'Hamilton' creator takes shot at consumer attention

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Absolut Vodka partnered with immersive theater company Punchdrunk to create Silverpoint, an app for Londoners.
Absolut Vodka partnered with immersive theater company Punchdrunk to create Silverpoint, an app for Londoners.

Lin-Manuel Miranda was among the Advertising Week speakers who addressed the struggle of creating meaningful experiences through mobile platforms.

NEW YORK — Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator and star of Broadway hit "Hamilton," banned Madonna from coming backstage earlier this year after she texted during his show.

"As an artist, nothing is more soul-crushing than looking out into the audience expecting to see a face and seeing a phone instead," Miranda told a crowd today at Advertising Week — many of whom had their own phones out.

At the same time, Miranda is a prolific tweeter with more than 84,000 followers, and he credited mobile and social media with expanding his reach and helping "Hamilton" become a phenomenon.

"The question of phones in theaters is a question of phones in our lives. How much is too much?" Miranda said.

A similar question is being asked at Advertising Week as marketers weigh how to capture consumers’ attention on more platforms without alienating them. Even as mobile technology has helped some brands, the use of ad blockers is on the rise. A Nielsen survey released this week found that consumer trust in most forms of advertising and communication, including TV ads and company websites, has fallen over the past two years.

"There are more opportunities than ever to connect with consumers and there are more places to get it wrong," Margo Georgiadis, president of Google for the Americas, said today.

Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer at Facebook, touted mobile’s ability to help brands connect with people in a more personal way. Yet she said the number one complaint Facebook gets from users is about the quality of its ads.

"We are focused on closing that gap," Sandberg said, noting that the onus was on marketers to create personalized advertising and target it to the right individuals.

Facing these challenges, marketers might take a page from Absolut Vodka’s book, which earlier this year teamed with immersive theater company Punchdrunk to create an app for Londoners called Silverpoint. The app told the story of a missing girl and allowed users to unravel the mystery by playing a game on their phones and also doing activities in the real world, such as visiting certain bars.

The brand claims it was successful because it acted like an artist rather than acting like an advertiser. Adam Boita, the head of marketing for Pernod Ricard, said marketers should entertain people and create more immersive experiences.

"When people are in a state of flow, and they forget they’re playing a game or watching a film — that’s great content," said Adam Boita, head of marketing for Pernod Ricard. "If a brand has facilitated that journey, that’s useful."