"But how can one profit from transmedia?", or something along those lines, is the kind of question you’re more than likely to get when discussing transmedia with your friends, peers or clients. But what they actually mean is the following: can transmedia be a viable advertising tool to promote products/services?
Human Preservation Project
It’s a transmedia project, an Alternate Reality Game (ARG), which began in May, 2011, with print and Facebook ads, referring to the Human Preservation Project. In June, related materials were given to participants at the E3 Expo, a well-known trade show for computers and computer games. Finally, a number of paper “ice flies” with glowing LED lights (related to the game) were dropped over the crowd at the Bonnaroo music festival. Moreover, it was possible to have a customized ID badge (together with other game-related material) shipped to your home address. Anyway, the audience was led to believe that they’re participating in a beautifully-tailored ARG, in which they had to look for various clues in a series of comic strips, short videos and a computer game, in order to piece the story together. And indeed it was a well-executed ARG, but the audience was not aware of the fact (except for some minor speculations) that the game’s purpose was to advertise Wrigley’s product, 5 Gum. Surprisingly (or not?), the audience was still enthusiastic about the game even after they had discovered its hidden agenda.
You can read a lot more about the Human Preservation Project, Survival Code, Mission Icefly and other components of the campaign here.
Success! Wrigley’s claim that 5 Gum is one of their most successful products ever released. Furthermore, they admit that it would not have been possible without the well-crafted campaign. Of course, we can’t take every single thing they say for granted, but after browsing through a number of message boards we have discovered that thousands of people actually bought the gum because they liked the game. Therefore, we would like to believe that Wrigley’s claims are at least partially legitimate.
So how can one profit from transmedia?
There’s no simple answer, but the case above demonstrates that transmedia storytelling can be a powerful promotional tool even for products like chewing gum etc. In the case of 5 Gum, the campaign was appropriate for the audience (young and digital-savvy), which also suggests that product advertising should, in the near future, move towards something more suitable for audiences of the digital age. After all, digital natives are getting tired of the old single-medium ways. They are more than willing to use a range of different media, to immerse in and interact with a good story, and to work collaboratively in order to influence the narrative. And that’s where transmedia can come in handy.