Old Spice, The Dark Knight and Other Transmedia Pioneers



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Having interviewed internet filmmaker Alexis Niki for a blog post about transmedia during Social Media Week in February, I was excited to hear a couple weeks ago that she was speaking again in Paris at an event hosted by two networking groups: TechMap Paris (which launched during SMW) and Lunch Club After Dark.

Alexis and transmedia producer Laurent Guérin (see related blog post here) discussed the relationship between brands and transmedia storytelling, one of the 2011 trends that my MSLGROUP colleagues discuss here.

To get us thinking, Alexis shared quotes from two transmedia pioneers:

“Transmedia storytelling is storytelling by a number of decentralized authors who share and create content for distribution across multiple forms of media.Transmedia immerses an audience in a story’s universe through a number of diverse entry points, providing a comprehensive and coordinated experience of a complex story.”
—Henry Jenkins, University of Southern California professor and author of Convergence Culture


“In order to understand how to implement transmedia successfully you need to know story.”
—Jeff Gomez, CEO of Starlight Runner Entertainment, who has worked on projects such as Avatar and Pirates of the Caribbean

For Alexis’ part, she says that humans have always enjoyed participating in stories, whether through religious rites and rituals or talking about The Office at the water cooler. Today, a diverse mix of digital technologies enables people to participate more fully in a story, creating momentum before a movie hits theaters or adding a new thread to an ad or PR campaign.

She notes that a transmedia project, whether originating with an ad, a book or a film, is more than just cross-platform storytelling. Transmedia takes the idea of working across platforms one step further, to include audience participation in the storytelling itself.

It is in that context that Alexis showed a couple examples of transmedia in action.

Old Spice

The Old Spice “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” advertising campaign started with great storytelling, the foundation of all creative advertising since time immemorial, and took on transmedia aspects as the story grew.

The campaign, featuring former NFL football player and actor Isaiah Mustafah, was built on a universal truth: women and men fantacize about each other. With a tongue-in-cheek approach, the series of ads enabled people to laugh at themselves and their fantasies, Alexis said. (For a related blog post about this ad campaign and our own transmedia-inspired antics at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, click here.)

Weiden & Kennedy, the creative agency leading the campaign, leveraged the power of social networks, asking Old Spice followers on Twitter and Facebook, as well as users on Reddit and Digg, to submit questions for the Old Spice man. Celebrities such as Alyssa Milano, Ashton Kutcher, Rose McGowan and Christine Applegate even got involved.

And here is where the participatory aspect of transmedia comes in, Alexis said. Milano began engaging with Mr. Old Spice via Twitter and then she herself started to create video responses, asking him (or rather P& G) to pledge $100,000 to the National Wildlife Federation’s Gulf Oil Spill Restoration Fund.

In this regard, Old Spice is a great example of how people can participate and even create new story threads using the diverse mix of technologies available to them.

The Dark Knight

Entertainment 42 won the Cannes Cyber Lion in 2009 for its Why So Serious ? alternate reality game (ARG) to promote The Dark Night. It contains all the elements of a good transmedia project—a compelling story (the movie itself), fan participation, games and clues, the use of digital technologies and even events, such as the one organized for fans at Comic Con, Alexis said.

When granting the Cannes award in 2009, Cannes Cyber Lions Jury President and Ogilvy Chief Digital Officer Lars Bastholm noted that the  “Why So Serious? campaign aggregated the elements of the Batman cultural phenomenon with an ARG, and added that the 18-months build-up prior to the film’s launch heralded a welcome trend in brands taking more time to create deeper relationships with consumers.”

This case study highlights the worldwide anticipation for The Dark Knight film:

“The web has given us great opportunities to tell stories in different ways, and to have it spill off into the lives of people, and create communities that can discuss it, discover it and figure it out…and give the audience a chance to participate in the story,” says Susan Bonds, CEO of 42 Entertainment. “The never-ending online story is just starting to be written, in that people are thinking about storytelling for the web in a different way.”

Below is a video with more from Susan Bonds:

Along with several MSLGROUP colleagues, I share a real passion for transmedia, and what it means for creative storytelling and the exchange of ideas. And you? Are your a storyteller or marketer getting into transmedia?

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) Follow her on Twitter @sallyodowd. Follow MSLGROUP @msl_group.

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