He’s charismatic and with a deep voice you could listen to read the phone book – so perhaps it was inevitable that Tony the Tiger would turn to streaming. The enduring Frosties/Frosted Flakes brand mascot turns 70 this year, and it turns out he’s as relevant as ever having recently taken to gamers’ favourite platform Twitch.
With 2.5 million people tuning into Twitch at any given moment, and up to eight million streamers going live every month, it’s no surprise that businesses like Kellogg’s are looking to the platform to help connect with its thriving audience of gen z and millennial users.
Most brands tend to collaborate with existing streamers who are not – crucially – animated. But developments in real time animation technology and the increasing use of game engines means that bringing brand mascots into the live stream space has fewer technical barriers. The Twitch team brought Tony to life with a mixture of tools like full body motion capture and advanced model rigging. Tony also got his very own custom gaming rig – tiger paws don’t do well with fiddly little control pads.
Tony went live on August 19th, joining popular streamers Brennon O’Neill (GoldGlove), Chrissy Costanza (chrissyofficial) and Jakeem Johnson (Big Cheese).
Adam Harris, global head at Twitch Brand Partnerships Studio reckons this set up gives brands a deeper interaction with its audiences, not to mention the chance to build up loyal viewers who keep coming back. And it’s not the first time Twitch has hosted animated ambassadors as streamers – last year they turned a popular streamer into a character in the style of Amazon Prime Video show Fairfax. With Pringles, they also took the character Frank the Zombie out of the game West of Dead. But this is the first time that a brand mascot has shown up on Twitch in this way.
Adam spoke to LBB’s Laura Swinton about turning Tony from vintage brand mascot to switched-on Twitch VTuber, as well as his tips for brands looking to the live streaming space.
LBB> What was the genesis of this Tony the Tiger project?
Adam> Because nearly 75% of Twitch viewers are between the ages of 16 and 34, Twitch provided the Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes team with an opportunity to meet new Gen Z and Millennial audiences where they interact in real time. Launching Tony the Tiger’s channel on Twitch is a part of his surprise appearances and innovative fan interactions throughout the Year of the Tiger.
LBB> And why does Tony’s persona work so well with Twitch?
Adam> Viewers come back to Twitch everyday to be a part of tight-knit communities, built around shared passions. While Tony the Tiger was new to Twitch, he has a beloved community of fans already, and this was an unique opportunity for fans to engage with Tony the Tiger live. Tony the Tiger is well-known for inspiring play. As gaming continues to rise to the forefront of mainstream entertainment, it made sense to bring Tony the Tiger into the world of gaming as a Twitch VTuber.
LBB> What lessons did you learn from this Tony the Tiger project – and what advice would you give to other brands with mascots that could be brought to life on Twitch in such a way?
Adam> While there are many types of content livestreamed on Twitch, I’ll focus on gaming, as it’s most relevant to Tony the Tiger’s new Twitch channel. Interactivity is at the heart of gaming, and brands (and their mascots) should be ready to be as participatory in their streams as our viewers are. Again, it’s all about this new era in more interactive branded storytelling. To win with gamers, brands will be most successful when they tap into interactivity and immersive elements of gaming.
LBB> From a craft perspective, what were the tech tools and creative partners that helped bring Tony to life and what did they bring to the table?
Adam> While I can’t give away the secret sauce, we worked closely with the Kellogg’s team to ensure Tony the Tiger was prepared for his debut. This project required tools at the cutting edge of livestreaming and visual effects (VFX) technology, including everything from mainstay VTuber tools like advanced model rigging to full body motion capture, as well as designing a custom gaming rig that Tony showed off during the stream. Our livestream production team worked behind-the-scenes, from several virtual control rooms, to support Tony the Tiger during his first livestream.
LBB> Some brands work with existing streamers, some brands try to create their own – (e.g. in the case of Tony the Tiger) – what's a good rule of thumb when it comes to figuring out which Twitch strategy is most appropriate for you? And more generally, how do you think about this as a growth area for Twitch – real-time character driven streams?
Adam> The rise of live, interactive VTubing on Twitch is truly fascinating. If you think about it, animation is another realm where entertainment has traditionally been one-directional and static for the viewer. Whereas VTubing streamers have utilised Twitch to pioneer live, socially interactive animation. And within the VTubing community on Twitch, there’s an extraordinary desire for streamers to share and discuss how they design, render and update their streaming personas. This week, Twitch is actually hosting a VTuber takeover to spotlight the diversity of VTubing streamers across the Twitch community
— amplifying their streams across our service and social channels.
In many ways, the power of character-driven streams is similar for streamers and brands. It offers huge potential for brands to utilise these same creative opportunities. To create characters, entertain and surprise their intended audience. But there really is no limit to the genres of content that will fascinate the Twitch community. Whether that’s solving puzzles to unlock a Porsche Formula E racing car, racing swans in a river for Telekom or unboxing and testing beauty products for Yves Saint Laurent. Twitch’s Brand Partnerships Studio builds tailored, true-to-brand creative concepts and we’re always challenging ourselves to stretch the full creative potential of Twitch.
LBB> The Tony the Tiger project really excites us as it brings real time animation into a real time platform – what potential and opportunities do you see in marrying that kind of game-engine driven animation with brands and Twitch?
Adam> As a service, Twitch lends itself perfectly to breaking the fourth wall. It enables brands and audiences to have meaningful real time interactions via the proxy of characters who, to date, have existed in more fixed and curated environments. We have an incredible opportunity, especially with the growth in a more multiverse approach being increasingly adopted by IP owners, to utilise technology to introduce any kind of character IP to the Twitch community for live interaction with our viewers and streamers: including everything from gameplay to Q&As or polls in our live chat.
Across Twitch, our Brand Partnership Studio is experimenting with ways to connect live animation with live entertainment. For example, last year we worked with Amazon Prime Video to celebrate the premiere of its original animated series, Fairfax, by transforming Twitch streamer TheBlackHokage into an animated character in the style of the show. We used custom animation and a 3D AR Facerig for his animated doppelganger to mimic his moves and expressions, and viewers could even vote on various animated hats, hoodies, and accessories that TheBlackHokage wore during the stream.
In an earlier campaign, we also collaborated with Pringles and game publisher Raw Fury to bring Frank the Zombie, with a love for Pringles, to life as their undead brand ambassador. We broke Frank out of the game ‘West of Dead’ live on /Leahviathan’s stream. After the breakout, Frank hung out to learn games and try different Pringles flavours. He visited streamers across Europe and challenged them on their skills. In total the activation generated 1.9 million total views, 9.9 million minutes watched, and over 111,000 chats messages sent.
LBB> What's the key to bringing a brand to life in a livestreamed context? A platform like Twitch also brings about a sense of community and interaction which is really exciting but also challenging for brands that have a very rigid set of brand guidelines – how can brands open up to the spontaneity of a platform like Twitch?
Adam> I strongly believe that brands will increasingly need to open up to the spontaneity and community centricity of services like Twitch. The reason being is that the most influential younger demographics are demanding it. This is an audience which has only ever known a digital world and has always been connected. Digital environments such as Twitch are their playground. They expect their social experiences to be dynamic, in real time and collective. It's no coincidence that the likes of Twitch, Fortnite and Roblox are booming and there is so much talk of the ‘metaverse’.
This cultural shift is going to require marketers to adapt to a far more non-curated and fluid approach to engage this audience authentically. Specifically, they’ll need to re-think the rigidity of brand guidelines when communicating in these dynamic environments where this generation resides. These environments are significantly different to the legacy social media platforms where many of these brand rules have been developed over the last 15 years. The good news is that brands who get it right can earn lifetime affinity and awareness with younger generations by contributing authentically in the spaces where gen z and millennial culture is being formed.
So to answer your question in terms of what is key to bringing a brand to life in a live streamed context, we have five best practice tips that are very much aligned to the pervasive cultural codes that drive the behaviors of this interactive generation.
Live Supercharges Authenticity - This generation reflects their true selves in the content they share online and they want brands to follow suit. To trust brands, they must first understand what they authentically stand for before they commit and become a loyal customer. The best practice here to build brand trust, is to show your authentic human side, welcome spontaneity and embrace the unpolished candour of live streaming. You can’t script live. You cannot be LIVE for hours at a time, interacting in a live manner with a community without being authentic. It’s not a polished post that is perfected. It is a creator being themselves, improvising in response to inputs from their audience.
Live Supercharges Fluidity - This generation has grown up in a technologically advanced society where seemingly nothing is technologically impossible. They expect that things should be seamless, fluid and tailored for them. Our advice for brands is that by integrating your brand in a way that takes advantage of the creative digital opportunities and in doing so pulls the audience into a fluid and adaptive narrative, you can build really strong brand engagement with your customers. LIVE content is using the most innovative forms of communication. It’s fluid, open ended, unpredictable and never to be repeated. Live content more than any other content, uses the tools of digital experience to allow seamless interaction.
Live Supercharges Inclusivity - Younger audiences tend to be more socially aware and impact-driven. They value inclusivity and are pushing brands to reflect that in their behaviours. As a best practice, Advertisers can build brand recognition by being open to all and feature diverse voices that reflect the diversity found within the Twitch audience. This is amplified within live environments as it's open and organic. You are live to everyone, everywhere, anywhere. And it gives the opportunity for everyone to engage and interact equally and without barriers.
Live Supercharges Collaboration - This generation connects and builds their communities around shared values, interests and passions. Brands that take a community-first approach will set themselves up for success. To really build loyalty, brands need to not only align their values but add value to a community. They should go beyond passive push interactions and actively encourage participation from a willing community. Connecting LIVE through shared values with like-minded people in a community setting allows a real sense of togetherness, bond and unity that can only come from simultaneously experiencing something in real time.
Live Supercharges Purpose - Times have changed with the democratization of technology, media and education bringing many complex societal issues to the fore. Today’s audiences expect brands to not just virtue signal but authentically stand for something and it is important their values match. Brands can build love when they invite engagement through collaborations with streamers and communities who share the same sense of purpose and values. The LIVE experience can amplify communities’ attempts at driving positive change. People are stronger when they come together, at the same time and same place with shared values and shared missions.
LBB> Twitch has a really switched on audience - what do brands need to understand about the audience before they start to engage with them?
The Twitch community is composed primarily of gen z and millennials - nearly 75% of Twitch viewers are between the ages of 16 and 34. And this generation is ushering in cultural shifts that are changing how brands need to interact with them. This generation is demanding less curation and more authenticity. They are less tolerant of fixed, one-directional experiences and are seeking out more collaborative and interactive forms of entertainment. They prize inclusive communities over exclusivity. And they expect brands to pay it forward and match their values with their actions.
While Twitch retains a very strong and growing core in gaming content, over the past few years a huge amount of non-gaming content has truly blossomed on Twitch: everything from sports, talk shows, music, comedy and “IRL” and travel streaming. Hours watched for non-gaming content grew 63% last year.
LBB> And when you work with brands, what does that process look like at the beginning? How do you help brands work out how they want to show up on Twitch?
Adam> The Twitch Advertising team works with brands and agencies to identify the audiences they’re trying to reach with their campaign and helps connect them to the right high-visibility opportunities available on our service. This ranges from custom content partnerships with Twitch streamers through to premium video and homepage advertising through to event and tournament sponsorships such as TwitchCon
and Twitch Rivals
Ads on our service need to be designed with the Twitch community in mind, so my team, the Twitch Brand Partnership Studio, helps brands who may not be as familiar with our service to bridge the gap. We deeply understand the community’s culture, lingo, audience, tools, and talent, and are here to help brands navigate Twitch and create campaigns that will resonate best.
As we continue to see growing interest from marketers across industries, we’re working closely to educate both agency and brand partners on the ways in which they can authentically engage with Twitch’s unique audiences. Last year, we launched Twitch Gameplan
as a global advertising certification to help advertisers and agencies learn how to capture the livestreaming audience and master the power of advertising on Twitch.
LBB> Looking forward, what platform innovations are in the pipeline and where do you see Twitch developing as a brand platform?
Adam> Our rapidly growing audience is among the most hard-to-reach group of cord-cutters and cord-nevers, who reject traditional media and advertising. So you can expect to see new formats and products emerge which clearly position brands as supporters and contributors to Twitch streamers and their communities.
For example, Twitch’s Brand Partnership Studio is experimenting with new premium content formats and new custom extensions for sponsored streams to encourage audience participation in a variety of new ways. And elsewhere across our service, brands will also see new opportunities to connect with our community around TwitchCon, our annual community convention held in Europe and North America, and Twitch Rivals, our original competitive content series. We’re also looking to continue our programming for POG Picks, our interactive live shopping game show that takes place around major shopping moments such as back-to-school and the holiday shopping season.