Indie film festivals have a rich history of showcasing amazing undiscovered talent, where Hollywood insiders troll for the next big thing, where A-list stars promote the small labor-of-love projects they do between blockbusters. swede fest™ palm beach is an indie film festival with NONE of that going for it. In fact, our tagline is “Bad Movies by Good People.”

The key to understanding why is in the “swede.” A swede is a no-budget, laughably bad remake of a hit Hollywood film – the bigger, the better. The term comes from the 2008 Jack Black/Mos Def comedy, Be Kind Rewind, and was made up to explain the sheer awfulness of their remade films by touting them as European – “swedes” because it sounded really sophisticated. Not exactly a classic in its genre, but neither is it comedy kryptonite.

swede fest palm beach 3Next thing you know, there’s an underground sweding craze. Two guys in Fresno invited a bunch of friends to make films starring themselves, then get together to screen them, like they do at Sundance, SXSW, Telluride, Slamdance, Tribeca, and so on – but without the beautiful celebrities, coolness factor, or bidding wars. Hence the coverage on NPR.

We’re the third official swede fest™. First, Fresno. Then, Tampa Bay. Now, the Palm Beaches. This is the third year, and we sell out every time, create super fun/cheesy marketing, a great microsite, go crazy on social media: and , give out silly awards (Best Use of a Backyard Location, Best Use of Man’s Best Friend, Best Use of Tinfoil), and everyone generally has a great time and gets dressed up in total Hollywood drag.

Local schools get involved and sometimes do them as class projects, and the community and local media really get behind it because we deliberately created an all-ages event – you can swede any film, but your 3-minute clip must be PG-13, even if your source material is not. We’ve had swedes of Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and The Thing, and already we have someone who has submitted The Wolf of Wall Street for this year’s festival on August 2. We’re anxious to see exactly how they’ll sanitize that one.


15 Days of Fame Into Less Than 4 Minutes

30 05 2014

Getting marketing and PR mileage out of an event can take some ingenuity. Big, splashy events with celebrities, music, celebrations, food – and sometimes all of the above – have a certain built-in traction that makes the job a bit easier. But what do you do when you’re marketing something that is still an intangible – a residential project that won’t be completed until January 2015, with no floor plans, no pre-leasing, no artist’s conceptions available for another couple of months? By painting a huge public art mural that takes 15 days. There are milestones you can get the media to cover and the public to take interest in: that first dash of color on the bricks, and the final touches when it is complete.

But then it’s over. How do you remind people of the scope, of the breadth, of the magnitude – and then show it to those who never even knew it was happening? And keep it out there to continually show prospective residents, the ultimate reason the investment was made in the first place?

Time lapse photography and a drone.

The final result is a video that is sharable, portable, and allowed the artist, the client, the city, and fans to make it a viral gift that keeps on giving. Credit where credit is due: Artist — Tristan Eaton and his killer team; Time Lapse — Gregory Dillard of Grapeseeker Motion Graphics; 7,000 square feet of “Canvas” — Ram Real Estate/Alexander Lofts.

The Intersection of Marketing and Art

14 04 2014

It’s no bad thing to have a client who is an art patron. And it’s an even better thing when that client, a real estate developer, is a huge supporter of Art in Public Places (#AIPP) and willing to budget for the creation of art as a way to improve the community in which construction takes place.

For another perspective on the scale of this project, this is Tristan painting Alexander Graham Bell’s eye.

For another perspective on the scale of this project, this is Tristan painting Alexander Graham Bell’s eye.

That said, you’d like to have the artwork depict some subtle tie-in to the project, even though Art in Public Places is pretty strict about there being no commercial aspect to the projects it approves. The client, Ram Realty Services, decided that we would conduct a Call to Artists with the prompt that the 7,000 square foot mural would honor Alexander Graham Bell and communication, since the historic structure was once the regional headquarters for Southern Bell, and the converted residential units will be known as Alexander Lofts.

To provide a sense of scale, these next images were taken from the painting platforms.

Looking down...

Looking down…

Looking up...

Looking up…

After a lengthy vetting process that included representatives of Ram Realty Services, Alchemy, and the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County, it was decided we would work with Los Angeles-based Tristan Eaton, an internationally known street artist and designer whose work can be seen in galleries around the world and in the permanent collection of the New York Museum of Modern Art.

Eaton is renowned for creating large-scale murals in urban landscapes (NYC, Detroit, LA, Cleveland), and is an art consultant to major brands such as Fisher Price, Nike, and Disney.

It took him and his two assistants over 600 cans of spray paint and a total of 12 days to conquer the wall.

While there is no commercial aspect to the final artwork that in any way promotes Alexander Lofts, the prominence of the huge mural makes the building a landmark in Downtown West Palm Beach, and generated a tremendous amount of media coverage.

And it doesn’t hurt that the enormous mural and the name of the building both pay homage to Alexander Graham Bell – subtle, but present.

The finished 7,000 square-foot mural.

The finished 7,000 square-foot mural.

The investment in this tremendous artwork is a fantastic branding tool, as we are able to generate interest in the project on social media, on the project website, and in future marketing efforts as a way to identify the location of the property.

Ad Creep(y)

29 07 2013

First there was bodvertising, then thighvertising, now it’s beardvertising. Talk about taking “ad creep” to new highs…er, lows…oh, forget it.


This, my friends, is “thighvertising.”

Ad creep is defined in our industry as the spread of media placement into every possible aspect of our daily lives. Thighvertising (according to the U.K.’s Telegraph, or maybe it was the Daily Mail – it was earlier this year) originated in Japan, and is pretty much just what the name implies: advertising on the quadriceps. But not just any quads, mind you – on the taut legs of young, attractive women. Everything I read about this trend – which seemed to hit critical media mass in the last few weeks — noted its potential for objectification of women. Then, of course, came the opinions that it’s EMPOWERING when women turn the tables and take control of their bodies and their image. As someone of the female persuasion, I’m going to stop right here before I let loose with an opinion of that sentiment, which isn’t really relevant to the topic at hand. However, I will tell you that this is my test for whether something is exploitative (borrowed from another writer, so no claims to originality here): Are guys doing it, too?

More thighvertising

Are we the only ones who found this invasive?

The PR firm credited with the thighvertising reports that as of sometime around Q3 2012, over 1,300 women signed up to be mini-skirted billboards, although I read other reports that put the number as high as 13,000. The name of this Japanese PR outfit is Absolute Territory, which also happens to be a colloquial term for the area exposed between a woman’s hemline and the top of her stockings. No doubt many more business-minded female entrepreneurs (yep, that would be sarcasm) have since applied. After all, they’re paid from $13 to $128 for co-opting a leg and walking around Tokyo like that for eight hours (and posting it all over social media for additional exposure).

From the guys at

From the guys at

But at least it’s better than what a New Zealand ad agency did back in 2011 – they created raised plates and installed them on bus benches. What did the raised plate do? It imprinted an ad on the backs of your thighs for a client’s sale that read, “SHORT SHORTS ON SALE AT SUPERETTE.” Don’t believe me? There’s proof.


Beardvertising by @WrestlingAndy

So, I’m feeling like beardvertising does not quite level that particular playing field. If you are thinking, “Why the heck not? What are you, some kind of feminist?” feel free to check out some of these samples of beardvertising and tell me this is the same as “absolute territory” messaging (you can see way more on Instagram here).

Beardvertising by @brentonrocks

On the plus side, I truly love that Dollar Shave Club (which produced one of the best viral marketing videos EVER), purveyors of beard-eliminating technology, have co-opted some of the mankiest beards I have ever seen. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so maybe there are lots of people out there who find the absolute territory between the eye and the top of the beard really hot.


Thighvertising at International Business Times:

Don’t Harsh My Thongs

19 07 2013

What’s with all the thong hate? No, not THOSE thongs. “Thongs” are what we used to call flip-flops down here when I was a kid.

Not our feet, not our beach. Image courtesy of KSL Broadcasting, Salt Lake City UT (

Not our feet, not our beach. Image courtesy of KSL Broadcasting, Salt Lake City UT (

Whatever you call them, I read six articles published in the last week referencing the horror of people wearing flip-flops (Slate,  Huffington Post, MSN, CBS, Fox, and Jezebel), and saw on my way out the door this morning that the Today Show  was, as usual, coming late to the party. At least Jezebel took the contrarian (shocking, I know) position that there is no shame in sporting ugly, exposed feet.

Apparently, feet need a good PR push. They’re variously described in these articles as “gross,” “disgusting,” “nasty,” “super gross,” “smelly,” “filthy,” “unsightly,” “skeevy,”  and “unappealing.”  Place them in a flip-flop, put them in an urban environment, and you get a violent reaction. Mix in podiatrists and lack of arch support, and you have shoe heresy.

After my initial knee-jerk reaction to people dissing my favorite form of footwear — after all, I live in South Florida and we have raised thong-wearing to an art form — I found I had to agree with at least SOME of the argument. Thongs + urban dirt = skanky feet. I lived in New York City for six years and never once even considered wearing flip-flops on the street. I wore Doc Martins, a form of urban combat wear for your feet. It was simply self-defense; I have this thing about people stepping on my naked toes. It hurts.

And let’s not forget the general filthiness of large collections of humans living in very close proximity to one another. Big city streets are big time nasty.

What’s actually interesting in all of this is not that there are something like 18,000 bacteria on your flip-flops (including Staphylococcus aureus, according to the 2009 study referenced in all of these articles). It’s that thing I referred to in the last post: the social media hive mind.

It used to be that print and broadcast tended to move in story cycles, so that if one pub covered a topic and the article/segment was interesting and well-received (or at least received a lot of attention), you could count on similar stories from the competition. Now that everyone’s wired (a gloriously inaccurate term), the cycle is practically instantaneous. And when enough news outlets (i.e. mainstream media), news purveyors (i.e. bloggers, gossip sites, opinion sites), and social consumers come together on a topic, it becomes a cultural phenomenon (albeit an often brief one). Because the timeframe is so compressed, and sharing anything even remotely interesting is basically built into whatever you’re reading/watching, we get topics that spread like viruses. Hence that “viral” thing.

What used to seem like these big cosmic coincidences now happen so frequently they’ve lost much of their luster — and therefore any truly lasting impact. In a moment too meta to contemplate here, an author whose book I recently edited told me I need to read Jonah Berger’s book, Contagious, and the next day Mr. Berger was on CBS talking about how stuff catches on — or doesn’t.

So, I wonder what the next Sharknado will be? Of course, if we knew that, we’d stop trying to do this marketing thing, become consultants, and wear our flip-flops on the beach in Bora Bora.

Late to the Sharknado…

12 07 2013

I had a whole bunch of ideas for a blog post – you have beardvertising to look forward to, people – but abandoned them after #sharknado took over Twitter and garnered the SyFy Channel’s latest cheesefest so much second-screen publicity that it was a featured story everywhere from the Today Show to Variety to the Wall Street Journal.

Too mature to know about the guilty pleasures of SyFy’s made-for-TV schlockfests? Sharknado, which premiered last night, stars D-list (and really, we’re being generous here) celebs Ian Zeiring (Beverly Hills 90210) and Tara Reid (American Pie). A hurricane off the coast of California sucks up man-eating sharks and transports them, via tornado, to Los Angeles. Said sharks proceed to fly out of funnel clouds and eat everyone.


The social media hive-mind created a TwitterStorm during the run, with such beauties as this:

Danny Zucker (@dannyzucker)
Can’t watch #Sharknado because I’m on the set of my new film Tsunamwolf.
(Writer/Exec Producer on ABC’s Modern Family)

Glenn Mazzara (@glennmazzara)
@Ebradley127: “@brayingdixon: “#SHARKNADO is coming! ” I can only hope the sequel is SQUIDQUAKE.
(Writer, Producer — The Shield, The Walking Dead, Life, Crash)

Horatio Sanz (@mrhoratiosanz)
I wish I could join in on the shenanigans, but I had a cousin that was killed by a #Sharknado back in ’93. #RamonRIP
(Former SNL cast member, actor, comedian)

Shawn Ryan
Commercials giving me a chance to reflect on secondary, even tertiary levels of #Sharknado.
(Writer – The Shield/The Unit/Terriers/The Chicago Code/Last Resort/Lie To Me/Angel/Nash Bridges)

The Dowager Countess (@ladygrantham)
America: The Empire gave you tea, civilisation and the English language – and you responded with .

The Sharknado forecast

The Sharknado forecast

Other tweeted hashtags/suggested movie titles: Orcalanche, Hurricanine, Tarantulavalanche, Whalecano, Moosnami, Rabbitavalanche, Catsoon.

Actual SyFy Channel movie titles already produced and aired: Sharktopus, Piranhaconda, Dinocroc vs. Supergator, Megapython vs. Gateroid. I don’t make this stuff up. Really.

A confession: I watch these SyFy Channel cheese bombs. One of my favorites (and beloved by my then 9-year-old son) was Frankenfish. Another ultra-bad bonding moment for us was Anonymous Rex, a mash-up of Jurassic Park and every film noir trope EVER. It stars Sam Tramell, who now plays Sam Merlotte on True Blood, and that other Baldwin brother, Daniel. The premise? Dinosaurs faked their extinction and live among us disguised as humans. A velociraptor (Tramell) and a triceratops (Baldwin) are private investigators looking into a murder. Bonus: special appearances by Faye Dunaway (hysterical) and Isaac Hayes (smooooth).

Twitter is still blowing up about #sharknado, but now it’s the media discussions of last night’s frenzy. You just can’t pay – or plan – for publicity like this.

Word is that SyFy Channel intends to re-air Sharknado next Thursday at 7:00 PM EST. I know I’m setting the DVR. Twitter better look at the bandwidth/server situation, pronto.


12 08 2012

Any time you work on a brand-new event with a client, there’s always the possibility that — even with a great concept and a clever hook, after everyone’s hard work, late nights, inspired ideas, creativity, sharp copy, media hooks, great pitches, relentless social media outreach, promises from everyone to cover the event, smart media buys, great sponsors, high-profile partners, and every other factor you can imagine — you’ll have a half-full venue. There are so many intangibles you can’t control; then add in that it’s summer, in Florida, during hurricane season, when it usually rains every afternoon from 4:00pm until 7:00pm, it’s hot and humid and hair gets frizzy, people are away on last-minute vacations before school starts and/or work gets back to a more normal schedule, and did we mention it’s summer? And that no one knows what a “swede” is?

Midtown's Belle Forino and Sherri Gedraitis in front of the step-and-repeat using our logo and graphics

Midtown’s Belle Forino and Sherri Gedraitis in front of the step-and-repeat using our logo and graphics

Yet none of that seemed to matter last Friday night when the inaugural SWEDE FEST™PALM BEACH launched to a sold out crowd of over 500 attendees on Mainstreet at Midtown.From the red carpet in front of The Borland Center for Performing Arts through the final credits, this was high-energy entertainment for everyone involved, with “swedes” submitted by amateur filmmakers ages 10 to 60.

First, the BG. A swede is a no-budget, laughably bad remake of a hit Hollywood film – the bigger, the better. The term comes from the 2008 Jack Black/Mos Def comedy, Be Kind Rewind, and was made up to explain the sheer awfulness of their remade films by touting them as European – swedes, because it sounded really sophisticated.  No, you probably didn’t see it — it’s not exactly a classic, but neither is it comedy kryptonite. If you did see it, it was probably late at night on Skinemax. We mean Cinemax.

Next thing you know, there’s an underground sweding craze. Two guys in Fresno invited a bunch of friends to make films starring themselves, then get together to screen them in another homage: to the indie film festival – but without the beautiful celebrities, coolness factor, or bidding wars.

And that is the somewhat long and winding road that leads to swede fest™ palm beach, the third official swede fest™. First, Fresno. Then, Tampa Bay. Now, “the Palm Beaches” but really, Palm Beach Gardens, where our client is located. We suggested it was important to secure the trademark in such a way to lock up the event in the area and own it; anyone who wished to come afterward and imitate it would not be able to just tack on another word and piggyback on all our client’s financial investment and hard work. Sad, but a fact in the world of marketing and events.

swede fest logo, color variant #1

swede fest logo, color variant #1

Our job was to come up with the logo, tagline, all of the graphics necessary for social media, create a WordPress-based website for swede fest™ palm beach, write all the content for it, produce two 15-second promo commercials to be show in the local Cobb movie theaters (one promoting the call for entries and the other promoting the festival itself), and work closely with Belle Forino, our client Midtown’s Marketing Coordinator, to manage the social media while she approached local schools, the Palm Beach International Film Festival, the entertainment community, the Palm Beach County Film Commission, and Digital Domain (who became a major sponsor along with its Digital Domain Institute) to drum up support for a grassroots amateur film festival in which short, DIY versions of big-budget feature films are reproduced as cheaply as possible, using family and friends as cast; bedrooms, backyards, and local parks as sets; and toys, pets, and found objects as props.

swede fest palm beach Call For Entries :30 TV Spot from swede fest palm beach on Vimeo.

Bringing a swede fest™ to the area was Belle’s idea after hearing a story on NPR. She contacted the Fresno-based originators, and we were on our way with their blessing and the trademark.

Next came the design of the swede fest™ palm beach logo, and the creation of our tagline “A celebration of bad movie by good people,” which has been variously attributed to other people and festivals, but was created by Alchemy for Midtown. Swede fest tampa bay liked it so much they asked to use it, and in the best swedeing spirit, Belle said, “Of course.” Swede fests aren’t about competition; they’re about the love of movies, a fondness for a good time, and how sometimes bad can be so very good.

Once we settled on a basic logo design, we needed a variety of iterations: a “call for entries” version, a general all-purpose version, a variety of sizes to accommodate Facebook, Twitter, various electronic media buys, the creation of a masthead for the website, and versions in two complementary color schemes in various resolutions for print, web, and other uses.

The electronic "mea culpa" on the date thing

The electronic “mea culpa” on the date thing

We decided the fastest and easiest way to create a web presence for the festival was to build a WordPress-based site hosted on the servers, availing ourselves of the handy array of templates and widgets that would eliminate the hours of programming necessary to create a site from scratch or add everything we envisioned it needing to the existing Midtown website. The site could then be constantly modified, added to, and manipulated by Alchemy rather than adding to the already heavy maintenance schedule of Midtown’s webmaster.

The date for the festival, the opening of the entry submissions and the deadline for those entries, and other milestones were scheduled in early March. However, everyone was so focused on educating people about swede fests, getting them excited about creating films and entering them, creating all of these ad/promo/social media elements, getting the local media interested in the event, securing an emcee, and all the thousand other details that ONE LITTLE THING escaped us that had a tremendous impact: the announcement that the Opening Ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London would be on Friday, August 27th. Yes, the same day we’d scheduled swede fest™ palm beach.

Rather than see this as a PR disaster, once we knew we could roll the date back one week and still have our venue, we recommended that we make a big joke out of the situation rather than engage in any hand-wringing (we did enough of that internally). So we put out a media alert that said:

We’ve tried to ignore it, but it’s time we addressed what you all have been thinking: yes it’s true, the opening ceremony of the London Summer Olympic Games is ON THE SAME NIGHT AS SWEDE FEST™ PALM BEACH.

The date change graphic

The date change graphic

You can’t fight the power. So we’re taking the high road. We’re willing to step aside and let the U.S. Olympic athletes, and the rest of those competing, have that special night without us siphoning off their audience. We’re moving SWEDE FEST™ PALM BEACH back a week to FRIDAY, AUGUST 3. Same time, same place. Because there’s no way they can pull off such a sweet move.

Since we’re moving our renegade amateur film festival back a week, we’re going to give our sweders another week, too. THE DEADLINE FOR ENTRIES ROLLS BACK TO FRIDAY, JULY 20. Everyone wins.

Put it on your calendars now. SWEDE FEST™ PALM BEACH deadline for entries is Friday, July 20. SWEDE FEST™ PALM BEACH is Friday, August 3. Screenings begin at 7:00PM at The Borland Center for Performing Arts. Take that, London.

And created a graphic that we emailed to the database and posted to all our social media that was essentially a gigantic mea culpa. It worked.

swede fest palm beach Event Announcement :15 TV Spot from swede fest palm beach on Vimeo.

The "sweded" Mainstreet at Midtown logo

The “sweded” Mainstreet at Midtown logo

And in spite of the fact that this did create a few glitches (the need to find new emcees — The Jove Comedy Experience stepped in and were just amazing; the fact that so many community calendars had already run the original date and it was too late to get most of them to run the new date; and a few other little things), the client was thrilled with the media coverage, the event turnout, how many new visitors of all ages were on Mainstreet at Midtown that night, how many great people volunteered “in kind” sponsorships to be involved (edited to mention that Hollywood Cupcake makes Kelly’s heart sing for joy and her cupcakes are little sugar bombs of happiness and rainbows and angels singing. Was that too much?)

In fact, we think you can consider a first-time event a success when the client tells you at said event the date she’s chosen for next year’s event.

The best-dressed swedeing team EVER

The best-dressed swedeing team EVER

swede fest™ palm beach will be on Friday, August 2, 2013 for those of you who want to start planning what film to swede now and whether you’ll be raiding Goodwill’s toy department for your cast, your pets will play supporting roles, or whether you’ve always secretly wanted to wear a superhero costume and/or play Wolverine. You know you want it.

The team who sweded "Old School"

The team who sweded “Old School”

Yep. we’re going to go out on a limb and say that not only do people now know what a swede is, we’ll easily double the almost 40 entries in swede fest™ palm beach 2012 with an embarrassment of riches — in this case, a plethora of swedes — in 2013. This is what special event are supposed to do for your client, and this little renegade, amateur film festival really delivered.

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