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TMC Zed.TO Case Study 2013 Part 1.
Extended Case Study of The Mission Business' 2012 transmedia production of Zed.TO & the invention of ByoLogyc. Case study created by Siobhan O'Flynn

Published in: Entertainment & Humor


  1. 1. Zed.TOCase Study HOW TO START A CONTENT REVOLUTION Invent the Future.... Part 1
  2. 2. byologyc CASE STUDY Part 1
  3. 3. Why? The Mission Business is an adventure laboratory and start-up company based in Toronto that designs connected live-action and online experiences. In 2012, ZED.TO broke new ground as a participatory serial theatre production and with a highly successful, thought provoking new business model. Think theatre meets game, LARPing, ARGs... next level
  4. 4. What? In 2013, ZED.TO ran as an 8-month narrative told in real-time through an integrated combination of interactive theatrical events and online content. Participants followed the story of the beginning of the end of the world, from a viral pandemic created by ByoLogyc, a fictional Toronto-based biotech company. Interactive ‘performances’ were staged in four unique, continuing productions charting the rise & fall of an entirely plausible bio-tech company.
  5. 5. innovative cross-platform entertainment
  6. 6. transmedia from the start ‘ZED.TO was conceived from the start as a transmedia project. While reading Max Brooks’s novel World War Z, the original creative team behind the project became excited about the possibilities of telling an end-of-the-world story across numerous platforms and media – effectively bringing the apocalypse to audiences through all of the digital and physical channels in their lives. While the narrative arc of the project, and many of the details, have been constructed iteratively over the last three years, we have made many decisions around who to bring aboard and in what capacity based on our desire to weave a gripping transmedia narrative.’ Trevor Haldenby, Co-Founder, Designer, Evangelist, Foresighter
  7. 7. The Mission Business INSIGHT: ‘In terms of communicating our vision to partners, we have found the use of mirror-image touchstones in today’s corporate world an extremely useful exercise. Explaining ByoLogyc is best accomplished by asking partners (and audiences alike) to “imagine what the world would be like if Apple were a biotech company.” Or if “Proctor and Gamble was revealed to be in the same kind of scandal as Lehman Brothers.” Trevor Haldenby, Co-Founder, Designer, Evangelist, Foresighter
  8. 8. next wave entertainment ‘Even early in the development process, we saw our story unfolding through live- action interactive events and across online platforms. One of the main characters of our story is a fictional biotech corporation, and we have made an effort to present our story through many of the channels that such a corporation would use to tell its own story. In order to explore new business opportunities and creative roles while delivering high-quality immersive entertainment experiences, we adapted our team out of an existing social network.’ TEAM Elenna Mosoff – Theatre Director Trevor Haldenby – Designer, Photographer Martha Haldenby – Arts Administrator, Actor David Fono – Pervasive Game Designer Byron Laviolette – Dramaturg, Director, Critic
  9. 9. finding the audience ‘In 2011, we conducted a survey exploring how audiences pay for premium live- action entertainment experiences. This survey was designed by The Mission Business and sent out to approximately 100 patrons and consumers of the arts in our social network. This helped define our audience quantitatively (who would pay for our experiences, and how much?), and it was followed by an open spaces workshop event at the University of Toronto dedicated to exploring themes that resonated with people around the end-of-the-world. These two activities helped us shape our audience enormously, which we have subsequently come to acknowledge as a combination of established alternate- reality game players, and consumers of arts and culture experiences in Toronto who are hungry for more immersive experiences similar to those available in larger cities like New York (Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More) and London (Future Cinema). Trevor Haldenby, Co-Founder, Designer, Evangelist, Foresighter
  10. 10. The Mission Business genesis - The team identified a number of limitations 1. theater audiences are always the same people question - how do you bring a new audience to the theater? 2. business model in theater is either single show ticket sales or subscription model for a season of unrelated plays innovation - what if you created a serial drama? make it cross-platform to engage the curiousity of non-theatre goers? stage a series of performances & use social media to expand the audience base over time?
  11. 11. innovative business model ‘In terms of the business model behind ZED.TO, our live events are also our bread and butter. We made a decision early on to adapt a business model often associated with live theatre and sporting events to make ZED.TO financially sustainable, so rather than charging for a subscription to online content, we have designed our experience to generate revenue through the sale of tickets (and various upgrades) to live-action interactive events.’ Trevor Haldenby, Co-Founder, Designer, Evangelist, Foresighter
  12. 12. indiegogo campaign - Endorsements from Cory Doctorow and Margaret Atwood pushed us through almost 50% of the total in the final 12 hours. - featured on IndieGoGo homepage and in weekly email newsletters - ran February 16, 2012 - April 15, 2012 - close to 200 donors on final 48 hour weekend - 333 donors in total (magic number???) - $20,790 raised of $20,000 ask Trevor Haldenby, Co-Founder, Designer, Evangelist, Foresighter
  13. 13. 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 The Mission Business crystallizes, + Martha Haldenby. ZED.TO is planned! Inititally conceived as a series of connected live events, then also as a massively transmedia future scenario Discussions begin around multiplex innovation in Toronto entertainment through new models, and new stories...Trevor Haldenby, Elenna Mosoff, Byron Laviolette & David Fono ZED.TO! March --> November Dec 2012 + Feb 2013 ByoLogyc appears in sold-out keynote presentations at Autodesk University and TED 2013. May 2013 The Mission Business extends the ByoLogyc story through a high-profile event to launch ZED.TO launches with IndieGoGo campaign Events Timeline :: Zed.TO
  15. 15. Clear Dramatic Themes
  16. 16. ActivityTimeline
  17. 17. Story mapping ‘Zed.TO utilized a variety of social media platforms to map the parameters and details of the ZED.TO story. We have no single centralized “Bible”, but instead relied heavily upon a series of Google Documents shared between the core creative team as well as performers and other contributors. These documents break down the progression of each live-action event, and also connect specific experiences within those events as well as larger-scale narrative twists and arcs between events and storytelling across platforms. A typical event document shows the passage of characters through time on a grid, mapping their time in 10-15 minute chunks, and creating a mesh with which we can evaluate the use of space as well as the specific production elements that need designing.’ Trevor Haldenby, Co-Founder, Designer, Evangelist, Foresighter
  18. 18. ‘Everything in ZED.TO is designed to fit into a story about the rise and fall of a fictional biotech corporation called ByoLogyc. All of our live events are intended to fit within the confines of how an innovative corporation would behave (including red-carpet product launches, 20th anniversary celebrations, demonstration evenings, and even public health clinics). But the same design philosophy applies to our online storytelling as well, and in 2012, there’s no way to bring a biotech corporation from the near future to life without weaving a story that credibly integrates digital and social media.’ Trevor Haldenby, Co-Founder, Designer, Evangelist, Foresighter Storyworld...
  19. 19. a fully realized product history, philosophy & vision
  20. 20. Deep Back Story on Facebook Page
  21. 21. Extensive In-Game Video Content on Vimeo Channel link here
  22. 22. Characters on Twitter
  23. 23. 20 years forward ingram gallery HIGHLIGHTS • A main cast of 3, and a supporting cast of 10+, including ByoLogyc employees, reporters, and suspicious bartenders moving seamlessly through the crowd. • Free sampling of all of ByoLogyc's signature products. • A live opera performance from a fictional character. • Secret notes, hushed arguments, and incidents between ByoLogyc staff members provided a hint of conflicts to come. Live Event #1 March 20 2012
  24. 24. 20 years forward ingram gallery innovation: create tiered points of entry for audience members, shift from voyeur to active participants The In-Game Sell: ‘The Versatile Intern Program is ByoLogyc's new initiative aimed at creating innovative new synergy between corporation and customer in the quest for a better tomorrow. Learn more at’ Invitation be a VIP for initial ‘launch’ at the Annex Fringe show. Live Event #1
  25. 25. encourage engagement ‘We made a decision early on to make the online experience as much of a participatory adventure as the live-action events we were designing. Through the “VIP” (Versatile Intern Program), an online research-driven internship program that allows regular Torontonians to participate in the miracles of innovation taking place at ByoLogyc, we were able to integrate our audiences directly into our fictional corporation in a way that is totally credible, extremely easy, and attractively open- ended. Trevor Haldenby, Co-Founder, Designer, Evangelist, Foresighter
  26. 26. ‘An excellent example of our execution on this strategy [of converting from passive to active] is the ByoLogyc VIP program, and the monthly ByoSphere newsletter. Audience members who sign up to become VIP’s (Research Interns) at ByoLogyc are presented with a frequently updated slate of questions and tasks that help ByoLogyc learn more about them… the results of these questions (from “What would you bring with you to the end of the world?” to “Depict three unexpected side effects of an untested lifestyle biotech product”) are highlighted in each month’s ByoSphere issue, providing audiences with a low-friction funnel through which to convert from passive to active. If VIP’s then get in touch with various ByoLogyc department heads to inquire about the purpose of this content being shared (anonymously) in the newsletter, they face an opportunity for a confrontation, and another upgrade to the integrated level.’ Trevor Haldenby, Co-Founder, Designer, Evangelist, Foresighter encourage engagement
  27. 27. sell interactivity fans become advocates VIP Samantha Wu blog post (July 9, 2012): ‘ByoLogyc is not a play, it’s an experience. It takes viral marketing and interactive sharing to a whole other level. From the introductory phone call and the separate info line you’re encouraged to call to the hands on experience inside the event. From the need to think fast and speak up when asked to progress the experience to signing up online for the VIP program and speaking to the characters over Twitter and on the forums. Your experience grows the more you interact. You are not bored when you participate. You are a vital and integral part of the show. The fourth wall does not end in front of you, it extends and ends behind you so it is up to you as an attendee not to break that experience.’ Original post here
  28. 28. Fan Posts Promote Original posts here & here
  29. 29. ByoLogyc Story? ‘Everything in ZED.TO is designed to fit into a story about the rise and fall of a fictional biotech corporation called ByoLogyc. All of our live events are intended to fit within the confines of how an innovative corporation would behave (including red-carpet product launches, 20th anniversary celebrations, demonstration evenings, and even public health clinics). But the same design philosophy applies to our online storytelling as well, and in 2012, there’s no way to bring a biotech corporation from the near future to life without weaving a story that credibly integrates digital and social media. The websites that ByoLogyc’s story is revealed through (including their official site,, as well as the online homes of the hackers assaulting their security systems such as and ) are just as important to the ZED.TO story as the live-action events, and are strengthened by ByoLogyc presence on social media like Twitter, Flickr, and Facebook as well.’ Trevor Haldenby, Co-Founder, Designer, Evangelist, Foresighter Create a counter story: hackers
  30. 30. • Facebook page & Tweets disseminate conspiracy findings to group members • post leaked videos & whistle-blower messages from within company • ByoLogyc fans & VIPs receive warning messages via Twitter, Facebook & emails • ByoLeaks protests at events & hands out anti-ByoLogyc propaganda hacker group
  31. 31. clever staging of hacks & counterattacks
  32. 32. ByoLogyc Hacked & Tracked!
  33. 33. Run a Graphic Novel & Blog ByoOptic - ran June 8 - November 3 2012 - 13 blog posts combining graphic novel panels & written blog entries - blog entries are presented ‘in-game’ & narrate comic artist Ariel Hume’s experience as drawn into world of ByoLogyc over 5 months - teasers are seeded into blog posts flagging characters & events as mysterious - numbers views? Original post here
  34. 34. JUNE 8, 2012 Welcome ‘I’m Ariel Hume, a comic artist. You are entering the world of ByoLogyc, as seen through the eyes of its employees, and rendered in the form of a graphic novel. This is the core component of my thesis - I am completing my Joint Master of New Audiences and Innovative Practices at the Iceland Academy of the Arts. I’ve heard so much about ByoLogyc, but like many, I know so little about what goes on there. I got in touch with the CEO, Mr. Chet Getram, who seemed enthusiastic about the possibilities of branding his company in a new, innovative way. Through illustration I investigate. My research will centre on Mr. Getram, ByoLogyc and the concepts of ‘Leading and Guiding’, ‘Performance and Communication’, ‘Entrepreneurship and Project Management’ and ‘Action Research’. Each comic is a small excerpt from my final thesis, and shows an event from the past or present as seen through the eyes of a different employee.’ Original post here
  35. 35. • CEO Chet Getram & Innovation Officer Trevor Haldenby started the session introducing the company and outlining the goals of the company • ‘Davian Baxter’ then took over session & invited audience to participate in ‘test’ by tweeting their responses to a series of images shown on stage using #nxnei hashtag. Tweets would be analyzed tracking emotional responses revealing psychological states • With the last image revealed, the projected Twitter feed was flooded with attack tweets accusing ByoLogyc of a variety of suspect practices to crimes • The video feed used by Davian was then hacked by ByoLeaks, a group dedicated to exposing ByoLogyc’s nefarious practices • fan blog post with Twitter feed captures here nxne june 15 2012 Create more buzz..
  36. 36. Toronto Fringe Festival, Annex Wreck Room, July 4-15 2012 ‘More than 1000 ticket holders got to know ByoLogyc, when it opened its Versatile Intern Program, and invited members of the public to join up at the launch party, held at a nightclub. Over 12 shows, participants became embroiled in bitter inter- office dramas, competed in some fun activities, sampled ByoLogyc's latest product, and witnessed the creation of the super-virus that would destroy our world.’ Live Event #2 where you become new
  37. 37. • Participants were encouraged to take an active role, by asking questions and performing tasks. • Loads of rabbit holes leading to the deeper world of ByoLogyc, including its website, its phone support line, product videos, a documentary comic, and mysterious phone calls received by participants from someone with a grudge against ByoLogyc. • A scripted climax where participants watched staff members respond to an escalating crisis, before being evacuated from the building. • The world of ByoLogyc spilled beyond the show, into the rest of the Fringe, with company representatives moving through other festival venues, offering product samples. HIGHLIGHTS • Participants were split up into departmental groups, each led by a member of ByoLogyc's senior staff, who guided them through a number of activities that illustrated the high and lows of life at ByoLogyc. • Live Event #2
  38. 38. where you become new Toronto Fringe Festival, Annex Wreck Room, July 4-15 2012 During our live event at the Toronto Fringe Festival, a number of boxes containing confidential ByoLogyc content were scattered across Bloor and Bathurst neighbourhoods and theatre venues, which could only be unlocked with keys discovered at the Fringe. Numerous audience members spent quite a bit of time badgering ByoLogyc “staff” performers at the live event for the locations of these keys! Live Event #2
  39. 39. Zed.TO website data Sept 2012 We have time-on-site data for the ByoLogyc website that indicates a very healthy level of engagement with our content – average visit durations since the launch of the website have averaged almost 6 minutes, and numbers of pages visited per visit have averaged over 5. In the time we have been running live- action interactive events, the ByoLogyc website has attracted over 4,000 unique visitors for almost 10,000 visits and nearly 50,000 pageviews. Trevor Haldenby, Co-Founder, Designer, Evangelist, Foresighter
  40. 40. Zed.TO As this extraordinarily deep and extensive transmedia production has such a wealth of detailed content, here ends Part 1 of the Zed.TO ByoLogyc Case Study tracking the rise of ByoLogyc. See Part 2 to follow how The Mission Business played out ByoLogyc’s spectacular fall.... plus all kinds of tasty analytics & inforgraphics
  41. 41. BIG THANKS TO TREVOR HALDENBY & BYRON LAVOILETTE FOR ALL THEIR HELP IN CREATING THIS CASE STUDY! For the curious and the obsessed, know that there is MUCH MUCH MORE out there to be documented on the extraordinary experience that was Zed.TO... Fan blog posts Facebook exchanges & posts of pics & videos Twitter content Reviews on theatre, culture & digital culture blogs....
  42. 42. You can find Trevor Haldenby’s MRP (Major Research Paper) submitted to the Master of Design, Strategic Foresight & Innovation, OCAD U here: Transmedia-Scenarios-and-the-World-of-Worlding And you can also watch two of Trevor’s recent talks here: here here
  43. 43. urls...
  44. 44. slide specific urls... Slide 28: where-you-become-new-the-mission-business-2012-toronto-fringe-review/ Slide 29: apocalypse/ Slide 32-33: Slide 34-35: woman-who-almost-had-it-all Slide 36:
  45. 45. THANKS to... tmcrkpartners
  46. 46. The Zed.TO Case Study is released under a NonCommercial ShareAlike Creative Commons license to be shared, remixed and expanded non-­‐commercially, as long as you credit the TMC Resource Kit, the creator of the Case Study, Anthea Foyer and/or Dr. Siobhan O’Flynn, and license your new creations under the identical terms. Images from third parties retain original copyright.
  47. 47. Get in Touch Zed.TO Case Study was prepared by: Dr. Siobhan O’Flynn @Sioflynn contactus TMC Resource Kit