advertising, broadcasting, internet, planning, social networking

The Transmedia Tardis

the above video is from a MySpace page I came across with some clients whilst browsing some social networking sites last week.  it didn’t make much sense till Saturday, when during Doctor Who there was a reference to Mr Saxon’s election win.  the name rang a bell.  a few minutes digging this morning revealed the reason for the MySpace page, and also the suggestion of which character is due to make an appearance later this season.

it’s not only a great bit of marketing from the BBC – one that logged the existence of a character in my head long before any reference in the programme – but a piece of marketing that says much about the nature of the Doctor Who brand.  it follows on from a great bit of semiotic play from the first (contemporary) series in the form of Bad Wolf – references scattered across the series which pointed towards and larger more malevolent threat than any dealt with in individual episodes.

but above all this is a great bit of Transmedia storytelling.  TV does one job in broadcasting the crafted programme, the internet is doing another – inviting and encouraging the audience to explore the world behind the programme.  more than anything else this makes the world of Doctor Who seem bigger than it otherwise would on one media channel alone – something older as well as more contemporary audiences will have come to love and expect from the franchise…

advertising, planning

Mediation’s (Completly Unproven) Rank of Media Channel Carbon Badness

Green_normal …is how John Grant described how best to approach the communication of greenness at an event hosted this week by the account planning group.

the ascent of greenness on the public agenda has been swift and universal; Grant quoted Phil Gandy from research company Landor who described it as "One of the most complete and speedy revolutions in consumer attitudes ever seen" (click here for press release).

Grant was discussing what advertising account planners can bring to the table in combating climate change, with specific reference to how brands successfully communicate and capitalise on – genuine – green credentials.

he’s blogging about his upcoming book – The Green Marketing Manifesto – at greenormal, from where you can link to his presentation (alternatively click here).

Grant outlined five principles when communicating a brand’s greenness:

  1. green is a principle, not a proposition
  2. be certain that your business and the green marketing itself will live up to  the standards which you set for yourself
  3. it’s a complex moving target
  4. it’s barely started
  5. there’s not one green marketing strategy, there’s many

but there was one particular aspect of marking green credentials that wasn’t discussed, one that’s already caused more than one of my clients to reconsider their own marketing activities; that of the media with which you communicate your greenness.

it’s one thing to be able to say that you’re a carbon-neutral brand, but to what extent can you say the same for your media schedule?  I’m planning on getting round to some more thorough investigation into this, but here’s my hunch for the run down of how media channels perform – from best to worst…

RADIO you’d have thought is the best performing channel.  the only product is radio waves.  so carbon release is restricted to content production and broadcast, and the electricity required by radio receivers.  that said the channel’s expansion into TV and online distribution could see this change significantly…

ONLINE intuitively ranks well.  no paper; just the electricity to run the machine and the servers to hold the content.  but what a lot of servers there are… a quick search led me to Martin Stable’s blog where he discusses this topic; he quotes an article in Wired Magazine entitled The Information Factories;

" operations VP Dayne Sampson estimates that the five leading search companies together have some 2 million servers, each shedding 300 watts of heat annually, a total of 600 megawatts. These are linked to hard drives that dissipate perhaps another gigawatt. Fifty percent again as much power is required to cool this searing heat, for a total of 2.4 gigawatts. With a third of the incoming power already lost to the grid’s inefficiencies, and half of what’s left lost to power supplies, transformers, and converters, the total of electricity consumed by major search engines in 2006 approaches 5 gigawatts.

That’s an impressive quantity of electricity. Five gigawatts is almost enough to power the Las Vegas metropolitan area – with all its hotels, casinos, restaurants, and convention centers – on the hottest day of the year. So the annual operation of the world’s petascale search machines constitutes a Vegas-sized power sump. In the next year or so, it could add a dog-day Atlantic City. Air-conditioning will be the prime cost and conundrum of the petascale era. As energy analysts Peter Huber and Mark Mills projected in 1999, the planetary machine is on track to be consuming half of all the world’s output of electricity by the end of this decade."

Wired Magazine, October 2006

I’m ranking CINEMA next.  big screen so lots of power but usually lots of people so – applying the same logic as car-sharing – the ability of cinemas to people-share see’s them rank above…

…TV.  according to the Carbon Trust the average UK individual, in watching the average TV set, contributes 35kg of CO2 per year to the atmosphere.  nice to know but not sure how it compares to other media.  watch this space.

Paper_dumpI’m ranking PRESS next.  lots of recycling but still lots of paper used and not necessarily recycled.  I may be misjudging the medium as the electricity use is restricted to the point of creation, although this may be balanced by the carbon output of distributing millions upon millions of newspapers and magazines each year.  Images of London freesheets being dumped in bins (above) don’t help the medium’s case too much either.

which brings me to my – unproven – biggest schedule culprit; posters.  according to Postar there are 123,949 poster sites in the UK.  thats a lot of paper being printed on every two weeks.  82,054 of those posters are illuminated – so thats a shedload of electricity keeping them alight.  despite some panels using solar power to illuminate them, I still doubt the capacity of posters to defend themselves in the court of carbon emissions.

Scrolling_backlight So there it is.  my unproven ranking of media channels.  the upshot?  if you have a carefully and elegantly crafted green message, think twice before you book that press and scrolling backlight schedule!

Disclaimer: this could be completely wrong  …but I’m on the case re constructing a more thoroughly research ranking.  promise.

advertising, engaging

Advertising Isn’t to Blame for Commercial Radio’s Woes

Radio_mast_3 Fru Hazlitt, the new MD of GCap last week gave a keynote speech at the Media 360 event to assert that bad ads were causing listeners to abandon commercial radio.

whilst Hazlitt stopped short of threatening to pull ‘poor’ ads from schedules, plans were announced to set up a listener poll to rate the quality of ads.

there’s a big assumption here – that bad ads = disgruntled listeners = defection = strong BBC.  and thats a big assumption to make.

whilst it’s true that commercial radio is suffering against a consistently strong BBC, and that the lack of ads on the latter certainly plays a part in it’s success; what this assertion ignores are other potentially strong factors that have combined to produce a strong BBC…

no channel is feeling the effects of a changing media landscape more than radio.  the combination of the i-pod generation carrying their music libraries wherever they go along with the wide and often free access to music offered by the internet has left some stations struggling to maintain their relevance.

it was this aspect that the speech last week ignored.  in a world where music is available on demand, three things become key to a radio station staying relevant

  • unique content (stuff that you can’t listen to or get from elsewhere else eg talk radio)
  • newness (eg tracks or bands you may not have heard before)
  • great packaging (eg respected DJs, innovative formats)

it is across these aspects that the BBC has arguably out-performed commercial radio.  from the strength and breadth of non-music offerings (Five Live being a case in point), to innovative and less-mainstream stations (of which 6 music is arguably the strongest), the BBC is doing more than capitalizing on listeners frustrations with advertising.  commercial radio on the other hand – in the main – continues to peddle mainstream music music without the necessary investment in either innovative formats or value-adding presenters.

there are exceptions, GCap’s Xfm continues to outperform rivals with a combination of credible new music and innovative formats (see X-posure for evidence), recently winning the last FM analogue license in South Wales.  but this week will see GCap ‘overhaul’ the brand, with changes expected in DJ line-up and music formats.  perhaps it will also introduce viewer ad-polling as part of the review.

advertising may be part of commercial radio’s woes, but it’s far from the only one.  and there’s a lot radio station owners could do to help their cause before alienating and then potentially culling their biggest source of income.

internet, social networking, user-generating

Welcome To The Post-Information Age

where content is free to create, distribute and consume
where everyone is a journalist
where everyone is watched
where everything is recordable and recorded
where everyone can contact anyone
where social networks rival commercial broadcasters
where value is in knowledge not just reach
where everyone can be seen and heard
where authourity records and reassures citizens
where citizens question the assertions of authourity
where opinions are facts and facts are opinions

as the saying goes; ‘beyond good and evil…’
just one word of caution…  be careful what you say.

internet, user-generating

The Content Creation vs Consuption Ratio

a study today by Hitwise – sent to me by Steve, a guy I work with who blogs at Open House – has identified the degree to which people consume rather than create user-generated content in a Web 2.0 world.  analysis of online surfing data by Bill Tancer showed that only 0.16% of visits to YouTube were by users seeking to upload rather then consume content.  similarly only 0.20% of visits to Flickr are to upload pics.

this shouldn’t come as a surprise.  the history of media (and indeed the history of our culture and society) is one of content being created by the few and consumed by the masses.  we can speculate to what extent all early homo sapiens were intuitive cave painters, but early on it was established that a few created cultural and social content for the mass.  from Michaelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling to Josh Schwartz’s OC (the last episode of which was tragically broadcast in the UK last week – it had so much more to give!), the few have always created for consumption by the mass.  the figures today simply reflect that universal constant.

this cap on creation was historically down, I suppose, to two factors: firstly ability – not everyone is a Gaudí or Tolkien.  but secondly it was determined by an individuals capacity to create and the resources available to them.   Classical artists were commissioned and funded by the Christian Church, Schwartz was commissioned and funded by Warner Bros.  creation comes at a cost (be it resources or time), and not everyone can afford.

the latter of these influences has been eradicated by a combination of the fall in the cost of production and production tools, and the ability for the first time – courtesy of Web 2.0, for an amateur to distribute that content  on a mass scale.  today’s figures can’t and shouldn’t undermine that…  Web 2.0 allows anyone to create and distribute movies, pictures, art and opinions.  the effect on our culture and society is already being felt and will only increase.

but crucially the former cap still applies.  despite what most of us would like to hope, not many of us has the potential to create content which will be as universally lauded (or as profitable) as a Donatello or a Shakespeare…  a fact of life for which I suspect commercial media distribution networks are more than a little thankful.

the original Hitwise article can be read here.

advertising, engaging, planning

TV and Online – Forever Frenemies

in a post on The Black Box Fallacy, in which I referenced Transmedia storytelling, I concluded by noting that;

‘whats going to be fun is to see to what extent commercial advertisers
use transmedia storytelling.  at the moment a campaign idea tends to be
executed across different channels.  there’s little consideration given
to how what is produced can be contextualised from the off.  and
there’s massive opportunity for the advertisers – and indeed the
agencies – that learn how to do this best first’

I recalled this whilst watching two recent examples of advertising campaigns.  both of which are pieces of communication with two very different expressions in TV and Online channels.  in both cases TV merely provides the precursor, the call to action being to go online…


the first is for Army Jobs, where a series of video clips show different aspects of Army life.  in each example the execution is cut short – the ending… is to be found online.

here you not only get to view all the video’s in a dedicated player, but can also – by addressing a series of questions in the Pathfinder – identify which aspects of Army life would be most appropriate for you.

it’s all very slick and involving, making the visit from the TV execution more than worth the effort, whether you’re interested in a life in the Army or just curious to see how the stories end.

the second example is beyond surreal…

yup.  it’s the R&D team who developed the Peanut Chunky inviting you to punish them if you don’t like what they’ve come up with.  whether you did or didn’t like it is irrelevant, as when you get to the website you’re given the option to punish them or…  punish them…


another very slick online experience not only shows you what happens when the staff are inflicted to a cactus bath or lobster down the pants.  but in an added trick some of the juiciest content is locked.  you unlock it by sending video clips to friends…


the most interesting thing about both of these campaigns is that the online content could have quite happily existed without the presence of a TV ad.  but TV brought efficient mass reach – as well as a wealth of credibility – to the invite to engage with both of these brands.

both channels benefit hugely from the other.  at it’s most basic, if either brand schedule had prioritised one channel over the other (or sacrificed a large chunk of the budget in one channel to do a broadcast job in the other!) it wouldn’t have worked.  but more importantly it shows integration within or across creative agencies that will be not just beneficial but crucial in the future implementation of digital (across all channels) media schedules.

is it Transmedia storytelling?  no… that would require different and dedicated content across different and dedicated channels bringing a concept to life in very different and relevant ways.  but its two big and very slick steps in the right direction.