Andrea Phillips wrote a passionate and very good post some days ago on why transmedia is not marketing. I can’t but agree with the points she makes in her post, as I am not a marketing person by trade, nor a born seller (although I’m getting better at it). On the other hand, I do believe that I will look at a couple of the points Andrea makes from a slightly different angle. She wrote:
For one thing, [marketing transmedia projects] are a lot more likely to be able to pay the team a living wage, which means the creators can afford to spend more time and care instead of working on it in off hours and weekends. And more money means a higher production value; dollars spent translates pretty well into better-looking video, better-sounding audio, and sleeker, glossier websites. Audiences like that.
And even more important than improved production values, money lets you promote the story. This is crucial — you need to pull people into your project.
Now, in my book this is not a bad thing (and no, I don’t believe Andrea thinks it’s bad either, in itself). In fact, I feel it is a necessary thing, for any project, transmedia or not. Yes, I am a storyteller. Yes, I create transmedia projects. Yes, I want to get a living wage and pay the ones I work with a living wage as well. And yes, I want it to look as good as possible, give the best experience possible and attract as large an audience as possible.
To do this (unless you happen to film your kid getting his finger bitten by his brother and generate a gazillion views off of that), the project needs funding. To get funding, you need someone willing to pay for the project. To find those willing to pay for the project, you need to make it worthwhile for them. Therefore, as I’ve mentioned before, the crafting of a viable business plan that fits your transmedia narrative superstructure, but at the same time give sponsors and advertisers value for their money, is in many ways as great a challenge as creating the transmedia content itself. And these things are interconnected – your content, with your stories, your mythology, your theme, will point you in the right direction when it comes to finding possible sponsors and partners that will fit into your story and your storyworld without disturbing them and taking away from the experience of them. This in turn will give both you and your sponsors better value for the money.
The reason I started writing this post was an article from A Think Lab, written by Bonnie Buckner and Dr Pamela Rutledge about “The Power of Transmedia Storytelling – using the technique for effective marketing campaigns”. It has a number of good points that any transmedia producer, no matter how small-key or artsy, can take to heart and use to good advantage. No matter how small a producer you are, you still want a great number of people to take part of your content. Says A Think Lab re: the great possibilities a transmedia approach gives anyone who is in the marketing business:
A story invites rather than sells. […] Today’s consumer lives in a world where a genuine brand dialogue, not “marketing message,” is expected.
I feel we have an obligation, as early-wave transmedia producers and creators, to create not only great projects but financially viable projects that can be used when explaining the term transmedia to a business and media world that hasn’t really opened their eyes to the possibilities a transmedia approach provides yet. I would dearly like to point to a dozen great transmedia projects with a stable financial plan as a part of the project structure the next time I go pitch a new project to potential financiers 🙂