Nathan’s notes: A conversation about Activision Blizzard Media Network’s first Newfront

  • June 23, 2016 by Ray Bloch Productions

Nathan’s notes are an insider’s account of how Ray Bloch Productions creates and executes world class events. 

After Activision Blizzard’s Media Network’s first Newfront in 2016, I sat down with Account Executive, Eddie Ricard, to get some inside information on this exciting event.

Nathan: So, Activision Blizzard Media Networks just launched their first ever Newfront. Could you go into detail about the importance of this event

Eddie: This was a collaboration between Activision Blizzard and MLG. This event did two things. It highlighted the recent acquisition of MLG by Activision Blizzard, and it was a coming out launch event, introducing their exciting product to the ad buying community.

Nathan: This merger was major news.

Eddie: There had been some great press about the merger, but this was the first big event focusing on that merger. In early 2016, Activision Blizzard invested in MLG because MLG is the leader in live events within the eSports community.

Nathan: And ABMN wants to be an industry leader in that field.

Eddie: The merger creates a partnership with Activision owning the games, MLG producing live events, and MLG serving as an authority of broadcasting eSports. Those three elements combined point to ABMN being the thought leader and forerunner. MLG has the relationships with both fans and players and this event introduced this great potential to the advertising community. I want to be clear, the momentum behind eSports is not necessarily new. But, ABMN’s play to use traditional network strategies to bring eSports to the mainstream is a new and exciting proposition. That’s what we highlighted with this event.

Nathan: So the Newfront served to present this information to the ad buying industry?

Eddie:  Exactly. There was a lot of momentum and promise with the acquisition of MLG. All this great momentum. The question became: How do we tell this story of promise within the context of a NewFront. The answer was telling a story of, “Here’s what you should be excited about. Here’s what you can expect. This is going to be huge, partner with us now and we’ll grow together.” The audience is used to seeing a whole run of traditional content from traditional media companies, forecasting the year ahead. ABMN’s offerings are different. The eSports world is in constant flux. The trick was presenting ABMN as a safe bet for ad dollars. We weren’t selling specific shows, instead we were selling partnerships; the idea of “get in early,” you could say. The trick is that with a new and exciting landscape, also comes a great uphill battle of education. That became our focus.

Nathan: An informative event.

Eddie: For sure. Way more educational than normal. Everyone has heard about eSports. Buyers have this pile of cash and they want to access this elusive 15-25 year old male demographic. ABMN offers a vast resource, and a one stop shop package deal to target this demographic. That all sounds great but a skeptical audience wants to hear more. They want numbers, security. The story of ABMN and eSports is quite convincing so that became our focus.

Nathan: As a Ray Bloch Productions  Account Executive, you have been involved in Newfronts and Upfronts before. What was it like working on this Newfront specifically?

Eddie: This one was very collaborative. We were able to really facilitate ABMN’s desire to present themselves to the ad buying world. We have done dozens of Newfronts and Upfronts, so we were able to offer key insights into how to approach their audience and craft the story of where they have been and where they are going.

Nathan: Going up and up! Becoming the authority on eSports is a big deal.

Eddie: I’ve been curious and fascinated by the eSports industry. We were problem solvers, tackling the challenge of maximizing the momentum and press around it, and making it appropriate to the ad buying community. To make it tangible, actionable.

Nathan: Dollars and cents sense to an ad buyer.

Eddie: Exactly. The key way to sell this, in my opinion, was to best capture the raw emotion of a live eSports event. When you take it down to the basic level of a spectator watching an emotional, enthralling, enveloping environment of live sports; you could be watching any major sporting event.

Nathan: The excitement for eSports is the same as a traditional sporting event.

Eddie: You feel the crowd and bass intro for a team. You hear the cheers, the chanting. You could be anywhere. It just so happens that you are in an eSports arena.

Nathan: And eSports is a gigantic, and growing industry.

Eddie: We worked hard to illustrate the numbers and scope of the industry. The demographic was unique. AB has 500 million monthly active users. That’s enormous.

Nathan: Half a billion?!

Eddie: and untouched. It’s unprecedented. We at Ray Bloch worked to help translate it into the language of the ad buying community.

I thought the opening media piece was very engaging. Blackout room, strobe lighting effects, audio of live event. It immediately put them into a live eSports event. The footage was from their record breaking event in Columbus for the CS:GO major. It was really cool to see how silent the audience became… they were completely taken aback by the media piece.

Nathan: What was the general reaction from the audience?

Eddie: The biggest reaction was “I had no idea.”

What an ad buyer likes to see is an engaged crowd. 12,000 people screaming. They want to know more about those screaming people, and how to reach them.

Nathan: That’s where MLG comes in.

Eddie: MLG is a champion of the players and the teams. That is where the momentum is in sports. That was really exciting. How do we turn the camera back on the audience? Those 15-25 year old fans?

Nathan: So it was critical for us to showcase those fans, to get the ad buyers’ attention.

Eddie: eSports and MLG ABMN made it easy, we were not in short supply of a passionate and loyal fan base. It’s an incredibly focused and loyal group of followers that these teams have amassed. We weren’t struggling to find examples of how amazing their fans are.

Nathan: What was something challenging about this particular project?

Eddie: The challenge is always making sure that the entire story is told. You always want to cover the full story. It’s a fine balancing act of telling the full story in a condensed, palatable way.

Nathan: Streamlining it?

Eddie: One of the challenges is not being afraid to say this is a quick clean crisp presentation and it feels right. It feels risky, but a long story doesn’t necessarily take a long time to tell.

Nathan: I like that.

Eddie: One of the things we achieved here, in a relatively brief presentation, was optimizing the real estate of time. Not a single point of time was wasted. There was no fluff.

Nathan: Boil it down for me?

Eddie: “This is our fan base. Join us and they can be yours too.” That’s a take on Josh Cella’s last line of the presentation. Good stuff.

Nathan: Final thoughts?

Eddie: The challenge was tell the story, tell it quickly, and sell it well. That’s where Ray Bloch shines, and that’s how we were able to partner so easily with ABMN + MLG.

Nathan: Thanks so much, Eddie. It was a great partnership, and a great Newfront. ABMN + MLG comes off their first ever Newfront brimming with potential. I know all of us at Ray Bloch were proud to be able to produce a successful Newfront and help tell such a unique story.