Prashant Saxena
Apr 18, 2012

OPINION: The times of transmedia

Prashant Saxena, associate director of Agility Research & Strategy, draws a distinction between cross-media advertising and transmedia advertising—a more advanced technique that can help brands reach engagement-hungry consumers.

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Prashant Saxena

When Bob Dylan penned, "The Times They Are a-Changin," little did he know that the classic song would resonate just as much with the advertising world in 2012 as with the political upheaval of the 1960s. Advancements in media have caught many advertisers off guard by moving faster than their lethargic models of classical marketing. No wonder the books touting ‘Social media for dummies’ are selling faster than Philip Kotler’s marketing masterpiece. 

The changing times have brought about an era of 'transmedia' advertising. But it's not about running the same advertisement over different media platforms. It's about creating various new touch-points for your mobile consumers to interact with the brand at the various windows of opportunity available during the day.

The word ‘new’ signifies the change here, as it frees consumers from the constraints of witnessing the same content in e-print, video, news, or an app. Consumers are not asked to watch the same brand advertisement over various platforms but instead to interact with the elements of the brand’s story through suitable media types.

Formally and technically, transmedia advertising has been defined as "the technique of telling a single brand story or story experience across multiple platforms and formats using current digital technologies. It should not be confused with traditional cross-platform media franchises, sequels or adaptations" (Wikipedia). Therefore, the objective of a transmedia campaign is to seamlessly flow alongside the day-to-day lives of consumers.

Creating a transmedia campaign requires a deep understanding of your brand. The first step is understanding the utopia the brand delivers. For example, the branding team at Coke came up with the concept of a perfect world where happiness is just a Coke bottle away. Once this basic skeleton is formed, the brand utopia can be clinically broken down into multiple sub-stories, and every story should target a main population of consumers (say, video gamers or comic addicts) and the suitable platform (i.e. video game for high engagement vs. graphic web-comic for greater immersive experience) should be chosen accordingly.

Each story through a unique channel provides a different experience and is in narrative synchronization with the others. Other factors, such as resource availability, advertising budget, media regulations and timing of the campaign also contribute toward designing a transmedia campaign. 

Cross-media advertising disperses the same story and message to a consumer through different media throughout the day, leading the consumer to associate the brand with mind-numbing repetition.
Transmedia advertising reaches the consumer with different stories, which fit into a larger brand positioning, through different media throughout the day, leading to the conclusion that the brand delivers on its vision in many different ways.

You may ask: “But why run a transmedia campaign? Re-using the same story saves my advertising dollars, and reiterating the advertisement increases my brand recall.”

Well, that attitude conveniently forgets that the modern consumer isn’t a moron; she is that iPad-savvy girl who is sitting next to you on the bus. At 25, she has a little attention span and lots to achieve. No wonder she compulsively switches between media. She is a couch potato on the inside and loves to watch many different channels. She needs new content and she wants your brand to entertain her constantly. A transmedia campaign communicates your brand story in a different way in every channel she switches to.

Be it the couch potatoes or the radio junkies, the video gamers or the app addicts, Transmedia advertising appeals to the psyches of various consumers in different ways. The video ads may smartly handhold your consumers to understand the visual elements of your brand’s story while the video games can help them interact closely by co-creating product designs. Usage of the medium is truly the advertising message here.

The road ahead is certainly laid down by tablets, and transmedia is set to become the most tautological word after social media. And just like any other technological change, there will be marketing managers on either side: those who embrace it and others who would chase anyone who uses 'the word'. The smarter ones will, of course, think about the next important question, the ROI.

The answer lies in going back to Kotler’s marketing management 101, thinking about the ways to improve the models of integrated marketing communication and using the right analytics tools to measure the engagement on the media platform(s).

The mandate is here and it simply states that we need to use the intelligent mix of media channels to hook our engagement-hungry consumer. In these hunger games of media engagement and brand immersion, the content is increasingly becoming fluid and should adapt effectively to the right channels. Let’s not forget that today, media sits in our pockets as a smartphone. Soon it will be in our face (read: Google’s project Glass). The only rule that will remain will be that of constant evolution.

 

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