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#7 Transmedia Storytelling - Ten Frontiers for the Future of Engagement


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This is the seventh report from our upcoming People's Insights Annual Report titled “Now & Next: Future of Engagement”, also available as a Kindle eBook and soon as an interactive iPad app. The report will highlight the ten most important frontiers that will define the future of engagement for marketers, entrepreneurs and changemakers: Crowdfunding, Behavior Change Games, Collaborative Social Innovation, Grassroots Change Movements, Co-creation Communities, Social Curation, Transmedia Storytelling, Collective Intelligence, Social Live Experiences and Collaborative Consumption.

In each of these reports, we start by describing why they are important, how they work, and how brands might benefit from them; we then examine web platforms and brand programs that point to the future (that is already here); then finish by identifying some of the most important features of that future, with our recommendations on how to benefit from them.

Do subscribe to our email newsletter to receive an invite to download a free copy of the interactive iPad app.

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#7 Transmedia Storytelling - Ten Frontiers for the Future of Engagement

  1. 1. 7. TRANSMEDIASTORYTELLINGPeoples Insights Annual ReportNow & Next:Future of Engagement
  2. 2. We are delighted to share that we will bepublishing the People’s Insights AnnualReport titled “Now & Next: Future ofEngagement” in February 2013 as aninteractive iPad app. The report willhighlight the ten most important frontiersthat will define the future of engagementfor marketers, entrepreneurs and changemakers: Crowdfunding, Behavior ChangeGames, Collaborative Social Innovation,Grassroots Change Movements,Co-creationCommunities, Social Curation, TransmediaStorytelling, Collective Intelligence,Social Recommendation and Social LiveExperiences.Throughout 2012, 100+ planners onMSLGROUP’s Insights Network have beentracking inspiring web platforms and brandprograms at the intersection of social data,citizenship, crowdsourcing and storytelling.Every week, we pick up one project andcurate the conversations around it — on theMSLGROUP Insights Network itself but alsoon the broader social web — into a weeklyinsights report. Every quarter, we compilethese insights, along with original researchand insights from the MSLGROUP globalnetwork, into the People’s Insights QuarterlyMagazine. Now, we have synthesized theinsights from our year-long endeavor in futurescanning as foresights into the future ofengagement.We believe, like William Gibson that, “thefuture is already here; it’s just not very evenlydistributed.” So, innovative web platformsin the areas of social data, citizenship,crowdsourcing and storytelling point towardsinteresting possibilities for brand programsthat leverage similar models to engagepeople. In turn, the web platforms and brandprograms of today give us clues to the futureof engagement tomorrow.In our reports on the ten frontiers that willdefine the future of engagement, we start bydescribing why they are important, how theywork, and how brands might benefit fromthem; we then examine web platforms andbrand programs that point to the future(that is already here); then finish by identifyingsome of the most important features of thatfuture, with our recommendations on how tobenefit from them.For the next ten weeks, we will publishthese reports one by one, then present themtogether, in context, as an interactive iPad app.Do subscribe to our email newsletter to receiveeach report and also an invite to download afree copy of the interactive iPad app.People’s Insights Annual Report
  3. 3. 3What is Transmedia Storytelling?Media organizations,changemakers, and brandscreate cross-platform storyworlds to drive participation,action and loyalty.people are consuming news and entertainmentin byte-sized pieces, on smart phones andtablets, often on-the-go, leading to newopportunities to create cross-platform, location-aware storyworlds. Second, people have accessto so much content that they are filtering for outor skimming most of it, except for content theyare most passionate about. Third, people aresimultaneously acting as consumers, curatorsand creators of content, making it possible tocreate non-linear storyworlds that grow throughtheir participation.As a result, movies, TV shows, games and toysare all turning into transmedia entertainmentfranchises. Studios are releasing not onlymovies but also alternate reality games (ARGs),set in elaborate storyworlds (A.I.’s The Beast,The Dark Knight’s Why So Serious? (video),The Hunger Games’ The Capitol (video),Prometheus’ Weyland Industries). Televisionnetworks are creating transmedia storyworldsto sustain fan interest between TV showseasons (Heroes’ Evolutions, Lost Experience(video),Dexter’s Hunt for the Infinity Killer(video), Game of Thrones’ The Maester’s Path(video), True Blood (video), BBC’s Sherlock’sThe Science of Deduction (case study)), andcreating book series by TV show characters todeepen fan engagement (Castle’s Nikki Heatseries, How I Met Your Mother’s Barney’s Broseries). Video game studios are creating ARGsto heighten anticipation around new gamelaunches (Halo 2’s I Love Bees, Gun’s Last CallPoker). Toy brands are building transmediaentertainment franchises around popularcharacters (Barbie Life in the Dreamhouse,Barbie and Ken Reunion video). Some authorsand publishers are creating immersive onlineexperiences to bring alive the storyworlds intheir books (Harry Potter’s Pottermore (video)).Independent storytellers are increasingly turningto transmedia storytelling to engage fans andSource: xavitalleda on FlickrTransmedia storytelling involves telling a storyacross multiple media platforms – including TVshows, movies, graphic novels, books, games,mobile apps, microsites, social networks, onlinecommunities and offline events – in a waythat each platform explores different aspectsof the same storyworld. Media organizations,changemakers, and brands are using transmediastorytelling to create immersive storyworlds thatdrive participation, action and loyalty.The rise of transmedia storytelling can beattributed to three dynamics around how peoplecreate, consume and share stories today. First,
  4. 4. Click to watch: Harry Potter – Pottermorebuild a reputation (Dirty Work interactive webseries (video), Pandemic 1.0 ARG (video), TheGuild web series and comic book). Beyondthe entertainment industry, organizationsand changemakers are applying transmediastorytelling to engage people, especiallystudents, around science and social causes(NASA’s MarsCuriosity Rover, Urgent Evoke(video), World Without Oil (video), Ed Zed Omega(video), Cosmic Voyager Enterprises (video),Routes (video)).Some of these transmedia storytelling programshave had significant scale and impact. Forinstance, the ARG Why So Serious? launchedfifteen months before the launch of The DarkKnight and attracted 11 million participants from75 countries. Harry Potter’s Pottermore has 4.4million registered users who have earned nearly60 million points for exploring the storyworldand performing virtual actions. The Guild webseries is currently in its sixth season and hasreceived 83 million views on YouTube.The success of these transmedia storytellingprojects shows that, even as attention spansare shortening and media consumption isfragmenting, fans are willing to immersethemselves in non-linear, multi-layeredstoryworlds, and even extend it through theircontributions.How Does TransmediaStorytelling Work?At the heart of transmedia storytelling is astoryworld with its own mythology and socio-cultural norms, which sets the stage for a castof characters with their individual narrative arcsand web of relationships. Increasingly, peopleare consuming such storyworlds not as a linearnarrative, but as a multi-layered, multi-platform,immersive experience.Transmedia storytelling projects can be classifiedacross four dimensions: the fictional or non-fictional nature of the storyworld, the depth andwidth of the storyworld, the interplay of differentmedia channels with the storyworld, and thepossibilities for participation.Many transmedia storytelling projects are setin a fictional storyworld, with characters andplots, or even a mythical or speculative universe.Filmmakers, TV producers, game designers andwriters use transmedia storytelling to extendtheir fictional storyworlds across channels (TrueBlood, Halo 2’s I Love Bees). Changemakers andeducators often use transmedia storytelling tocreate speculative universes that provide newperspectives and open new possibilities forparticipants (World Without Oil). Increasingly,documentary filmmakers and non-fiction authorsare creating transmedia projects by creatingbooks, films, games, apps, events and socialmovements around the same theme or cause(It Gets Better, Half the Sky).Transmedia storyworlds range from simplestory extensions to immersive multi-layered,multi-platform experiences. Story extensionscan include blogs, vlogs, social network profilesand even books from fictional characters (GossipGirl’s blog, MarsCuriosity Rover on Twitter, HowI Met Your Mother’s Barney’s Bro series), tosimple apps and games set in the storyworld(Pretty Little Liar’s Bump and Tell, The HungerGame’s Become a Citizen), and book or filmadaptations of the original project. Otherstoryworlds are immersive experiences, withmultiple interconnected websites, web videoseries and multiplayer games that explore backstories, introduce new plots, characters andtwists, or re-create the story in the real world(Prometheus’ Weyland Industries, Pottermore).In some transmedia projects, the storyworldis distributed across many channels, andeach channel explores a different part of thestoryworld in an interlocked way, sometimessimultaneously and sometimes in sequence(Heroes’ Evolutions), while other projects haveminimal interplay between channels (Welcometo the Pine Point (video)), or replicate the samestoryworld across channels (The Lizzie BennetDiaries). Most transmedia projects that are builtaround an alternate reality game have a stronglive, real-time feel with many moving parts(Dexter’s Hunt for the Infinity Killer), while othersare more asynchronous.Finally, some transmedia projects providemultiple possibilities for fans to co-create thestoryworld by deconstructing plot twists on fanwikis, contributing fan fiction and fan art, creating
  5. 5. 5Click to watch: The Dark Knight – Why So Serious?Click to watch: AXE Anarchy: The Graphic Noveltheir own parallel narratives in virtual worlds,solving puzzles and playing games to unlock newparts of the storyworld, competing in challengesand tournaments, and participating in scavengerhunts, flash mobs and events in the real world(Why So Serious?). Other projects create animmersive multimedia experience, but providefewer possibilities for participation (Our Choice).Alternate reality games are a particularly popularform of transmedia storytelling, as they can beeffectively incorporated into short-term high-intensity campaigns leading up to big launches.Most ARGs comprise of elaborate scavengerhunts that take place across fake websites andblogs, real web publications, fan communities,physical artifacts, flash mobs and rallies, andoften include a series of puzzles, single-playersimulations, and multi-player challenges ortournaments. Most ARGs induce mystery throughhidden clues, suggestive announcements andpartial reveals, and new elements are revealedon a preset schedule or after fans completemilestones. Fans share clues and solutions overonline communities and wikis, and collaborateto unlock levels and complete the game, to getrewards like points and badges, physical artifacts,or exclusive content.Transmedia Storytelling forBrandsBrands are learning to use paid or co-brandedads to pull consumers into branded transmediastoryworlds, which aim to retain people’s interestover the long term, and convert them first intopassionate fans and then into paying customers,much like movie trailers with entertainmentfranchises.Some brands bring their fictional characters ormascots alive through ads, web videos, videogames and social network profiles. Burger King’sformer mascot The King made appearances inreal life, on TV shows and in video games. Aflaccreated social media profiles for its mascotAflac Duck, to engage consumers year round.P&G’s Old Spice created 185 video responsesto tap into the popularity of its Old Spice Man,which is not only one of the most memorablemarketing campaigns in recent times, but also anentertainment franchise in the making.Most brands have created such storyworldsas part of alternate reality games, as theylend themselves to short-term, high-intensitycampaigns. Brands have created alternate realitygames to showcase the brand purpose, engageconsumers and build excitement around events.Coca-Cola built on its brand promise ofhappiness by creating a series of ads set in thefictional world of the Happiness Factory. Coca-Cola has also created a Happiness Factory Bibleto outline the storyworld, character back-stories,and potential transmedia projects. Axe createdthe Axe Anarchy Graphic Novel (video) basedon storylines and characters suggested by fans.Wrigley’s 5 created the Human PreservationProject (video) to showcase the importanceof protecting and stimulating our senses.McDonald’s created The Lost Ring ARG toengage consumers around the 2008 BeijingOlympics and drive them to its outlets to searchfor clues. Audi created the Art of the Heist ARGto launch the Audi A3 in the US and showcase itssophisticated technological innovations.Several technology brands have created brandedtransmedia storytelling programs to launchnew products, highlight product features, andshowcase the potential of technology to changeour world. Intel & Toshiba created The BeautyInside (video), an interactive film where anyonecould play the role of the lead character. Nokiacreated an interactive story called SomeoneElse’s Phone to show how a lost phone mightreveal all our secrets to a stranger. Nokia alsopartnered with Tim Kring to create the Conspiracyfor Good (video) to support social organizationsand showcase its Ovi platform. Microsoft created
  6. 6. The Vanishing Point ARG (video) to launchVista. Google created the Niantic Project ARGto showcase its augmented reality app Ingress(video). Orange has created a series of ARGs —Alt Minds (video), Detective Avenue (video) andFanfan 2 (video) — to showcase the transmediastorytelling technologies created by the OrangeTransmedia Lab. Cisco created The Hunt ARGto engage its sales force and inform them aboutupcoming Cisco technologies.Some brands simply partner with existing mediaproperties to create co-branded transmediastorytelling programs. For instance, Fordsponsored the Legends of Alcatraz ARG, basedon the TV series Alcatraz. AT&T partnered withTim Kring to create the Daybreak ARG (video),based on the TV series Touch, to showcase thepower of technology to transform our lives.Microsoft created a Bing-powered treasure huntcalled Decode Jay-Z to launch Jay-Z’s bookDecoded, by releasing each page of the book ina new physical location, one page at a time, andusing Bing search and maps to guide fans tothem. Coke Zero created an obstacle course andchallenged people to Unlock the 007 in them, aspart of its brand promotions around the JamesBond movie Skyfall.Transmedia Storytelling casestudiesThroughout the year, we have tracked theconversations around a number of transmediastorytelling initiatives and branded programsin our weekly insights reports and quarterlymagazines; here are a few highlights.Transmedia Storytelling: NASA @MarsCuriosityRead the full case study on our blog or onSlideshareClick to watch: Conspiracy for GoodSource: 2008, NASA created a Twitter account for itslatest Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity,to share the story of the robot and the sciencebehind its mission to Mars. A three-person socialmedia team manages the story, tweeting infirst person from the point of view of Curiosity,and using simple English – or, as Mashableputs it, "the voice of the internet." The accountchronicles Curiosity’s production and testingstages; interactions with students, journalistsand science fans; journey from the NASAheadquarters to Mars; and current explorationson Mars. For a more serious tone, people couldfollow NASA on Twitter.Science writer Annalee Newitz calls this type ofstorytelling "a new kind of hard science fiction":“Curiosity’s Twitter account is a lot more than justa hook to get people interested in science, though.It’s successful because McGregor, Smith, andO’Connor have created a character with a verydistinctive voice. Their task was akin to writinga science fiction story from the perspective of arobot on Mars.”Some milestones from Curiosity include:“This week, I’ve been testing my newly attachedarm & practicing hand-eye coordination. Newvideo at” (September 2010)“I HAVE LIFTOFF!” (November 2011)“I’m safely on the surface of Mars. GALE CRATERI AM IN YOU!!! #MSL” (August 2012)NASA also used a variety of participatoryprograms and multimedia content to engagedifferent audiences and generate excitementaround the Mars mission. NASA tied up withDisney’s Wall-E and engaged US students in acontest to Name NASA’s next Mars Rover. NASAalso engaged with global space lovers with aprogram that invited people to ‘send their nameto Mars.’ To create excitement around the Mars
  7. 7. 7landing, NASA released the videos 7 minutesof Terror, in which scientists explained thechallenges of landing a 1-ton robot on Mars, andGrand Entrance, in which Star Trek actors WilliamShatner and Wil Wheaton described the landing.The mix of transmedia storytelling andengagement programs contributed to the buzzaround the landing and helped Curiosity attract1.2 million followers on Twitter.As the editorial team of the National University ofSingapore’s business blog noted“By playing up the wow-factor, explaining thescience of the mission in simple but engagingways, along with a hefty dose of infectiousenthusiasm for its own efforts, NASA has brokendown the stereotype of egg-head space geeksunable to communicate with the rest of theworld. By challenging perceptions, giving newperspectives, brands can strengthen connectionswith their community.”Branded Transmedia Storytelling:Toshiba & Intel’s The BeautyInsideRead the full case study on our blog or onSlideshareIn 2012, Intel and Toshiba created an innovativeimmersive storytelling experience with TheBeauty Inside – a six episode web series in whichthe audience plays the lead role of shape shifterAlex. 26 people participated in the scripted webseries alongside Hollywood stars, and 50 peopleshared their own stories on The Beauty InsideFacebook page via photos and videos.The combination of celebrities, audienceparticipation and a powerful story engagedaudiences and led to the viral success of the webseries, which received 5.2 million views on YouTube.Source: Denise Fernandez pointed out:“The entire social film experience gives viewersa sense of intimacy and belonging, somethingcinemas and television have never accomplishedyet.”Writer Ella Riley-Adams wrote“This project seems like a solid combination ofvital entertainment factors. “The Beauty Inside”features one familiar young celeb, one up-and-comer (Topher Grace and Mary ElizabethWinstead, respectively), and will be directed byDrake Doremus, a man with Sundance clout.Viewers can easily get involved and have input inthe plotline when they audition, and they’ll thenspread the news to their friends and followers. Thismay be an elaborate creation for some simpleproduct placement, but a branded movie withboth star power and shareability seems likely tosucceed.”The Beauty Inside also helped promote thebenefits of Toshiba’s new ultrabook and engagepeople around the product. As Ashraf Engineer,member of the MSLGROUP Insights Network,commented“To me, this was a great way to get your targetusers involved in the message you want to sendout and to display the versatility and utility of yourproduct.”The Beauty Inside is the second social film fromIntel and Toshiba, after launching the socialthriller The Inside Experience in July 2011. Theoverwhelming positive reactions to both implythat people are ready for more integrated,immersive storytelling experiences.Branded Transmedia Storytelling:Coke Zero: Unlock the 007 in YouRead the full case study on our blog onSlideshareSource:
  8. 8. As part of its promotions for the newest JamesBond movie Skyfall, Coke Zero challengedunsuspecting passengers at a train station inBelgium to unlock the 007 in them and completea mission in 70 seconds. The mission began at aCoke vending machine and directed participantsto race to Platform 6 to win free tickets tothe premiere of Skyfall. Participants evadedobstacles such as an old lady with dogs, a spilledcart of oranges and an attractive ex-girlfriend.70 people attempted the mission and a videoshowing the successful attempts was published aweek before the UK launch of Skyfall. The videoimmediately went viral, with 5.3 million viewsand 44,692 likes in just 7 days and widespreadpositive coverage on blogs and social media.Marketer Christien Smeja applauded the programfor its insight:“Great campaign from #coke & #jamesbond,tapping into every man’s secret desire to become asecret agent!”Blogger Joseph Pedro highlighted thechallenge brands face as the online space growsincreasingly cluttered, and applauded CokeZero’s success on breaking through the clutter:“OK, we’ve all watched in amusement for thepast couple of years as companies worked hardto figure out how to reach consumers througheverything from flash mobs to webisodes. Weadmit we became quite jaded toward the wholething after a while. So, when we saw that CokeZero and the new James Bond flick Skyfall werein viral-video bed together we loaded it up withhesitation. Thankfully, it is kind of awesome.”Govind, member of the MSLGROUP InsightsNetwork, attributed Coke Zero’s success to itslong term commitment to storytelling:“Coke keeps coming with these interestingengagement ideas all the time. This is a matter ofbeing committed to this strategy of storytelling.Can’t happen just by chance.”Click to watch: Unlock the 007 in you. You have 70 seconds!Future of TransmediaStorytelling?In the future, we expect all types of storytellers tocreate interactive multimedia content using toolslike Thinglink (video), Stipple (video), Flixmaster,Mozilla Popcorn Maker (video), 3WDOC (video)and Klynt (video). We also expect transmediastorytellers to orchestrate transmedia projects— manage content and mailing lists, publishcontent according to a schedule or in responseto audience actions, make calls and send emailsor text messages — using tools like Conducttr(video), IFTTT and Zapier (video).We expect transmedia storytelling projects,especially alternate reality games andaugmented reality experiences, to createcustomized experiences around locations, usingtools like SCVNGR (video), Moveable and ArisGames.We expect that TV shows will use tools likeGalahad (video) and Rides (video) to create trulyinteractive multi-screen experiences throughreal-time transmedia storytelling. Transmediagame designer Andrea Phillips believes thattelevision is the most exciting area for transmediaright now:“You already have a schedule, you know whenyour episodes will be airing and you have yourpacing. It’s a fantastic spine around which to builda more intensive interactive experience… If I letyou forget about my show for seven days until I airagain, that gives you seven days to find somethingelse to care about more.”We see more studios adopt the ParticipantMedia model and create engagement, evenmovements, around their movies usingproprietary platforms like TakePart. Wealso expect more independent authors anddocumentary filmmakers to try to catalyze socialmovements around their books and movies.We expect that ARGs will become an even moreimportant part of the launch campaigns for newmovies, TV shows and video games. We anticipatethat many of these ARGs will be co-branded withtechnology brands to showcase new possibilitiesin technology, or with consumer brands to launchnew products or create immersive experiencesaround the brand purpose.Finally, we expect more brands to sponsor orcreate their own interactive storyworlds, eitheras short-term campaigns or as long-termdestinations.
  9. 9. 9Learn more about us |’s Lab is MSLGROUP’s proprietarycrowdsourcing platform and approach thathelps organizations tap into people’s insights forinnovation, storytelling and change.The People’s Lab crowdsourcing platformhelps organizations build and nurture publicor private, web or mobile, hosted or whitelabel communities around four pre-configuredapplication areas: Expertise Request Network,Innovation Challenge Network, Research &Insights Network and Contest & ActivationNetwork. Our community and gaming featuresencourage people to share rich content, vote/comment on other people’s content andcollaborate to find innovative solutions.The People’s Lab crowdsourcing platformand approach forms the core of our distinctiveinsights and foresight approach, which consistsof four elements: organic conversation analysis,MSLGROUP’s own insight communities, client-specific insights communities, and ethnographicdeep dives into these communities. The People’sInsights Quarterly Magazines showcase ourcapability in crowdsourcing and analyzinginsights from conversations and communities.People’s Lab:CrowdsourcingInnovation & Insights
  10. 10. Write to us to start a conversation on the future of engagement.:Pascal Beucler,SVP & Chief Strategy Officer( Dixon,North America Head of Insights( Payling,Europe Head of Insights( Mishra,Asia Head of Insights( | is Publicis Groupes strategiccommunications and engagement group,advisors in all aspects of communicationstrategy: from consumer PR to financialcommunications, from public affairs toreputation management and from crisiscommunications to event management.With more than 3,700 people, its offices span22 countries. Adding affiliates and partnersinto the equation, MSLGROUPs reachincreases to 4,000 employees in 83 countries.Today the largest PR and Engagementnetwork in Europe, Greater China and India, thegroup offers strategic planning and counsel,insight-guided thinking and big, compellingideas – followed by thorough execution.