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Detective Avenue and the French Transmedia Revolution

Detective Avenue and the French Transmedia Revolution

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

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A couple months ago, someone started to post some pretty weird videos on the Facebook page of Suzelle Berthier. In one video, she was kissing someone, in another she was shoplifting, in yet another one, she was sleeping in her bedroom. Who was filming her? No one seemed to know.

Suzelle’s friends started to react, thinking it was all pretty scary. And Suzelle herself asked for help. Estranged from her sister, Gaelle, Suzelle asked her friends to call Gaelle on her behalf. And they did. In fact, people made hundreds of calls. Unfortunately, it didn’t help Suzelle. She was found dead in her apartment.

Intrigued? So were 16,000 registered players of Detective Avenue, a transmedia film and game series that recently ran in France. Produced by Murmures Productions, Detective Avenue was financially supported by Orange and was the winner of the telco’s first Creation Workshop (Les Ateliers de la Création) in 2010.

Transmedia: Orange Supporting the Pioneers
“Transmedia perfectly illustrates what a network operator like Orange can bring both to the world of creation, and to the world of content consumers,” said Jean-François Rodriguez, Vice President of Games and Social Media at Orange, upon launching Detective Avenue this spring. “To encourage their emergence and support these new forms of narration, we are calling on all our channels, creation and broadcasting tools, and actively engaged in the development of a large number of projects. But this would not be possible without the creativity of a new generation of producers such as Murmures Productions, who we have been working closely with on the Detective Avenue project.”

For Laurent Guérin, Transmedia producer at Murmures Productions: “Detective Avenue is an innovative program which harnesses the effective fit between different media, screens and the use of social networks to maximum effect. For a content producer, transmedia opens up incredibly rich resources and additional depth in terms of how a story is told, in keeping with viewers’ practices and expectations. Working with Orange has made it possible for this story to exist on all the services that an operator offers its customers”.

At MSLGROUP’s Critical Conversations blog, we are following the transmedia trend quite closely. In fact, in our 2011 Social Predictions report, we predicted that transmedia–storytelling across diverse platforms enabling audience participation–would build momentum this year and that brands would start to see the opportunities for conversation and brand-building.

Detective Avenue, which ran for five weeks this past spring and enabled people to collaborate, share clues and solve the murder mystery, cost 710,000 euros, spread equally between the production of two hours of video (58 episodes) and all the new-media aspects: creation and hosting of www.detective-avenue.fr, an iphone app, and salaries related to the creation and maintenance of the social media platforms, content etc. Orange was the largest contributor (390, 000 euros); France’s National Center of Cinematography provided 200,000 euros and Murmures Productions funded the remaining 120,000 euros.

Wooing Brands
I have personally been following the Detective Avenue story, having met Laurent at a transmedia barcamp, an informal, participatory conference, in Marseille a couple months ago. I also caught up with him at a recent event hosted by TechMap Paris (which launched earlier this year during Social Media Week) and Lunch Club after Dark, two networking groups here. “We wanted to show and prove that a model like this is possible, from an entertainment perspective,” Laurent told a crowd of Parisian marketers.

And from a business model perspective? The results are mixed. Orange clearly saw the benefit of supporting an innovative project that was enabled by mobile phones and an Internet connection. But Laurent and his team did not have any luck securing advertisers for Detective Avenue.

“This kind of program needs massive exposure but the experimental nature of it made it a tough sell,” Laurent told me. “Prospective sponsors kept saying, ‘Show me the figures’ but this hadn’t been done before. It’s the price of being a pioneer. And it’s also a question of [a] brand willing to take a risk.”

Indeed, the metrics for Detective Avenue—seen just in French and in France—are a strong indication for the appetite for multimedia storytelling, gaming and creative collaboration. If the project had been in English, it likely would have taken off internationally given Orange’s support and the high level of engagement, Laurent said.

Even if you don’t speak French, I think you will agree that this trailer draws you in.  Suzelle has just died. Gaelle, her distraught sister, is about to start her murder investigation.

Website Metrics/Five Weeks

  • 16,000 registered players ; 75% were 15-30 years old ; 60% were women
  • 5 million+ pages viewed
  • 25 pages / visit
  • 12 minutes–average time on site
  • 10,000 paid actions
  • 500,ooo+impressions
  • 200,000+ visits

Facebook Metrics/Five Weeks

  • Almost 4,000 likes
  • 800,000 post views
  • 25,000 post feedback
  • 150,000 pages viewed
  • 226 discussions created by the users

The Making Of
Detective Avenue was as creative as it was ambitious, running on multiple platforms every day for five weeks: www.detective-avenue.fr, Facebook, Daily Motion, YouTube, Twitter, email and webcams.

For those interested in the particulars, here is what Laurent’s team produced :

  • 120 videos for the website, Daily Motion and YouTube, including 58 video episodes recounting the story of Gaelle’s murder investigation and dozens of other videos including suspect profiles, their “secrets of the past” and trailers.
  • Facebook daily newsfeed and forum for exchanging clues, theories, solutions
  • Daily questions and 100 clues
  • Points, badges, rankings and gifts for the 16,000 registered players
  • Text messages and  voicemails through a “click to call” program; players could receive answers to daily questions or listen in on conversations between characters by sending an SMS
  • Twitter newsfeed and forum
  • iPHone app with exclusive content:  suspects’ secrets from the past
  • TV viewing via Orange cable

The Future of Storytelling

What’s in the cards for Laurent? He is committed to transmedia and hopes that brands will commit, too.

“Marketing today is all about audience engagement, and I can’t think of a better strategy for delivering on that,” Laurent said. While traditional advertising is great for awareness, nothing beats the interactive, participative, and addictive story that transmedia provides. With all the opportunities, both brands, producers, storytellers, telcos–you name it–most everyone can partner and benefit.”

Sally O’Dowd is engagement editor at Paris-based MSLGROUP, the speciality communications, PR and engagement network of Publicis Groupe.  She curates content for the MSLGROUP Critical Conversations blog and worked on MSLGROUP’s social media predictions report, which can be found here. She can be reached at sally (dot) odowd (at) mslgroup.com. Follow her on Twitter @sallyodowd. Follow MSLGROUP @msl_group.

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