Tag Archives: Transmedia Storytelling

Mass Media Planning vs Community Planning

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Many bright people are discussing the idea of Transmedia Planning, an ever-evolving, non-linear brand narrative. Think ‘Lost’: For some (including me) it’s just an entertaining TV show, for others it’s a puzzle they want to solve, just to discover there are more puzzles to be found. And, for the ‘Lost’ fanatics fans it’s an obsession, constantly fed by new theories, facts and factoids fed to them through official and unofficial channels.

Currently, most media is planned around a single idea: Get me this amazing idea and I’ll execute it as a commercial, banner, sticker, print ad – you name it. My first Creative Director always asked the lowly copywriter (me) when he presented his ideas for a commercial: “Does this work as a radio spot? Print ad? Key chain?” (Most of the time it didn’t and I crawled back to my office for another all-nighter.) Our work had to deliver for any educational, age and IQ level. Just like the pyramids. Ask a 5-year old to draw the pyramids and the result won’t be that much different from your own drawings (Be honest!) Sure, there might be more texture, details and finesse. But one glance and everybody gets it. And just a few words come to mind when thinking about pyramids: Slaves, Construction, Sphinx, Pharaohs.

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Do you know who this is? No?

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Getting closer?

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Easier? The overall scene composition might give it away.

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These 4 images illustrate that everybody has a different concept of Jesus: Ask 100 people how they would describe Jesus in 5 words and you’ll get an interesting tag cloud. Some overall concepts and ideas (‘Compassion’ anyone?) will be repeated over and over again but each and every person developed their own, personal concept of Jesus. And you will quickly realize that people can handle more than a single core idea. Jesus is more to people than the symbol for ‘Compassion’. For some people he might stand for love. For courage. He might symbolize an oppressive childhood. Indoctrination. World Peace. The Truth. The holy spirit. You take from his story whatever you like. Whatever fits your belief system and values. You create your own Jesus story. Either based on the bible, on historic documents, on interpretations of your priest, on movies. All these channels feed you different story lines. They can never tell the whole story because you tell the story yourself. Since we’re social animals, we are looking for communities that share our values. Without these communities, the idea of Jesus could have never been that successful and all-pervasive. Interacting with people, discussing their understanding of the Bible, experiencing the complexity of the Jesus concept is just so much more powerful than reading the Bible in your living-room. No comparison.

‘Lost’ became a phenomenon because communities adopted the concept. These groups will develop naturally when you offer rich story lines. Well, not always.

People are ready to process much greater complexity, spread info through various platforms and become hypersocial. They are hungry for it. Problem: The kitchen is still cold, remodeling plans being discussed. It’s hard to shift from a one-item menu to a complex 20-course tasting menu. We need to find the right chefs, sommeliers, Maitre D’s and service personnel. And, to make things more complex, we might intend to serve up a 20-course tasting meal but everybody will have a different experience: Some will just have appetizers, some only deserts, some will take your best ingredients and cook something completely new out of it, some will only drink the wine, etc. We basically hope to cook for people that are cooking at the same time. (Mhm, that might be an interesting concept for a restaurant.) It’s complex and messy. But, it’s magic when it all comes together.

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Love alone is not enough

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A few weeks ago, the NY Times discussed the failure of ‘Friday Night Lights’, one of best reviewed TV shows, to attract a larger audience. Virginia Heffernan explained its failure with the lack of online extensions and discusses how TV shows can’t survive without franchising:

“…in a digital age a show cannot succeed without franchising. An author’s work can no longer exist in a vacuum, independent of hardy online extensions; indeed, a vascular system that pervades the Internet. Artists must now embrace the cultural theorists’ beloved model of the rhizome and think of their work as a horizontal stem for numberless roots and shoots – as many entry and exit points as fans devise.”

She explains further:

“Without a sense of being needed or at least included, fans snub art – at least when it takes the form of prime-time TV. They won’t participate in online dialogues and events, visit message boards and chat rooms or design games. As a result, platforms for supplementary advertising aren’t built, starving even the show fans profess to love of attention, and thus money, and thus life.

As the writers’ strike has made clear, art and entertainment in the digital age are highly collaborative, and none of it can thrive without engaging audiences more actively than ever before. Fans today see themselves as doing business with television shows, movies, even books. They want to rate, review, remix. They want to make tributes and parodies, create footnotes and concordances, mess with volume and color values, talk back and shout down.”

Conversational Marketing is often misunderstood as just an opportunity to initiate conversations between people and brands. It is so much more.

Conversational Marketing can help brands to tell their stories better. Through various platforms, innovative storylines, transmedia storytelling. Trans…what?

Well, I can’t do as good a job as Henry Jenkins:

“Transmedia storytelling represents a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience. Ideally, each medium makes it own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story. So, for example, in The Matrix franchise, key bits of information are conveyed through three live action films, a series of animated shorts, two collections of comic book stories, and several video games. There is no one single source or ur-text where one can turn to gain all of the information needed to comprehend the Matrix universe.”

People can handle more than one idea. It’s not enough to interrupt people for seconds on TV or 5 seconds as a roadblock on a site and hoping to be able to sell your product. We need to offer more than an idea.

We have to change the paradigm from individuals reacting to the world to adopting ideas and transferring them into communities. These communities will happen around inspiring storylines: They invite you to discuss, explore, exchange, interact, engage. Yes, we want engagement. But engagement without any value for people falls flat.

‘Friday Night Lights’ developed numerous loving relationships with people. But they had nowhere to go to express their love. And so everybody moved on.