Interview: Julie Steiner of Percy 3D

Posted on August 23, 2012 at 8:21 am

Percy 3D lets you “put yourself in the picture.  And I spoke to founder and president Julie Steiner about what it is and how it does that.

What is Percy 3D?

We take either existing video or new video that we create and we allow users to insert messages or images directly into that video using 3-D visual effects.  The goal is to make it look like it is part of the video. Percy is short for “personalized” and 3-D refers to the fact that our personalizations take place in 3-D space, so it is all about visually dynamic, personalized messages.

Because our personalization uses the same 3-D visual effects technology used in the movie.  We entered into an agreement with Universal and Paramount and we have taken short clips of movies and we allow users to insert short messages into their favorite movies as if it were part of the movie and send them to their friends.

Do people pay to do that or is that considered a promotion for the movie?

There could be small micro-payments for that or we could work with a client for promotional use. But this is really just a way to demonstrate our platform.  We have samples that include a ‘birthday e-vite.”’ This is using our own Percy character but you can imagine any character in place of Percy.  We’re going to be making this available with all the traditional response control that you might expect with your traditional evites.  It’s a party management tool. But that is one of the areas, that is the license side of the business that we’re working with, and the other side of our business is for marketing purposes, promotional use, things like that. It’s specifically for brand use.  We always say if you picture any large brand that has a character, we allow you to create a fun little video with your character.

Here in Canada we have a gas company called Esso, and Esso has a tiger, the Esso tiger, and they use him in their promotional gift cards and things like that. So for instance, let’s say I’m Esso and I make a gas card, so in the physical world of course you’ve got your gas card, your plastic credit-card like loyalty card and it’s always mounted on a piece of paper, to Nell from Julie, great job or whatever it happens to be…we like to consider ourselves as ‘the digital envelope.’ So for instance, if you take that physical thing into the digital world—so instead of a physical card that is mounted on a piece of cardboard, let’s say we create a little video with the Esso tiger and the Esso tiger is saying something cute, whatever it happens to be, and that’s where I write my personal message, To: Nell, From: Julie, enjoy this card  — the difference being is that now if I’ve created a funny, interesting little thing, not only does it have the purpose of acting as my digital envelope to send it to you, but then the recipient, once they receive it, presumably it’s an entertaining little thing that they’ve gotten, they can then put their own message and send it to another friend, someone totally different. So what we allow you to do is send your own message and extend the brand message as well.

Are these things intended to go from individual to individual in a viral way or are you anticipating that people will put them up on their websites or put them on their blogs or tweet about them?

There are really any number of uses. As I said, on the license side of things it is the more traditional evite, ecard, that kind of thing where I’m sending it to you, I’m inviting ten kids to my party and each child gets their own name, using licensed character that kids love. Especially with young kids, they like to watch and watch the same stuff over again, if they see their own name with that character, that is sort of a more traditional use, from me to you, and that’s that, but on the branded side of things it is a great way to get a personalized message out. Let’s say I’m a company and I want to send out a massive message but make it personalized to each person, so it’s almost like a one-way communication from a company to an individual, but then by allowing that individual to then take it and create their own message and send it to a friend, then it’s more of a viral thing. How we use these things makes no difference—if it’s sending to a friend, posting on your own website, Facebook, whatever it happens to be. We’re a video personalization platform so there are any number of things that we can do, but those are the two main areas that we play in.

How would you say that this kind of use of these clips enhances the brand of a particular movie that is just about to be released or has been released?

In the case of Universal and Paramount it was very specifically meant to bring younger audiences into some of the older films.  It’s funny to call a movie that is 20 years old a “classic,” but these are classics that they may have missed. I myself am a mother of teenagers and my kids have never seen, for instance, “Animal House.” They’ve never seen it. They took one look at John Belushi with his mouth full of mashed potatoes, when he says, “What am I now? Can you take a guess of what I am now?” and he spits out the mashed potatoes, and of course your message is in the mashed potatoes.  They took one look at that and were like, “Oh, I’ve got to see that movie!” So it allows the studios to reach a new, younger audience, the new younger audience that may have missed some of these “classics” of their parents’ era.

As the mother of teenagers, what do you see about this new generation in terms of the way they look at brands?

We have five teenagers in our house, so I am endlessly fascinated by the way they consume media. When we were kids, you were always on the phone watching TV. Our kids don’t talk on the phone, nor do they watch TV. They text each other and they watch their computers. They consume media so differently, and if they like something, they’ll post it on their Facebook wall. Kids are identifying so much more with a brand—if they like a brand, they’re sort of pointing to that brand and saying, “This is who I identify with.” It’s a great way for a brand to make available something cool and clever and fun with their brand—and I’d especially point to brands with identifiable icons or logos that we can play with and things like that. Letting your fans play with your icons and then share them is great because more and more research is coming out showing that if you receive a branded message from your friend you’re far more likely to act on it than if you receive it directly from the company.  So what we’re trying to do is really give brands (or in the case of these movies) we’re giving kids a way to identify with these things and show their friends what they like.

Can you give me an example of a movie property that you think is especially well suited to what you’re talking about?

The movies that work best for us are comedies, iconic scenes in movies, CG features, kid’s movies. I always go back to being in high-school. In your high-school yearbook everyone would pick a quote–more often than not from a movie–that you identify with. That’s really what we’re trying to do here in so many ways. Often we’re looking for a great line in a movie that you identify with.

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