Monday, February 23, 2009

For Your Imagination Integrates Axis of Comedy Web Series Crossovers in Warner Brothers Sponsored Watchmen Movie Promotion

Through a sponsorship by Warner Brothers Theatrical for its upcoming “Watchmen" movie, New York-based online media studio For Your Imagination has created a custom package of comedy and entertainment shows produced under FYI’s Axis of Comedy video network. Clever "Watchmen”-themed tie-ins and crossovers between four of their comedy web series through an integrated storyline defines their innovative approach to the promotional campaign which launched on February 18, 2009 and runs through March 6, 2009, the opening date of “Watchmen”.

All programming will be available on utilizing a customized interactive video player by Innovid that includes clickable Easter eggs and “Watchmen” references as part of a fan contest. Videos will be syndicated across For Your Imagination’s distribution network of video sharing platforms such as Blip, DailyMotion, MySpace, Yahoo! and Viddler, entertainment and comic book websites and as a podcast on iTunes.

I had the opportunity to speak with Paul Kontonis, CEO and Co-Founder of For Your Imagination about the Warner Brothers sponsorship and their unique campaign in the following interview. This is part one of a two-part conversation with Paul.

Larry Kless: It's certainly a great way to kick off the new year with this Warner Brothers sponsorship deal. How is FYI approaching the "Watchmen" promotional campaign?

Paul Kontonis: It's been a good strong start of the year with a nice mix of brand entertainment and original sponsored entertainment. The Watchmen is a sponsorship of current web series, Kyle Piccolo being one of them and three other series, The Retributioners, Abigail's X-Rated Teen Diary and HungrymanTV's Phistophicles, and the sponsorship is original videos within those four web series with the purpose being, and the reason those four were selected is the three series.

The Retributioners, Abigail’s X-Rated Teen Diary and Phistophicles are very popular with mainstream audiences, adults 18-34 and not necessarily comic book focus. Kyle Piccolo's audience is a subset of the mainstream audience. They have much more of a comic book bent to them and they're the ones who are rabid and excited about the upcoming “Watchmen” movie.

Kyle Piccolo also has the benefit of having of an ability to talk to a mainstream audience without setting them totally astray. The purpose of the whole campaign is to take these three original web series that are mainstream ones and use them as a way of delivering the masses into the comic book airlock that is Kyle Piccolo and then bringing them to Watchmen.

This campaign right now looks pretty straightforward. You saw a video for Kyle Piccolo that has “Watchmen” tie-ins. Another one's going to come out and it's going to have “Watchmen” tie-ins and it's part of a mini-series called "3 6 9" and it's about the mystery of 3 6 9. 03.06.09 is the launch date of the movie but Kyle and Doucheus don't know that.

Now when you see the videos next week from the other web series. They have crossovers into the Kyle Piccolo world and what they're meant to do is to take you from The Retributioners’ world into Kyle Piccolo into the Watchmen.

So for somebody who sees the Watchmen right away and get turned off because it's all superheroes, they'll get slowly introduced to it and acclimated to the storyline by going first from The Retributioners into Kyle Piccolo. Then if they're really interested, then they'll make the next jump.

So instead of making it a big leap, we made it two small jumps. We think this will be a great way of getting the masses to come to Watchmen while still exciting the base because Kyle Piccolo excites the base. What's cool about it is the videos are done from different point of views, so in The Retributioners’ video Kyle Piccolo exists in that world. So Stephanie who is in The Retributioners is in the same world as Kyle Piccolo himself; in fact you're going to see her in one of the Kyle Piccolo videos. So she crosses over even in that way.

In “Abigail”, Kyle Piccolo is media. It is a show you can watch. It is a web site you can go to. So it's as though Abigail is in our world and Kyle is just as he is in our world It is a web series you can go see.

And in "Phistophicles", it's done even more insidiously and Kyle is almost a fellow philosopher. They're almost peers since Phistophicles in the video is from 3000 years ago. So it's really unclear who Kyle is --- there’s kind of a mystery about how old Kyle is; is he really an older soul, so it kind of gives it a little bit of a legend to it. So we came it from all different angles assuming that most people wouldn't see the connection. “Abigail” has its own fan base; "The Retributioners" has its own fan base, and all of the series have their own fan base. They share some commonality because they're all on “Axis of Comedy” but they really have their own unique points of distribution that will channel their own grouping of that 18-34 audience into a funnel that will take them right to “Watchmen.”

LK: So for everyone on the shows, Stephanie, all the cast of Kyle, etc, How have they responded to the campaign?

PK: They're excited… it's a lot of fun. What was really fun about it was they got to do their own video with some elements of the campaign in it, but it's their own content that they can distribute across their sites out to their fans. They're done in such a way that their fans will like the content and not be, "what is this? A promotion video for the movie?" No, it will be like another video of Abigail or Phistophicles but it has these elements in it that pique your interest and give you the opportunity to explore more. So they were very happy about that, plus there's going to be a lot of distribution and a lot of points of syndication, as part of this campaign across a lot of comic book sites, movie web sites and entertainment web sites that will really increase the exposure of all these web series and really help build their audiences out, as well.

LK: I'm a comic book collector from way back and your approach reminds me the big comic crossovers they do every year (at Marvel and DC) and you have to get all the issues to get the whole story. From an editorial standpoint, how did you work with all the writers on developing the continuity of the storylines and how quickly did it come together?

PK: Hats off to Alec Pollak who is our Chief Creative Officer and he's also one of the co-creators and writers of Kyle Piccolo. He's the one who really spearheaded the integration and the crossing over to the other shows and he worked with each of the writers and helped them with the script ideas and the concepts. We had to run things by Warner Bros for approval to make sure they were okay with how we were using the Watchmen brand and we didn't have a lot of time to do it. The concepts came together in under a week and then we had to jump right into production. We only got approval for this in early February and we didn't get the g- ahead until the first week of February. It launched on the 16th and there will be four new videos out this next week. Each of the other web series plus another episode of Kyle. So as it was coming together, we knew we were going to be doing this, but we had to wait for approval.

LK: I just started following Alec on Twitter and I saw one Tweet saying “On set at Midtown Comics. New KP soon."

PK: We just shot the second one Wednesday (2/11/09) and just got the rough cut together yesterday and ran it by approval to Warner Bros for approval. We're hoping to get it approved as early as possible and once that's done, we'll shoot the last one one Wednesday (2/26/09) night. We're really excited about a possible surprise for the third episode, which we can't yet reveal. Stay tuned…

End of Part One of the interview. Read more tomorrow in Part Two.


Problems with women? Frustrated at work? Suspect you have a mutant power? Just head down to your local comic book shop and have a chat with the man behind the counter — Kyle Piccolo, the always sardonic, sometimes empathetic, and not quite all-knowing Comic Shop Therapist.

Abigail is a 13 year-old girl vlogging about boys, school and living with Bloomberger's Syndrome. That's a fictional genetic condition that makes her look like a 30-something guy!

Stephanie Scott, is a happily married, accomplished woman, who feels that she has not yet proven herself to the world. She decides to contact past boyfriends, former friends, teachers, rude people, skinny people, etc., to seek retribution.

The lesser known Greek philosopher, Phistophicles, recites his ponderings on all things important in this recently discovered, thought-to-be-lost ancient video footage.