Some of you are moaning, “why does he need an app?” but others of you are perhaps “Entourage” fans, and an opportunity to get reacquainted with Grenier, who played Vincent Chase, is an exciting prospect.
That latter group is just the one that app developers are looking to as they launch a new kind of application — the personal brand app.
Trevor Doerksen, founder and CEO of Mobovivo, said he’s pretty confident that this new kind of personality app “is the right next step for a film and television celebrity.“
It’s clear as more and more celebrities flock to the app model, it will become harder to stand out from the crowd. Developers and creators of apps will have to push themselves to pinpoint what is unique about their celebrity, sports star, comedian, politician, etc., in order to translate “personalities” into “brands” and then into digital interactive experiences in fresh ways.
For Doerksen, that means getting beyond just “chat” as engagement:
“Adrian is an indie filmmaker, and as a former filmmaker myself, I recognized what he was trying to do to engage audiences and tell more stories. Twitter has already created a good app for celebrities to chat with fans, but we need to go deeper than chat. Don’t get me wrong, the human desire for communication is fundamental and chat features prominently in our platform. However, we all seem to need to satisfy a fundamental sense of curiosity and play as well.”
Grenier and Doerksen gave a special keynote address to close Digital Hollywood’s Media Summit earlier this month in New York, and I had an opportunity to chat with both of them about the “whys” and ‘hows” of planning “Reckless Adrian Grenier.”
controlling your own brand
There is an endgame to the personal app for celebrities. It offers a chance for them to control their own destiny in a way rarely seen with the Hollywood PR machine. With a movie star’s box-office draw becoming about as predictable as blindly tossing chewed gum at a wall and hoping it sticks, building an audience base with a personal app is the equivalent of a politician getting out there to shake hands and hold babies to build his constituency — the good old-fashioned grassroots way, albeit with digital handshaking and autograph signing.
Today social media and second screen experiences focus on making celebrities more accessible to their fan base. Grenier is already active on Twitter, with almost 227,000 followers, and Facebook with almost 114,00 fans, but by creating a personal app, he’s not just further brand building “Adrian Grenier” — he’s also cross-branding with Reckless Productions, his production company. He’s bringing the HBO Entourage audience into his antonymous world. Despite Grenier’s personal fame, Reckless Productions, best known so far for “Teenage Paparazzo,” fits into most indie film models. Indie film companies need funding, and investors like metrics and analytics. A dedicated and active audience of “Reckless Adrian Grenier” users can be directly marketed to with push notifications and other directives, a comfort to today’s film investors with marketing budgets ballooning out of control.
(The “Reckless Adrian Grenier” app is free to download, but there are charges for certain features and items for purchase. Currently, all proceeds will go to the SHFT, an eco-conscious multimedia platform co-founded by Grenier. Focused on design, SHFT won the Best Green Website at the Webby Awards last year.)
MediaShift: What made you decide to create an app?
Adrian Grenier: I’m a modern guy and just like anyone else I’m looking to explore the possibilities of storytelling and connecting with my audience independently, not always having to rely on the bigger production companies and distributors to control everything I do. It is a real blessing in this day and age to have that opportunity and to be on the cutting edge of technology; we are explorers in a lot of ways. I’ve had several app ideas over the years and not all of them this good. This is the one that really made sense and ultimately Mobovivo was able to create it.
When did you first realize the value of connecting with your fans as an artist?
Grenier: I always realized the value, but maybe I was a little lazy at first because it is a lot of work, at least to make that engagement authentic and real and true. I don’t have a company doing my social media for me. It’s all genuine.
How does the Reckless app assist you in making a unique and genuine connection with your fans?
Grenier: If you use a website, you always end up having to go to another program to connect. If you want to reach out to your fans, you have to send them an email or create a video and send it to them, and maybe they will comment, but that’s on YouTube. This is a really direct connection; this is the bridge directly from me and Reckless to people who want that content. And it’s beyond that — it’s leveraging casual encounters that I have with people every day and allowing them to become a very personal interaction. For example, I’m on tour with my film “Teenage Paparazzo.” It’s an educational tour, and we are going to colleges around the country. Every time I want to share something with them, I have to say, “Send me an email, sign up or whatever,” but in this case, they can download the app and boom, we’re already off to the races. In 2.0, (he laughs) I’m already excited for 2.0 …
Trevor Doerksen interrupts: The Apple Store hasn’t even released 1.0 yet.
Grenier: We have big ambitions and big ideas, and that’s what I’m really excited about. This is really just the first breath.
Your existing fans will be interested in the app, but how do you anticipate the Reckless app will create or build a new fan base?
Grenier: The medium and the format are really just the tool. It is about the personal voice of the artist that makes it unique. Twitter is only 140 characters, but it is the unique voice of the individual that allows people to differentiate themselves. I can see the Reckless app being more than just a platform for me. I can see other people using it to connect with their audience, their fans and their friends. I don’t know how much we need to reinvent our wheel; we need to spread it and share it.
How is this “sharing” done on a technical level?
Doerksen: I think how you do this is you get the market. That is what is wonderful from a technology point of view — that there are so many things given to us today, from cloud computing to Apple SDK to the App Store to these new devices. (He holds up an iPhone.) This is a neat canvas to take advantage of. One of the things that will be an input to what we do next will be what we hear from what we do first. So I think getting the market is key to finding out what people like and what they would like to see in the future. That is going to happen with an app more than perhaps with another platform — it’s what’s in your pocket.
We have a brand like “Reckless,” a user experience where it is in your pocket, under your arm, on your desktop. To find a bookmark, you don’t have to go searching; it is a click away. That engagement as we move forward is going to happen on television, maybe even on toasters. For now, we are excited to get feedback on 1.0.
I only saw the trailer for “Teenage Paparazzo” on the iPad version of the app. What other video content will be available for users?
Grenier: We have a lot of video content coming, but we feel like it’s best to get out into the water and get our feet wet instead of waiting. It reminds me of surfing. I’m not a surfer, but I’ve been a couple times. You put the surfboard on the sand, and you practice jumping up. That’s easy; anyone can do that. But you put it in the ocean and the waves are coming, and it’s a whole other ball game. We wanted to get out there and get our sea legs.
Doerksen: You’re like I am on these things, as are a lot of other people. It’s an app put out by a film production company and people will ask, “Where’s the film?” That’s coming, too. Engaging content and entertainment is coming and, of course, more social.
How often can users expect new content to be added?
Grenier: Definitely every time we do an event at a school we will update the snapshots of the students. We have a ton of content — especially with short form, the turnaround is much quicker. We are always creating short videos.
I see that as the most fascinating part of an app. It’s almost a living, breathing entity. It isn’t a film, which is finite. It grows and changes. How did you know the app was ready for release?
Grenier: That is something Trevor has been shepherding me through because I am a perfectionist but he’s like, “Just relax.” There’s a learning process in release as well, in letting go.
Doerksen: One of the nice things is not just being about content, which is kinda a broadcast medium. We had to make it engaging. That’s what we talk about constantly. If we had 85 films to put in the app — what would the app be about? You’d be watching 85 films eventually? We’ve created a true fan engagement set of tools; that part is exciting — and marrying the viewing experience to that, whether it’s in front of the television as a second screen model or in a theater or with Adrian at the airport. Now that I have the app, I see the Twitter scroll and I know where you are all the time. (He points to Grenier.)
It will be interesting in the coming months and years to see how app creators push personal apps to new frontiers, finding out what celebrities, not only from the entertainment industry, but sports and beyond, can do with the new tools to harness and connect with their audiences. Let the branding race begin.
Amanda Lin Costa is a writer and producer in the film and television industry. She writes a series called “Truth in Documentary Filmmaking” and is currently producing the documentary, “The Art of Memories.”