A nice summary of transmedia as a strategy for getting narrative noticed by consumers that was done by BBC’s program “Click”. It looks at how digital has opened up a whole new audience for a lot of creative industries. It also addresses the challenges. A lot of creators need to know their storyworld in far more detail than ever before and be able to pick the right media channel to broadcast stories and characters to a potential audience. Click here.
The upcoming film, Chronicle, hired thinkmodo to come up with a viral video campaign that would capture some of the public’s attention. Thinkmodo has made a business out of creating viral videos, one of their most recent successes was iPad Head Girl, which got over a million hits on YouTube. This time, thinkmodo took one of the elements from the film, the main characters gain the ability to fly, and turned it into something real that people could actually witness. The video “Flying People in New York” is going to get a reaction, not only from the video but the people who witnessed the event and might share and upload their own version of the experience.
The video is also paired with a film hub based in Facebook that allows the various photos and videos to be brought together in a social space. Although the Facebook page provides a number of obvious clues about the nature of the film, the viral video on YouTube doesn’t provide a lot of context about why the Flying Peope event happened.
I went through the comments and there were a number of people commenting about how much they liked the video but they didn’t know what “Chronicle” was actually about. The same problem is going to be faced anybody who decided to take videos or photos of the event themselves and share it with their own network. There are going to be a lot of people who would have enjoyed the experience without ever knowing that it was tied to a creative property. It is a great example of one of the challenges faced by transmedia design. When you are creating an experience you don’t necessarily want to have to explain it. A lot of ARGs (Alternate Reality Games) use rabbit holes that come with very little explanation, they are designed to spark your curiousity and it is up to you to follow it down the hole.
Flying people over New York has definitely sparked a lot of curiousity but it is obvious that a lot of people don’t know how to take that curiousity down into the rabbit hole that will lead them to a more complete story (preferably to the point where they buy a ticket and see the film). Marketing companies are going to continue to face this challenge when they are trying to engage an audience with transmedia, they want to create an experience that weaves into the narrative of everyone experiencing that event. They also want that person to take the next step and get involved with the creative property that marketing company has been paid to promote. A lot of people don’t have the literacy needed to “read” a transmedia experience and know that there is something more to follow afterwards.
It means we’re in a really interesting place where there is a lot of tension between blantant advertising and what I would call a piece of art. Advertising is trying to persuade you to make a purchase decision. Art is something different, in this case it seems to be about creating a shared experience with an individual. Although I recognize that the execution of that experience was original and innovative, I think the next step is lowering the barrier to the next obvious question being posed by people “But what does it mean?”. I doubt there is an easy answer for that, the last thing I would have wanted to see was a flying person trailing a banner with a QRcode, it would have ruined the entire experience. The great thing about this space is that the solution to the problem is going to be pretty creative as well.
The Ontario government has a Entertainment and Creative Cluster funding program that is now supporting transmedia development. There are a number of areas that are being supported, including 3D film, media portal and Transmedia.
Ryerson University is developing a Transmedia Production Acceleration Program that will help develop the digital media skills necessary to produce Transmedia in the province. Probably not a bad idea if they want Toronto to stay relevant in the evolving creative media space.
You can read more in the press release.
The Transmedia Debate
One of the things that struck me from a recent trip to L.A. was the dominance of marketing conversations when discussing social media. As we have seen in the past year in many Arab countries, social media can be a core element in massive social upheaval. It is a powerful tool that can be used for many purposes, not just selling products. The same argument is ongoing in Transmedia. Many people are just coming to consider Transmedia as another marketing tool but there are counter arguments that this narrow view is limiting and there are many different ways to consider the design and implementation of Transmedia creative properties. Andrea Phillips has one of those wider perspectives:
Late last week, I was involved in a Twitter conversation in which a gentleman dismissed the “transmedia bandwagon” as having been invented by marketers.