Saturday, February 2, 2008

Feb 08 - Transmedia

Just before Christmas I was involved in an inter-disciplinary creative workshop for one of my clients. Over the course of two days we transformed an idea that had been developed for television into a veritable smorgasbord of concepts for all manner of media channels.

What excited me most about many of the ideas that came out of the workshop, was that they required interaction and involvement from segments of the target market. In essence, the passionate consumer as brand advocate was a key element of the campaign.

Another interesting feature of our campaign was that many of the elements were for the creation of interest in the campaign itself, rather than the product. As such we would have multiple storylines existing independent of each other, with influential target groups filling in the gaps.

The idea of a storyline unfolding across several platforms is obviously nothing new, in fact it was discussed at length last year in a blog post called Transmedia Planning by Faris Yakob from the London office of Naked.

In his post Faris acknowledges the book Convergence Culture, by Henry Jenkins from (MIT) Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as “Required reading for anyone with an interest with how the relationship between consumers and media is changing.”

“Transmedia storytelling,” says Jenkins, “drives the formation of knowledge communities - communities that share information – and triggers word of mouth.”

Faris has taken the thinking behind Jenkins’ idea and applied it to advertising. “Transmedia planning would be an evolving non-linear brand narrative,” he writes, “where different channels could be used to communicate self-contained elements of the brand narrative.

According to Faris, these elements, “Would build to create a larger brand world, where consumers pull different parts of the story together themselves. The beauty of this is that it is designed to generate brand communities, as consumers come together to share elements of the narrative. It has a word of mouth driver built in.”

When I first read about Faris’s idea of transmedia planning I brushed it aside as just a variation on the well worn path of media neutral planning. When I read his blog post however, I saw it was much richer in potential than that.

In a media neutral plan, the ‘idea’ is always at the centre. Much like our pre-Christmas workshop, where we took an idea that had been developed for television and executed it across a variety of other media.

Transmedia planning has brand communities at its heart, with different media platforms delivering parts of the story to members of different communities, who then share this information with each other through word-of-mouth.

To say that the idea of transmedia planning has generated interest in the blogosphere is something of an understatement. At the time of writing, I did a Google search for the term which returned over 200,000 results. And yet the term didn’t exist until Faris coined it.

Of course for every new believer like me, there’s sure to be a skeptic too. In this case it was Giles Rhys Jones from Ogilvy London. Writing on his blog Interactive Marketing Trends, Rhys Jones penned one of the headlines of the year – Transmedia Planning My Arse.

“Ok, so what is the score with all the hype surrounding transmedia planning?” asked Rhys Jones. “Isn't that 360 planning: a brand idea at the centre delivered across multiple channels.” He offers the Dove ‘campaign for real beauty’ as a good example of this.

“Each element plays an important and complimentary part but each also exists in its own right, stimulating thought and conversation from your collective brand audience.”

Obviously Faris and Giles, who are both highly respected advertising thinkers, are agreeing to disagree, with both of them seemingly talking about pretty much the same thing only with a different name.

“Transmedia planning is surely a case of the emperors new clothes,” argues Giles Rhys Jones. “The 360 model ain’t broke, just they way that people have been deploying it.”

Commenting on Rhys Jones post, J. Caddell offers up the following; “Reminds me when ‘Integrated Marketing’ was the buzz word two years ago. The idea isn't new, it's just another assault on the traditional marketing model that those with the budgets and most to risk clutch to with false security.”

He then sums up his comment with a touch of provocation. “Change will happen once the old model (i.e.: Ogilvy on Advertising) is officially declared dead. Until then keep up the good fight.”

It seems to me that Caddell may well have unearthed the reason why Faris’s transmedia planning idea has generated such debate on advertising and marketing blogs – it’s a new way of doing things. Something the advertising industry supposedly thrives on and yet is so often slow to embrace.

Much like its belated acceptance of the importance of digital media as a communications channel which, not coincidently, also lies at the very heart of transmedia planning.

Stop by and visit:

Faris Yakob

Giles Rhys Jones

Transmedia Squidoo


Willem said...

Cool article, thanks! I'm new to advertising/digital, but I find the most interesting is what you were describing; as in creating campaigns with various medias that strongly interact with each other, are based on an idea that will create (somehow) value for the user/consumer whilst realising/delivering on the client's intentions.

It's probably pretty idealistic, but I imagine that's close to what everyone working in advertising would want these days, no?

And I find funny to hear advertising professionals spending a lot of time arguing over buzz words that won't be around anymore in a few months - isn't it the essence tat counts rather than the current trendy word describing it?

lauren said...

well said willem. i thought the art scene was bad for jargon and buzz words, but international advertising want to TM their own ideas! golly!

not that i don't disagree with the idea of a wholistic approach to communicating - which i'm sure only got squeezed out of the vernacular in the 80s when we obviously needed a new department for media bookers and 'channel planning'.

Giles Rhys Jones said...

good synpopsis. nice blog. hope all well. giles