Land Rover Embraces User-Generated Content to Burnish Outdoorsy Rep

Steve Hobbs, Jon Williams Oversee Automaker's Online Adventure Channel, Go Beyond

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Who: Steve Hobbs, editor, "Go Beyond"; Jon Williams, interactive creative director of Harrison Troughton Wunderman, London.
Jon Williams, along with Steve Hobbs, hopes Go Beyond inspires adventure the way Nike's 'Just do It' inspires athletes.

Why you need to know them: London-based Messrs. Hobbs and Williams oversee Land Rover's Go Beyond, an online magazine and broadband channel focused on all aspects of adventure, from travel and people to food and wine. It launched in April at

Credentials: Mr. Hobbs is a former editor at the British edition of GQ. Before joining Harrison Troughton Wunderman, Mr. Williams was the interactive chief at Publicis Worldwide for four years. He has worked on campaigns for Prudential insurance, Hewlett Packard, Sensodyne toothpaste, Renault and Microsoft Corp., and helped develop the first interactive TV ad on the U.K.'s Channel 4, as well as another interactive ad allowing viewers to choose their own paths through a traditional TV spot by pushing buttons on their remote controls.

What is the premise of Go Beyond? Mr. Hobbs: "What we set out to achieve is an environment, a multimedia experience, where people with a sense of adventure can share their experiences, share video clips or read stories, where like-minded people can come together and interact."

Mr. Williams: "[It's a place to] go to get inspiration. Like how 'Just Do It' inspires the athlete, Go Beyond inspires adventure."

Where is the video coming from? Mr. Hobbs: "We are in contact with several media partners who supply ready-made content [including the Discovery Channel, Land Rover's One Life magazine and sponsored partners including Born Free, Biosphere Expeditions and the Royal Geographical Society]. We're currently in negotiations with other [producers and production companies]. The interesting thing is what happens in the future. At the heart of this is a community-based forum. There will be a whole amount of user-generated content. Future releases will enable mobile browsing and the uploading of JPEGs and video. That's when it starts to get really interesting."

How does Go Beyond Radio fit into the programming? Mr. Hobbs: "It's another form of this adventure. We dub it 'Adventures in Sound.' Music can be as adventurous."

Mr. Williams: "It's equally valid. Everything has a Go Beyond story behind it -- [like] freedom fighters who put down their guns and picked up their guitars. It's something we plan to develop and put more tracks behind it and make [available] for downloads."

Why was Go Beyond created? Mr. Hobbs: "There is no doubt that the world is changing in terms of how you reach an audience and interact with an audience. We're much more sophisticated as consumers. We resent having things pushed down our throats. We want to be entertained. We're smart enough to make decisions by ourselves. It's not surprising that brands wanted to find ways to provide those mediums of entertainment themselves and have control of their branding to spread their message further."

Mr. Williams: "Land Rover is probably one of the only brands to lay claim to the spirit of adventure that lies in the heart of everything they do. Land Rover enables adventuring. Take Go Beyond as a philosophy of the heart. Not only is it a marketing thing, it's a core philosophy of every product that's produced. It is a testament to Land Rover's spirit of adventure that they would do something like this."

How often will new content go up on the sites? Mr. Hobbs: "When we're talking about premium content, 10 new premium articles and up to four hours of video content [will be added] per month. There is no limit for user-generated content. There is a two-week turnaround from when they upload it and before it goes up." The effort is led by Land Rover's agency partner, WPP Group's Young & Rubicam Brands, Irvine, Calif., and London, and includes the participation of WPP siblings Mediaedge:cia and MindShare, which is developing content.

Will you screen the user-generated content? Mr. Williams: "We want to make sure we're not offending anyone's sense of decency. There are certain rules. We've termed them dinner party rules of sense and decency. Don't monopolize the conversation, don't go on forever, don't do anything that might offend your grandmother too much."

The quality of the video on the site is very polished. Are you worried that will change with more user-generated content? Mr. Hobbs: "In [this] environment it's OK to have earthier production values. We're kind of used to that with YouTube and Flickr."

Mr. Williams: "That's part of the appeal. The quality is in the experiences [in the video]."

How are you promoting the site and the content? Mr. Hobbs: "There hasn't been a lot of promotion at this stage. We wanted to get the thing up working and let it create a buzz of its own and build word of mouth. We wanted it to be something that people discover. Now that we know that it works and is growing, promotion will be put behind it."

Mr. Williams: "It's nice if people stumble across it. [But] we're looking at using PR to drive people there and using Land Rover's channels to drive people there. Every story is also virally enabled. You have the ability to pass things on to friend. The snowball effect is something that we'll be capitalizing on."

Have you been surprised at how people are using the site? Mr. Hobbs: "One of the biggest surprises is how long people dwell on the site. Literally people are spending an hour there. That's incredible." The Land Rover website attracts about 500,000 hits per month.

Will you take Go Beyond offline? Say in the form of a TV special or traditional series? Mr. Hobbs: "There are no plans to branch out into television."

Mr. Williams: "We're trying to keep the video content that we're carrying to a more bite-size chunk. There are a lot of people who don't have a lot of time."

There is still some confusion out there as to what branded entertainment is. How do you define it? Mr. Hobbs: "It's simply entertainment that is delivered by a sponsor who puts his name to it. The key word here it has to be entertainment; otherwise it's advertising."

Given the amount of video you feature on the site, are you opposed to other brands appearing in the programming? Mr. Hobbs: "Clearly at some point you have to consider that. We don't have a problem with people coming in and being part of Land Rover's party. We're comfortable enough in our own skin and confident in our own product."

Mr. Williams: "Land Rover has the monopoly on the spirit of adventure. They own it. Come join the party; it's fine."

What's on your TiVo? Mr. Hobbs: "I've become obsessed with 'Lost.' [The seasons] are so long. It's like embarking on a relationship. I've had relationships that are shorter."

Are you into adventure travel yourself? Mr. Hobbs: "I spend some time traveling and checking out new places. Exploring is my idea of adventure. I just came back from Marrakesh. I'm planning a trip to Beirut."

Mr. Williams: "The spirit of adventure is different in everyone. I'm built more for comfort, not speed."

What's on your iPod? Mr. Hobbs: "I have a 50-gig monster of classic music from AC/DC to Led Zeppelin."

Mr. Williams: "Charles Bukowski to learning Italian, BBC Today and other embarrassing crap."

What do you do on your downtime? Mr. Hobbs: "I'm an enthusiastic amateur musician."

Mr. Williams: "I'm a dad. I don't have any downtime. I'm a taxi service, I am a counselor ..."
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