- April 29, 2010

Don’t Just Tell Me, Entertain Me! - Transmedia in Advertising

As we further explore the possibilities of cross media advertising, we are beginning to see that the value of “transmedia” as a strategy that can assist marketers in leveraging the unique benefits of multiple platforms and activate deep brand experiences that entertain and invite participation and engagement from its viewers. In his book Convergence Culture, Henry Jenkins defines transmedia as storytelling that “immerses an audience in a story’s universe through a number of dispersed entry points, providing a comprehensive and coordinated experience of a complex story.” Some prominent examples of transmedia storytelling in the context of entertainment include movies like The Matrix and TV series such as Valemont High, Lost, Heroes, and In the Motherhood.

Often mistaken for simple cross channel distribution, (wherein the same content is sent across multiple platforms) transmedia is not about milking one storyline or set of characters across multiple media. While cross platform distribution is important in an increasingly platform agnostic world, (a recent Comscore study found that 35% of audiences tune in on platforms other than TV to watch original scripted TV programming), transmedia goes deeper and requires knowledge and appreciation of what each platform does best.

When thinking about a transmedia strategy, it is important to first understand the unique benefits of each platform. TV, for example, is undeniably the most powerful reach vehicle, but online video often delivers higher impact per viewer. In fact, it scores higher across several key brand metrics with regards to advertising:

Source: ‘The Future of Original TV Viewing and the New Digital Consumer’ (January 2010 study conducted by Comscore.)

In addition, an astounding 43% of people who watch original TV programs on both TV and the web have stopped a TV program that they were viewing on the web midway in order to visit an advertiser’s website, which indicates some exciting opportunities for brand advertisers to reach the right consumers via online entertainment channels. And that doesn’t even address the potential of brand integration, relevant placements, and sponsorship that come with transmedia implementations.

The key point of transmedia storytelling is that dispersed entry points contribute to a complex (and complimentary) universe that is greater than the sum of its parts – so that at the point of origin, multiple channels are not just considered, but deeply planned out and integrated in ways that will engage the viewer where he/she is already spending their time. Only with this kind of tight creative integration and clarity of purpose are we able to create true cross media experiences that add value across dispersed narrative paths and entertain consumers as they evaluate their options.

Transmedia advertising requires a fundamental re-think of how the creative and planning process is organized, demanding a breakdown of silos and greater collaboration and agreement on campaign objectives across teams at the outset. The potential obstacles to successful implementations include lack of planning and integration, as well as any assumption that new channels are merely ‘another screen’ for which the same creative can simply be repurposed. While this may work in part, it misses the larger opportunity.

With so many easily available screens and media platforms, the attention and engagement of consumers will only be won by higher quality, more enriching and relevant experiences. It’s up to brands – and a new breed of agencies and advertisers – to understand how consumers are spending their time at each new touch point and to entertain them there.

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