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#Anchorman2 Isn’t A Movie

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durango burgundyAnchorman 2 is a Transmedia Experience.

Or at least that’s what it has become. If you’ve been paying attention recently you’ve seen Ron Burgundy, the character created by Will Ferrell in the modern comedy classic Anchorman, all over the place.

 

In Dodge commercials

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On local news in Bismarck, ND

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At the Canadian Curling Trials in Winnipeg

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Of course this is all promotion for Anchorman 2, which hits theaters later this month. But it seems to me it is more than that.  I’m sure Ferrell, like other celebrities will make appearances, as himself, on Leno, Letterman, The Daily Show, etc., but it’s not often you see actors, in character, going to places like Winnipeg or North Dakota, and make no mistake, those locations are carefully chosen. They are chosen so as to be discovered, and shared, by Ferrell’s fans, who are rewarded for scouring the Internet and sharing their discoveries with the community.

No, Ferrell is engaged in another form of storytelling. He’s created a transmedia experience that is well, experiential.  Ron Burgundy now inhabits a sort of pseudo-fictional, quasi-reality that doesn’t just promote the “Anchorman Universe,” but expands upon it.  The Burgundy character is a cartoonish trope familiar to those well-versed in the Judd Apatow school of comedy. He’s the buffoonish man-child, egotistical, self-centered and infantile. In other words, he’s a lot like people you see on TV.

Burgundy’s appearances at various events and within car commercials break the barriers between performer and audience, but not in the same way that say, Garry Shandling broke the 4th wall on It’s Garry Shandling’s Show. Usually when performers engage more directly with the audience they break character – a knowing wink or nod, an admission that they know this is fiction, and they know that you know. But not with Ferrell/Burgundy. It’s more of a McSweeney’s style of humor. An “I know you know, and you know I know you know, but I’m not going to acknowledge it”-sort of performance art.  By maintaining the illusion, Ferrell/Burgundy pull us into their world while inhabiting ours. Ferrell’s comic forebearer is more Andy Kaufman than fellow SNL alum Chevy Chase.

But like another SNL ‘Not Ready For Primetime Player,’ Mike Myers, Ferrell is gifted at creating characters infused with a certain humanity that makes them believable while at the same time fulfilling the requirements of comic absurdity.  Their genius being the ability to inhabit these beloved characters but not be totally typecast by them.

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So we come to the question, what can a brand learn from this? How can a car company or a QSR or a CPG manufacturer leverage this sort of cultural capital?  Surely there is no shortage of brand characters out there. GEICO has come pretty close with the Caveman characters. (Full disclosure, I thought the Caveman-spinoff TV show was cleverly written.) Old Spice achieved a certain degree of transmedia traction with The Man Your Man Could Smell Like via the YouTube response videos.

But most brand mascots don’t have the multi-dimensionality or talent of Ferrell/Burgundy.  Perhaps the best move is in fact the one played by Dodge. Borrow the equity and interest of an existing character. It seems to be working, as sales of the Dodge Durango is up 59%.

With notable exceptions like John Carter we live in a world where the blockbuster hit is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Anchorman 2 is going to be a huge hit (BoxOfficeMojo predicts the film with double its predecessors take, raking in a total of $165 million). From movies to video games to awards shows and events, the opportunities for a brand to create a transmedia experience, rather than just a sponsorship or TV spot, are endless. Kudos to Dodge for not simply hiring Will Ferrell, but for understanding culture and figuring out how to triangulate between the product, the character and the actor.

 

Further Reading:

Transmedia Planning

Entertainment Weekly on Burgundy/Dodge Partnership

The New Yorker Explores the Viability of “The Blockbuster” 

Innovative Storytelling

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In Defense of Syfy’s Defiance

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Science Fiction, by its very nature, has always been about exploring new possibilities.  The very best of the genre has given us glimpses into a realized future, paving a way for innovation.  The Syfy channel may just be doing that now with their new show, Defiance, but not necessarily in the way you think. While the show may be borrowing from a variety of past creations, the producers are trying something rather groundbreaking with the production – creating a transmedia IP that is living as both a television program and video game concurrently.

It’s a gamble, but it’s one with a certain logic behind it a Content Lab reports: “It’s also an attempt to cater to a highly engaged, billion-dollar audience: participants of massively multiplayer online (MMO) games.”

Syfy is pouring a lot of money, a reported $60-70 million on the game alone, to make Defiance a hit. For HBO, the costs of an ambitious show like Game of Thrones can be covered by subscriptions, but Syfy needs to generate revenue in other ways, and no doubt had that in mind with the creation of Defiance. Again, from Content Lab: “Moreover, the transmedia [Ed. note – actually, I’d call it intermedia] approach also raises intriguing possibilities for in-game advertising. It’s not too difficult to see how a product used in the show, such a vehicle or branded clothing, could appear naturally as elements in the game.”

No doubt this is new territory and Syfy along with game partner Trion have got a lot riding on the success of Defiance. While initial reviews of the show and game were tepid, Dean Takahashi of VentureBeat reports: “In fact, the premiere of Defiance outperformed Game of Thrones on its own premiere day. Syfy hasn’t had a show this hot since Eureka, and its second-screen tablet app posted its best day ever with the debut. The digital stats in terms of uniques, page views, and visits are stellar.

Meanwhile, the massively multiplayer online game has scored 6 million hours of playtime since the launch two weeks ago. I’ve poured around 10 hours into it myself. This transmedia — or a story that is told in more than one medium — has to be considered a success in terms of its ability to grab attention even though it appeared on the same day as the Boston bombings.”

I honestly don’t know if Defiance is going to be a success, it’s impossible to know for certain after two weeks, but I do feel confident in saying that brands should be working to understand what’s at play here. Consumers’ attitudes and expectations towards entertainment and content have changed. The idea of watching unique content on multiple platforms, sometimes even simultaneously, is becoming more accepted, if not expected. This provides massive new opportunities for brands to integrate across multiple touchpoints, creating longer engagements with fans through programming they want to watch. Categories like food, travel and technology could all look to take advantage of this in new and compelling ways.

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Exploring Innovative Storytelling

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At some point you recognize the tipping point. You know, when in just about every business conversation you have, someone eventually says the “magic word.” For a long time there it was “viral,” wasn’t it? You just knew at some point somebody would throw that out there. It was usually followed by enthusiastic head nodding by the others involved in the conversation. Now storytelling has become that magic word. Everyone loves to talk about the power of storytelling. It’s fascinating because neither the word, nor the concept, are particularly new to marketing communications. We’ve seen ourselves as storytellers for a very long time, and in fact we’ve been storytellers for a very long time. So, why now do we seem to be talking about storytelling with extra gusto?

There are probably several reasons for this. Perhaps it is in part a reaction to the metrics-driven approach that the marketing industry has been caught in for the last decade or so. Let’s face it, none of us — client-side or agency-side — got into this business because we loved taking statistics courses back in school. Maybe stories are our way of telling the bean counters to back off. Or could it be that the answer is more culturally-driven than that? Maybe this golden age of television we are in (Mad Men, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, Homeland, Breaking Bad…) has reminded us how compelling good storytelling can be. A third cause could be that the democratization of storytelling tools has made it easier for anyone, and everyone, to be storytellers. Virtually anyone can be an author, poet or filmmaker today, and share their stories with the world. As a reaction to that, maybe we feel the need to re-establish our role as cultural storytellers by flexing our narrative muscles.

And yet, if you were to watch an evening or two of primetime television, you wouldn’t see much storytelling happening during the commercial breaks. Why is that? At a time when people are less likely to watch commercials than ever, shouldn’t we be trying to make more compelling content? Why is it that T-Mobile spends millions of dollars on ads that feature the same character, yet those ads have absolutely no connection to each other? Why does Progressive feature Flo in every ad, yet we’ve seen no real narrative advancement? With YouTube available to everyone, it’s not as if having a narrative thread would make it impossible for people coming in late to catch up.

How many of you remember the Taster’s Choice (Gold Blend for UK readers) ads? Yeah, these ones. They first ran twenty years ago and I vividly remember them. They captured the imagination of the countries they ran in with their “will they / won’t they?” storyline that lasted for six or seven years and nearly a dozen spots. And they sold product as well.

Today, storytelling seems to be for online only, and then for extended length films rather than episodic storytelling. Sure, we all love Chipotle’s “Back to the Start” piece or Johnnie Walker’s amazing, do-it-all-in-one-take “The Man Who Walked Around The World” but those seem to be the exceptions.

With all the tools available to marketers, and all the channels through which people are consuming content, I think there is a greater opportunity available to us. But what do I know? I’m certainly no novelist. I don’t own an agency that specializes in innovative storytelling techniques. I don’t run a website that uses novels as a jumping off point for cultural discovery. That’s why I’ve reached out to Jim Othmer, Jeff Gomez and Richard Nash, who, respectively, are all those things. This Thursday, January 31st at 3pm, Othmer, Gomez and Nash will be my guests for IGNITE NYC, Y&R New York’s very own live talk show. Jim, a Global Creative Director at Y&R has written a number of books; Jeff is the CEO of Starlight Runner, a transmedia storytelling agency, and Richard works at Small Demons, a brilliant little website that no description would do justice, so go check it out.

But this show goes up to 11! We’ll also be joined by Y&R planner Matt Colangelo, who has recently put together a report on storytelling, aptly named, The Story Behind Storytelling. He also studied the role that early modernist authors (such as James Joyce and Ezra Pound) had in innovating traditional storytelling techniques while at Oxford. So,yeah, he’s got game.

You can participate by joining the conversation on Twitter, using #YRNYignite.

 

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Social TV: The 31 people, apps, tools, companies and events you must know

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Social TV is going to change the face of televised entertainment in the next 16 months.

Bold statement, but one I stand by. Sooner or later, in order to survive, shows will have to start engaging fans in an Intermedia environment. Why? Because without viewers there aren’t sponsors, and without sponsors there aren’t shows. Right now, it’s getting harder for brands to see the return on TV advertising. We all know the many factors that are now affecting the television industry and eroding audience share: DVRs, The Internet and a multi-channel universe to name a few. As a result, marketers have seen the bedrock of their advertising plans, the :30 TV spot, lose relevance. New solutions need to be found to return to the “appointment television” model that worked so well in the TV era (50s – 80s). Social TV may not solve all the problems, but it is a real answer.

Social TV creates that appointment viewing. When the viewing experience transcends the single viewer in their living room and includes hundreds, even thousands of others, it becomes an event, and Americans love an event. That’s why the Super Bowl, American Idol, The Oscars and the Olympics draw so well. They’re events in one form on another.

The term Social TV covers a broad range of applications and activities, so I thought it would be interesting to create an essential list of the major players in the industry. I’ll admit this isn’t exhaustive or definitive, so please include in the comments anything or anyone you think is important that I missed. Maybe we can expand this list of 31 to a list of 50!

Disclaimer – I haven’t used all these tools and services, and there inclusion should not be construed as an endorsement. Where possible I used descriptions pulled directly from the sites.

THE PEOPLE

Cari Bugbee first gained notoriety for her participation in the Mad Men on Twitter experience. Now she’s running the Social TV and Film Group on Diigo and can be found wherever Social TV discussion is happening around the web.

Paul Farkas - Founder and CEO of SocialTV.com and runs the 1,000 member strong Social TV Facebook group.

Richard Kastelein – Founder of Agora Media, and curator of AppMarketTV page.

Mark Long – Manager of the popular (4,000+ members) Social TV Networking group on LinkedIn

Elspeth Rountree – Consultant for a variety of multi-national companies focusing on social television strategyShe created a similar guide that served as a resource for this post (Disclosure – I was about 90% done with this post when I found hers).

Steve Safran - Editor at Lost Remote.

 

THE APPS AND SERVICES

BeeTV - A place for people to interact and socialize about the TV show they are watching currently.

Clicker - The complete guide to Internet Television.

Dijit - Turn your smartphone into the remote control you’ve always wanted.

Fav.tv - allows users to take part in discussion threads that bring in comments from their friends and others about specific shows, as well as relevant news articles about those programs.

GetGlue - Users check-in and share what they are watching, listening to and reading with friends; get fresh recommendations, exclusive stickers, discounts and other rewards.

Intonow - gives users the ability to almost instantly recognize TV content and then helps them share and discuss those shows with friends, both within the product and through other social streams such as Facebook and Twitter.

Miso - Social TV with a twist of Game Mechanics. Similar to GetGlue

Ooyala - Gives content owners the power to expand audiences and the deep insights that drive increased viewer engagement and revenue from video.

Shazam - Known for their awesome music app, they’re now diving into Social TV with some intriguing options for brands.

TV Dinner – Next generation Social TV platform providing rich, realtime conversations and interactions about television. Unlike traditional social networks where relationships are the connective tissue, TV Dinner seeks to connect individuals through their interests—creating a greater opportunity for social discovery.

Umami - Still in ‘coming soon’ mode, here’s what Gigaom had to say about them.

Yap.tv – Offers show fans many interactive features such as user-generated polls, integration with Twitter and Facebook, automatic check-in to see what friends are watching, and real-time private group chat.

 

THE CONFERENCES

2-Screen - Hosted by Mint Digital, 2-Screen looks at how second screen practitioners are creating in a landscape of simultaneous media and split attention.

Social TV Summit – Focused on Social Media and its effect on viewing content on TV, online, on tablets and on mobile.

Social Media World Forum Europe - Two days of interactive & engaging conference featuring leading key figure keynotes, brand case studies, topical Q&A and debates, exhibition hall, workshops and networking with a specific track on Social TV.

 

THE BLOGS & NEWSFEEDS:

Live Digitally – Dijit’s Jeremy Toeman curates all the news about Connected TV, Smart TV, IPTV, OTT, Social TV, etc.

Lost Remote - The first and only source dedicated to social TV coverage.

SocialTV:Digest - Covering the fast-growing intersection of television + social media. We curate the latest news and trends affecting the Social TV landscape.

The End of Television As We Know It - A collection of thoughts about Television, Internet, Open Video, New Media, Convergence, Culture and the future.

TVAppMarket - The Internet’s first portal dedicated to the convergence of players expected to meet in this convergence of media – the web developers, the broadcasters, the consumer electronic manufacturers, the Pay TV crowd, the content creators, Mobile community, VC’s, startups, designers, creatives and agencies.

Social TV Facebook group – Vibrant group sharing the latest news and commentary on all aspects of Social TV.

 

THE ANALYTICS

Bluefin Labs – Data and insights about TV shows and commercials, generated from public social media conversations about TV.

Social Guide - The first real-time Social Programming Guide.

Trendrr –  Comprehensive television insight solution that analyzes engagement around television and brands by processing real-time activity across a variety of social networks.

TV Genius - Offers accurate searchrecommendations, and interactive TV guides. Combined with rich metadata, the software acts as a key differentiator in addressing the content discovery challenge.

 

Don’t forget to bookmark this post (and share it of course).

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Intermedia – The Next Phase In Consumer Engagement

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If you’ve be reading my blog for the last couple of weeks you know I’ve been keenly interested in the development of Social TV. And while sites like GetGlue and Philo (which was just bought by Local Response) got things kicked off by allowing you to “check-in” to the content you were reading/watching/listening to, I think you’re going to be hearing a lot more about companies like Social Guide and Bluefins Labs in the months to come. This area is developing rapidly now and a recent article in GOOD – Tweet Seekers: How Your Social Media Outbursts Influence TV Networkswas a real eye opener for me. Take a look at what TV programs people are talking about online:

The Tweet Is On


This data comes from Bluefin and shows how Social TV is starting to “hockey stick.” But I think something else is going to emerge here that is going to be significant for both agencies and content developers. It’s what I’m calling Intermedia.

Cross-Media v. Transmedia

Chances are you’re familiar with the terms like transmedia and cross-media. But right now distinctions and definitions are important, so let’s lay this all out. First, here’s a definition of transmedia from SeizeTheMedia:

Transmedia is a format of formats; an approach to story delivery that aggregates fragmented audiences by adapting productions to new modes of presentation and social integration. The execution of a transmedia production weaves together diverse storylines, across multiple outlets, as parts of an overarching narrative structure. These elements are distributed through both traditional and new media outlets. The online components exploit the social conventions, and social locations, of the internet.

Here’s what that looks like, again from SeizeTheMedia:

From SeizeTheMedia

The Producer’s Guild of America has issued a press release on Transmedia, formerly acknowledging the title Transmedia Producer. Brooke Thompson has a fantastic post where she breaks down transmedia, and looks to differentiate it from cross-media (and rightly so). Cross-media, according to Brooke, is defined as:

“[...]but here there may be content that drives you from one platform to the next.  However, the relationship is typically one way and it’s quite simple. As far as the entirety of the project, the platforms do not rely upon each other in order to make the experience complete. For example, look at you favorite television show’s website. Does it have character bios? A timeline of big events that have taken place? Extra video? All of these things are driven by the content on one platform (your favorite show), but they don’t have much interaction with each other and virtually none with your favorite show. It’s unidirectional – your show drives the content, but it does not ask for anything in return. In other words, any narrative outside of the show is not only optional but it doesn’t have any impact on the show itself. As you probably gathered by looking at your favorite show’s website, we see a lot of this coming out of Hollywood these days (advertising, too). This is cross-media.

Here’s an infrographic from the Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association entitled, How Cross-Media Revived the TV Star:

Courtesy: MIMA

Finally, one last graphic from Brooke Thompson, providing a nice side-by-side comparison of cross-media and transmedia:

 

Want more on transmedia? Go read Henry Jenkins’ Transmedia Storytelling 101.

What is Intermedia?

But I believe the rise of Social TV is bringing about something different. Something beyond creating related content across multiple channels and platforms (cross-media) or even driving a singular narrative thread across multiple channels and platforms (transmedia). I think we are starting to see the evolution of content traveling between multiple platforms and channels (intermedia).

The term intermedia has been used before. From Wikipedia:

Intermedia was a concept employed in the mid-sixties by Fluxus artist Dick Higgins to describe the ineffable, often confusing, inter-disciplinary activities that occur between genres that became prevalent in the 1960s. Thus, the areas such as those between drawing and poetry, or between painting and theatre could be described as intermedia. With repeated occurrences, these new genres between genres could develop their own names (e.g. visual poetry or performance art.)

Note the use of the world between. This isn’t merely turning a musical into a movie or or using a famous painting as the basis of a play like Marat/Sade.  The former being something more akin to cross-media, the latter perhaps more accurately defined as an piece of meta-fiction. Nor is it something like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, which hovers somewhere between meta-fiction and transmedia. Intermedia has a more direct, and immediate interaction between content from multiple platforms or channels.

Here’s a stab at a more formal definition:

Intermedia is characterized by the real-time interaction of content consumers between themselves and content producers, the content’s participants or notable third parties. This engagement may play a role in the on-going or future development of the content in the form of voting, surveys, commentary or other forms of interaction.

They key here is that intermedia isn’t simply people tweeting about Beyonce’s baby bump during the MTV Video Music Awards. That’s simply an example of Social TV. Intermedia begins when Beyonce starts tweeting back to people immediately after her performance, while the VMA’s are still going on.

There are several scenarios where intermedia can pop up, here are a few examples:

  • During a football game, the announcers field questions from Twitter and respond both on Twitter and on television
  • Joan Rivers engages in a live Twitter chat from the Oscar Red Carpet and shares the comments with celebrities as they come by
  • Show runner Matthew Weiner jumps on Twitter during a first run airing of a new Mad Men episode, providing commentary
  • The character Sam Winchester from the CW television show Supernatural tweets between episodes and his interaction with fans works its way into future episodes
  • American Idol contestants are voted on via mobile phone by fans
  • A football team shows tweets in-stadium on digital boards
  • A news anchor hosting a live Google+ hangout during an evening newscast

Many of these are happening, or have happened, to some degree in the past, but I believe you are going to see an explosion of it in the future.

Intermedia Winners

Who is going to benefit from the development and practice of intermedia? Well for one, agencies. There is going to be a fight to see who will become the intermedia strategy agency on behalf of properties. Intermedia planner is going to be a job title in the future – held by the person who understands the platforms, the culture, the talent and the timing to enhance the engagement with and affinity for the property.

The service and tools providers like Social Guide. Check out their mobile app, it’s going to become an essential element to the content consumption experience. Measurement and real-time monitoring of intermedia content will be a lucrative field (hello Radian6, Nielsen and Bluefin Labs).

Savvy content producers will be in high demand. Here’s where Warner Bros. is going to potentially come to dominate in a whole new way. I’ve already written about their dominance of television content production, and much of it is intermedia ready. Shows like the aforementioned Supernatural, and daytime hit The Ellen Degeneres Show are already huge Social TV hits. Understanding how to make shows that work well for intermedia will be a new benchmark.

Intermedia in other channels and platforms

I’ve focused on Twitter and television for this post, but intermedia opportunities will expand and be adopted in other areas:

  • Imagine readers posting questions or comments within an interface in Kindle editions of books and having them answered by the author via a YouTube channel
  • DJs at a club could simultaneously play the same song in a Turntable.fm room, or take requests from one venue and play the song in the other

In my next post I’m going to look at Intermedia strategy and provide my thoughts on how an agency would develop this new practice. But first I’d like your thoughts. Is Intermedia the right name? Do you agree that this is a rich new area of content integration and engagement? Give me your thoughts below.

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