VIFF Industry Tackles "Discoverability" in Digital World

Submitted by Robert Alstead on Wed, 09/30/2015 - 02:38

How do you get your content “discovered”? This was the big question of the first day of VIFF Industry the 4-day adjunct event that runs alongside Western Canada’s main film festival, the Vancouver International Film Festival.

It’s a wide open subject, particularly as VIFF Industry has broadened its horizon to include the gamut of online content, video games, as well as the old staples of television and film mediums. If there was a sense at the end of having more questions than answers, more uncertainties than formulas for success, then it was partly because of the broad focus and simply that the digital media world is evolving at such a blazing pace that what worked yesterday may not work today.

“There is a lot of bad business practices in our industry that have become normalised,” said Moyra Rogers of online strategist Magnify Digital, in the introductory talk, “Discoverability Starts Here”.

Rogers boiled down her process for new projects to five steps using the acronym ALERT: Assess, Locate, Engage, Respond, and Track. As with the following sessions the resounding message was mine the data as much as you can, particularly when it comes to getting to know, reaching, and responding to your target audience.

For example, Rogers said in the intelligence-gathering “Assess” stage of a project a client was looking to build an app to help addicts. Her team discovered that there was no lack of addiction apps, but what they did find was that apps for loved ones was under-served so the project was adapted accordingly.

Rogers emphasised the value of data all the way through to the tracking stage whether it be analysing your Google Analytics reports or Facebook stats.

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,” she said.

One of her stats that popped out was on the importance of word-of-mouth versus brands: 92% of people trust friends and family versus 10% trusting brands.

I wonder where journalists fit in there?

It's all about the data

Data, data, data could have been the theme of the day as much as “Discoverability”, particularly as we entered into the second session, entitled “The Creative Brain - The Science of Storytelling”, looking at the futuristic sounding art of neuromarketing.

Self-described “behavioural economist” Dan Iwasa-Madge explained how his company Brainsights has been using brain scanning headsets to measure the real time, unfiltered response of focus groups’ to new advertisements. Iwasa-Madge, who wore one of his brain scanners throughout the presentation, pointed out that the headphone-like instruments are relatively inexpensive now - in the hundreds of dollars. The headsets measure brain waves in three areas: attention, emotional connection, and encoding (the brain wave associated with memory).

He was joined by Matt Di Paoloa, managing director of digital ad agency Sid Lee, who talked more about how they used the technology to hone campaigns that they had collaborated together on.

They showed us a few ad spots with brain scan charts wobbling up and down alongside the ads to illustrate the collective brain activity of their focus groups. Iwasa-Madge admitted that much of the information gleaned from the Brainsights approach could be deduced intuitively - such as when a certain demographic responds to music in a scene - but the two men emphasised that this system provided an objective measurement.

It was interesting to hear what they discovered worked and what didn’t by watching the peaks and troughs of the brain waves. For example, when music levels rose in an advertisement it increased the emotional connection and attention of the audience but they saw a corresponding drop in the encoding/memorability line.


Digital media strategist Annelise Larson came at the subject with a series of four case studies in her session “Discovering A Business Model in the Data”. There was a lot of good information, as she charted the rise, over many years, of the various different creators: Space aficionado Fraser Cain, the Finnish creators of hit game Angry Birds, a highly successful e-book author Dayla Moon (one of her pen names), and the team behind the Jane Austen webisode spin-off series The Lizzie Bennett Diaries.

Larson impressed upon us, as she showed the origins of each project’s success, the importance of thinking big, listening to the data even if it’s not telling you what you want to hear (e.g. the e-book author ended up writing erotic novels for a while!), and remembering that the digital world is an iterative one which you need to respond to accordingly.

More than once, when talking about targeting your audience, she said we need to read this piece in Wired about the Green Inferno.

Big picture

The final presentation of the day was from Catalina Briceno, the Director of Industry and Market Trends for the Canada Media Fund (CMF). She gave us a breakdown on the organisation’s two annual reports on content production and distribution.

Bricenco talked a lot about “the paradox” of the new media landscape where there are fewer entry points for a growing number of overwhelmed users.

There was a lot of information drawn from the CMF's Key Trends Report from “filter bubbles” to the clear trend among younger audiences away from television to online digital media (especially YouTube); from e-sports - where people watch others playing real time video games, to the rise of digital marketplaces for film and television rights.

VIFF Industry continues until Saturday.