CTIA Case Studies: Transmedia Storytelling through Advanced Mobile Content

by April Arrglington on October 17th, 2011

Last week Christine Weibrecht and I drove to San Diego to attend the CTIA panels presented by Transmedia Los Angeles and the PGA New Media Counsel. Below is a recap of the case studies presented. I’m posting on John Heinsen’s presentation separately, so stay tuned for my next post.
1. JC Christofilis, founder of Dilemma LA, presents Chopper:
Chopper is an intellectual property originally conceived as a comic that JC acquired during Comic-Con back in 2010 about a headless motorbike reaper who collects the souls of sinners in the afterlife. The comic was finally released just earlier this month by Asylum Press and Night Owl Productions and the web series is set to launch October 21st, just in time for Halloween.

Other Transmedia components associated with Chopper include a mobile game app, a music deal with several heavy metal bands to be featured in the series including Unearth, Straight Line Stitch and Machine Head, a multiplatform sponsorship deal with Rockstar Energy Drink, and a partnership with Sullen Clothing for all Chopper related merchandise. The experience will also include live events spreading across a variety of social media channels, including easter egg viral videos.

JC originally thought of launching the project across multiple platforms not only as a proof of concept to make the film, but also as way of reverse engineering a franchise. By strategizing a cost effective production and adding multiple points of entry, the property not only becomes popular but also less risky. JC explains that this calculated risk makes all of the difference when looking into financing a project.

The financing strategy of Chopper is a great example of how Transmedia can encourage an open door policy to a variety of revenue streams because of its multi-platform nature. Chopper's financial strategy includes advertising for some platforms and a subscription model for other platforms, in addition to product placement and brand sponsorship.

Moreover, JC is incorporating a space for crowd sourcing and user generated content as extensions of the IP. JC explained, to be more specific to the panel, that the Mobile campaign for Chopper will enable fans to share response videos as witness or victims of the Reaper. This sort of dynamic adds a very important interactive layer always coveted in a Transmedia experience. Plus allows for the audience to feel ownership of the IP and commit to follow the project regardless of the platform.

JC is zealous about keeping the fans passionate, not only through engaging with great content but through a WOW factor often achieved through innovation. That is why JC encourages entertainers to take on Research & Development just as the technology industry does. This mind set of fear of innovation and technology needs to change towards a new attitude that JC calls the new ROI, Return on Innovation.

2. Zach Jordan, from Joe Digital, presents CarpeKilimanjaro:
Carpe Kilimanjaro sets the stage for a very different Transmedia project, more connected to the purpose some Transmedia folks in the field call ‘Transmedia for Good’ or ‘Transmedia Activism’, in which content creators looks into a specific cause and a way to reach out to audiences across multiple platforms to support non-profits looking for solutions.

For Carpe Kilimanjaro the cause is Alzheimer and the driving platform is the documentary about the drawing parallel of Zach climbing the Kilimanjaro with his father-in-law while Zach’s own father struggles back home, who is diagnosed with Alzheimer.

The Transmedia strategy for the project also includes an interactive website in which a global audience is able to share content, pictures and videos in an interactive map as well as across multiple social media channels.

In addition a mobile app is in the works, which will unlock further content, engage with characters, and promote Alzheimer resources, awareness, and support for medical research. Furthermore the overall outreach participatory experience will educate about clinical trials, locate, and connect people affected by this disease, and empower them to share their own stories.

The project is in post -production, with currently over a 100 hours of footage. The financial strategy includes reaching out to sponsors and a Kickstarter campaign to be launched soon to finilize the project.

3. Albert Cheng, the Ex. VP of Digital over at ABC, presents Oscar.com: The Interactive Experience
This case study is interesting because Oscar.com revamped their website to launch an interactive, multiplatform experience for the 83rd Academy Awards that essentially re-launched the franchise. The experience expanded from the time the nominations were announced until after the Oscar parties. It was available as an interactive site online that could be accessed through a variety of Apple products including ipads, ipods, and iphones. There was daily content provided to the experience, and on the day of the live event it provided the audience with impressive interactive capabilities that were also synchronized to integrate 3 different live shows as well.

The ambitious project headed by Cheng was a remarkable success story, especially when looking at all the road blocks standing in the way from its inception. The first problem to overcome was to convince the Academy’s Board of Directors to give the thumbs up to the highly technological experience that included the complicated logistics of live and 360 cameras, technical support for the live streams, and a live operations management. Cheng’s team not only had to prove this new technology’s capability, but also the ability to build the experience in less than 4 months.

Pitching an event such as this to such technologically conservative group as the Academy’s Board of Directors provided to be an impossible feat that could only be overcome by having an insider championing the project. Many Transmedia folks know exactly how this feels, so just be reassured that such problems happen even at the top levels of the food chain. Thankfully, Cheng’s team had John Lasseter to vouch for them and their innovative plan of action. If anything, the biggest success coming out of the whole experience was to change the mindset of people in power, and lay the ground floor for better technological relationships in the entertainment sector. As a result, Cheng confirmed that a contract was established to manage and improve the experience until 2020.

At the core, the experience’ success consisted of:

  • Treating the content as a 3 arc story that would include the nominations, the red carpet, the live event, and the parties.
  • Making smart partnerships (a Disney and Apple synergy is already in existence). However due to lack of time the only other notorious partnership forged was with AEG for all the special camera equipment. Most everything else was built internally by a team of 10 that included coders, programmers, and app developers.
  • For the actual live event there was a huge collaboration and coordination effort for the integration of the 3 live shows running at the same time across multiple platforms (tv, ipad, iphone, etc).

In terms of improving the experience Cheng learned that:

  • You can’t force or contrived storytelling on the fly. Interactivity depends on the audience interest of certain sub-genres within the event. The 360 cams weren’t all that easy to use, and certain booths (like Makeup and Hair) didn’t work.
  • There is room for improvement in terms of metrics for better demo capturing throughout all platforms. They got numbers in terms of video streams, site activity, and new member registration. But not enough metrics were captured for the live streams. Also, the site was only available to US residents… so they are looking into been able to support a global site.
  • Digital sales and marketing strategies where coordinated through partnerships, and there is room for improvement to provide better synergy. It's worth looking into re-vamping ad-ons for all video streams, product placement strategies, and aggregating live info for a better buzz generating component through better integrated social media.

In terms of efforts in which the experience falls short when asked by the panel audience, Cheng confirmed two valid points in which his team is hesitant to look into as of yet:

  • Innovative technologies not yet popular, like Augmented Reality applications. Maybe in the future.
  • User generated content, because it is very hard to find a way to re-direct it and control it. Maybe there can be room for it via launching a separate mobile app.

I personally disagree with these two statements, because they contradict what JC and Zach said just minutes prior to Cheng’s presentation. What about Return on Innovation, and the whole point of Transmedia connecting with fans by enabling immersive experiences and direct interaction with the property? This just goes to show that when dealing with independent properties content creators have more freedom and liberties to explore these notions than when dealing with bigger corporations calling the shots.

Posted in Mobile    Tagged with CTIA, case study, Mobile, PGA New Media Counsel, John Heinsen, JC Christofilis, DilemmaLA, Chopper, Comic Con, Asylum Press, Night Owl Productions, Unearth, Straight Line Stitch, Machine Head, Rockstar Energy Drink, Sullen Clothing, Return on Innovation, Carpe Kilimanjaro, Alzheimer, Kickstarter, Albert Cheng, oscar.com, John Lasseter, Apple, AEG, Augmented Reality, user generated content


Albert Cheng - October 19th, 2011 at 7:42 AM
Nice recap April. On your last point, it's not that we aren't interested in those technologies or will not look at them - it's that the current Oscar model needs to be refined and improved. If we introduce more things before we get what we have right, we run the risk of spreading ourselves too thin and we get a subpar product. There are so many cool technologies that we could deploy, but to make a really great experience we need to focus on a few that we can deliver at the highest quality.
April Arrglington - October 19th, 2011 at 11:21 PM
I totally see your point Albert. Glad that you guys are open to it and just fine-tuning before going there. Often the probem is not even considering those options. So your comment re-assures me you guys are going in the right direction with that. Thanks again for reading!

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