Director Ridley Scott, whose 1982 film Blade Runner
has no fewer than three versions, is going back to the future - but not in a big-budget Hollywood remake. Scott recently teamed with
London-based creative/marketing agency Ag8 to create "Purefold," a Blade Runner
-inspired Web series set to premiere later this year. And true to its futuristic roots, the "first open media
franchise," as it's being called by its creators, represents a new frontier in branded viral content: Plot synopses will be established by participating brands and disseminated online, where social
networking aggregator FriendFeed.com will cull user conversations, suggestions, and ideas to add to the mix. From there, professional screenwriters, filmmakers and producers from Scott's RSA Films
will merge the visions of audience and advertiser into short, Web-only segments.
According to Tom Himpe, cofounder of Ag8, "Purefold" not only gives advertisers a high-quality creative
product (complete with the prestige of Scott's name attached), but also a deeper product integration. "'Purefold' changes what we currently view as branded content," Himpe says. "It shows that it can
have a bigger vision - that there are other ways beyond product placement to get brands involved with content in an interesting way."
Successful episodes (based on viewer chatter,
naturally) will become recurring series, and because episodes will be published weekly, the project allows marketers to interact with and quickly respond to their viewers. "It gives brands the
opportunity to engage in conversation with their audience, around themes they can initiate," Himpe says. "Brands can create content across an extended period of time in an iterative way, constantly
adapting based on audience feedback."
But what about the fans? Through harvesting their ideas, "Purefold" gives viewers input over the scripts (the "Purefold" FriendFeed currently has more
than 200 subscribers) - but will the heavily branded content turn off audiences? Himpe reminds viewers that the original Blade Runner
took place in a branded world, "where brand visibility is
strongly integrated, rather than avoided. It added to the realism and visual appeal of that film," he says. "It's important to keep in mind we are not doing an official prequel to Blade
. The 'Purefold' project is merely inspired by the themes as set up by the film."