Social's Impact On Transmedia

Even before MediaPost’s own notification about a piece on why “Sully” had done 40% better than box office analysts expected was posted Monday, I got notice that Anne Zeiser @AzureMedia had tweeted out the story’s URL. That caught my attention, since I’d written it.

Clicking through, I learned that Zeiser herself had written "Transmedia Marketing: From Film and TV to Games and Digital Media."A companion Web site offers tips on “turning audiences into ambassadors.” And, as I read the preface of her free, 108-page e-book, "Transmedia Platforms," I realized that the explosion of social media is, in many ways, fueling an evolution in other platforms.

In the following Q&A, I ask Zeiser about that impact, along with what transmedia is in the first place, how she would have done things differently now than she did for a successful marketing campaign in 2003, and what other stellar examples of transmedia are out there. Here’s an edited version of our exchange.

What exactly is “transmedia,” and how does it differ from, say, “multimedia” or “integrated communication” campaigns?
The changing semantics of media certainly can be confusing. In the early ’90s, video embedded in PowerPoint presentations got people excited. That was multimedia. Later we saw cross-platform, using more than one medium to distribute a single piece of content. Then came multiplatform, creating content expressly for different platforms. This unleashed an exploration of transmedia: holistic storytelling across multiple media platforms.

With transmedia, audiences are intended to experience the story across multiple platforms — film, TV, radio, games, magazine, books, online, CDs, and experiential (exhibits, events and toys) — with each making a specific contribution to the audience’s understanding of the story and universe. Think "Star Wars."

Transmedia marketing integrates storytelling and marketing content across multiple platforms. It’s like integrated communications, but the various narrative pathways encourage audience engagement and spawn loyal, participatory fans.

What’s social media’s place in the transmedia framework?
Social media has accelerated transmedia at breakneck speed. First, it’s ushered in a mindset of engaging audiences with media properties and products using social media platforms. A fully transmedia approach simply expands that universe of platforms to film, TV, radio, books, publications, games, interactive, mobile, toys, installations and events.

Also, social media has blurred the lines between product and marketing. Tweets or shared online video teasers, once seen as marketing tools for a bigger product, are media products unto themselves. In any form, media content can both advance the storyline and market the story.

Finally, social media has made today’s audiences active media makers and media marketers in their own right. Smart brands invite audiences into the tent to co-produce, co-distribute and co-promote their content.

One of your case histories is “Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues,” for which you were the marketing lead. It launched on PBS in 2003 — before just about everything we consider to be social media today. How would you do it differently in 2016?
Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues'core philosophy — to capture the authentic emotional resonance of the blues by taking the music directly to the people — was ripe for social media. This massive multiplatform project included film, TV, radio, book, Web sites, concerts, music CDs, museum exhibit and high school curriculum.

The strategy of taking the project “on the road” on a year-long grassroots tour of 120 film, music, and cultural events would have stood the test of time. Reaching music aficionados at live events demonstrated the project’s commitment to the music and turned audiences into ambassadors.

Social media would have dramatically enhanced the strategy of engaging those superfans. Direct communication vehicles in 2003 were clunky: gathering e-mails at events to send e-blasts and mail postcards. Today, we’d release a drip-feed of content on social media including promos, film and audio clips, posters and key art, exclusive interviews, media coverage, and project news. To reward fans, we’d solicit their music opinions and share their UGC content on our social channels.

You write about the importance of knowing your target. To whom are you targeting the book, the Web site and the e-book?
Transmedia Marketing: From Film and TV to Games and Digital Media" and its companion Web site are for content creators -- professional and laypeople. It’s designed to help them conduct research, identify target audiences, set goals and brand their projects. It also shows them how to engage audiences with both storytelling and marketing content on any platform. The free e-book is a primer on film, broadcast, print, games, digital and experiential media.

How are you marketing it?
I’m marketing the book and its resources through expert positioning — putting my analysis and approach out into the marketplace with new content.

I’ve written several articles for Huffington Post, Imagine, LinkedIn, American Film Market, and Focal Press/Routledge about various subjects in the news — from the presidential elections to film launches — using key concepts from the book. I’ve presented at industry conferences. I comment actively on online forums when my perspective might be of value. And, I share other people’s POVs and content generously. Most importantly, I share all of this content — from the guest articles and reviews to presentation highlights and news — on my digital platforms and acknowledge others who share it.

What’s a stellar example of a transmedia campaign that’s currently in play?
I’m obsessed by the collaborative storytelling experiment, Sherlock Holmes & The Internet of Things, which launched in 2014 and still is evolving. Created by immersive media experience pioneers Lance Weiler and Nick Fortugno, the projecthas already inspired more than 2,000 storytellers, game designers, makers, and hackers in 60 countries to innovate using Arthur Conan Doyle’s seminal work.

Offered widely as an open R&D space under a creative commons license, this project creates a framework for participants to create 21st-century adaptations of Sherlock Holmes. People collaborate virtually and through on-the-ground events. Their original prototypes include escape-the-room games, card games, VR apps, augmented-reality games, storytelling-connected objects, and social-impact applications like team-building platforms and high school educational programs.

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