Alternate Reality my dear Watson
Transmedia is a bit of a buzz word at the moment. True it’s not exactly new, but then there’s no such thing as an original idea…
Henry Jenkins is the father of the movement. The Dumbledore to the wizardry of multiple narratives, if you will.
You may have seen the LA Times piece. It gives a good overview of where Jenkins thinking comes from.
There are countless examples new and old of Transmedia campaigns. Alternate Reality Games are more traditionally associated with this approach. Often used to market films or video games, but also as stand alone experiences, they really did pave the way for multi-channel narratives. They harnessed the hive mind – using the crowd to solve fiendish clues and
rewarded the community with content.
Many ARGs were too niche, you had to be too commited to the whole experience to get anything out of it – and to few people were actually playing to get a good return on the marketing spend. You couldn’t snack on them. However, alongside these various experiments in ARGs also came the rise of casual gaming, which inturn has grown the appetite for consumers to experience and explore new ways of enjoying entertainment content. So now we get some simpler – yet equally compelling – games that can be enjoyed by individuals but also as part of a hive. This new game for the Sherlock Holmes game is brilliant. (I mean simple by not taking up your whole life. The puzzles are still fiendish, but I’m told you’ll complete the game in 8 hours, rather than 2 years).
This AdAge article talks about a Transmedia narrative that is both horizontal and deep. i.e. there is enough in the content to make it enjoyable on a basic top level, but deep enough that the hardcore fans have plenty to explore. I’m not sure everyone can be entertained all the time – but this approach rests on giving the hardcore fans content that allows them to become amplifiers.
Transmedia in this traditional movie marketing guise is expensive. But PR is essentially story telling, so I think a lot of the values outlined here apply to us in our day to day lives.
1. Make stories drillable.
2. Each piece of a story must be enriching, but not essential, to its overall experience.
3. Recognize the power of your fans.
4. Build a world, not just a story.
A lot of this is stuff we’re already doing, but in the future it’s going to be essential that every story we create has multiple touch-points. Some media will want the topline info, some consumers will want to be able to drill down and explore the details, it will be necessary for each individual announcement to be a part of a constantly evolving bigger ‘world’ and – as we know – if we give the audience compelling content then they will also spread the word.
Madisson Avenue types have a heritage in creating this sort of content. But just as they have experience in telling a story in 30 seconds, so we have a professional vocabularly that allows us to reach out to multiple stakeholders and audiences through the channels we know are most appropriate for each conversation. What’s more trans-media than that?