MindShare's Lang proud papa of 'Motherhood'


NEW YORK -- David Lang created "In the Motherhood," an Internet series that stars Leah Remini ("The King of Queens") and incorporates consumer-generated stories from real-life moms into every episode (HR 4/18). "Motherhood," which premieres today on the MSN-hosted site www.inthemotherhood.com, is the latest of 10 high-profile branded entertainment projects put together by Lang since he joined MindShare Entertainment. He recently spoke to The Hollywood Reporter's marketing reporter Gail Schiller.

The Hollywood Reporter: What is MindShare's strategy for its advertiser clients?
David Lang: Our mission is to imagine and create unique entertainment opportunities that have the right brand messaging and positioning for our clients. Almost everything we do is multiplatform, so there's a lot of focus in the digital arena, which is growing by leaps and bounds. We do a lot in the television space and for cellular and retail as well, so all of these and various other components are really important. Our clients continually ask us what the big idea is for their brands, but I don't really buy into that. I think it's more important to find the right idea for the brand with great execution.

THR: Is "In the Motherhood" the best example to date of MindShare's branded entertainment strategy?
Lang: We're really proud of how "In the Motherhood" has performed so far. We've had more than 1 million video views of the trailer in our first two weeks. And we're very excited as we launch our first webisode. We put a lot of unique elements together -- user-generated content with top-name talent and online, television, retail and music components -- to create something special. It's one of the most complicated entertainment projects we've created. We've brokered an unprecedented partnership between two major marketers, Sprint and Suave, and we're taking consumer-generated content and interactivity to another level. We also have all three screens covered. Our webisodes premiere on the Web, exclusively on Sprint phones and also on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" (which will heavily promote the series as part of a 10-week integration deal). In addition to Leah Remini, we have comedian Chelsea Handler co-starring in the webisodes and a very special guest in our first episode -- Lainie Kazan, who played the mom in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding."

THR: What are some of the other branded entertainment projects you've produced at MindShare?
Lang: This year we did a very cool project with Degree deodorant and Fox Studios and the show "24." We created a new character in CTU that lives exclusively on the Web called "The Rookie" (HR 1/19). We created two short films on the Web starring this character that live on cturookie.com, and we also created and produced six national commercials starring the same character. We turned the whole concept of product integration on its head. Degree wasn't integrated into the show. Instead, we made a deal to leverage the equity and the assets of a hit show across multiple platforms by creating a new character that made sense for the Degree brand as well as the brand of "24."

THR: Any other projects?
Lang: Last year, we did the Dove Calming Night webisodes that starred Felicity Huffman and were directed by Penny Marshall. We sent Felicity back in time to visit three of TV's most iconic moms -- Carol Brady from "The Brady Bunch," June Cleaver in "Leave It to Beaver" and Lily Munster in "The Munsters" -- and ask them the universal questions that moms have. (Also) last year, we developed and produced a primetime special on Spike for Axe called "Exposing the Order of the Serpentine." Axe was launching an exfoliantcq aimed at guys 18-24. The show was a 30-minute mockumentary, the concept being that there has been a fictitious order living in the shadows of our society for the past few hundred years helping men "scrub away" the shame of their questionable hookups.

THR: Is there market research indicating whether these branded entertainment initiatives have been successful in increasing sales, brand awareness or brand affinity?
Lang: On each project we build out specific metrics based on our clients' objectives to see where we are achieving their goals and what kind of ROI we're obtaining. Overall, we've seen a tremendous amount of engagement on the part of consumers and satisfaction on behalf of our clients. For instance, the Degree Men's brand grew 22% versus a year ago through the March reporting period. This was the time period when "The Rookie" was the main focus of Degree's marketing activity. There have been more than 1.5 million views of "The Rookie" webisodes online. For the Dove Night campaign, millions of people went to the site, and Dove's target consumers watched our webisodes for nearly 50,000 hours during the eight-week launch period.

THR: Do you think multiplatform content is the key to the success of branded entertainment projects?
Lang: I don't think there's just one key, but I think multiplatform content is critical. I think the online area is going to expand more and more, but I also think that the television side will get more creative in the ways they integrate brands. In addition, cellular has been and will be a part of our plans. I think in the next two to three years we'll learn a lot and see how viable content is on cell phones and how long the content should be. But still, most of our projects include cell phone distribution or interactivity.

THR: Do you think branded entertainment will become even more important to advertisers than the 30-second spot?
Lang: I don't believe it when they say the 30-second ad is dead. I think commercials and branded entertainment are both viable options depending on what the goals and objectives are for a given brand, but we have seen tremendous engagement with consumers in our projects and a lot of active participation and interaction, which I think is really important in developing one-on-one communication with consumers. What I love about this area is it's like the Wild West out there. It's growing and changing at an extremely fast pace, and I love the fact that as a creative person we're able to do things that two, three years ago weren't possible. I think we'll look back on this time as a fascinating time historically because between the fragmentation of media and broadband hitting that critical mass, we're able to create content in so many new and different ways. I think it's a fascinating time in our industry and I feel really lucky to be a part of it.