In Ridley Scott's 'Prometheus,' the Advertising Is Part of the Picture

Not Just a Trailer, 'Transmedia' Video Is Being Used to Extend the Movie Itself

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The internet is abuzz over director Ridley Scott's forthcoming film "Prometheus." A trailer that debuted at the pop culture event Wondercon in Anaheim, Calif. racked up around 3 million views in less than two days.

In concert with the movie's traditional marketing effort, which includes the trailer, Scott and 20th Century Fox have pursued a second, more innovative path to publicity. It began unexpectedly at this year's TED conference, with a presentation by entrepreneur Peter Weyland, who powerfully articulated the challenges facing a society beginning to question its own nature in the face of rapidly advancing technology. Weyland's talk was one of the highlights of the conference of presentations by thought leaders. The twist, of course, is that Weyland isn't real. He's a character from "Prometheus," played by Guy Pearce, and he was speaking from the year 2023!

The TED2023 promo video cooked up by Scott and writer Damon Lindelof ("Lost," "Star Trek") was released on the TED blog and quickly became the subject of online articles and social-media discussions. It is a great example of a technique sweeping the entertainment industry: transmedia storytelling , in which a message or story is conveyed across multiple platforms. Fans who received Weyland Industries business cards at the Wondercon convention were led to another piece of in-story content, titled "Big Things Have Small Beginnings," on YouTube. This which fueled another round of blog posts and Facebook discussions.

Unlike conventional trailers, which use rapidly cut, repurposed footage and are widely available online along with straight clips, transmedia videos expand the movie's narrative and encourage fans to immerse themselves more deeply into the story. The advertising becomes part of the movie -- with the bonus that it is tailored for mobile devices and sharing across social networks. Brands are even beginning to leverage the power of HTML 5 technologies to create videos with embedded interactive and social features.

We see examples of transmedia across the media landscape. In television, Bravo ("Top Chef: Last Chance Kitchen ") and USA Network ("Psych: Hashtag Killer") are putting content on mobile devices and social networks between episodes. In the corporate sphere, brands like Coca-Cola are using transmedia to expand the spread of their stories and messages.

Produced carefully, transmedia can combat brand fatigue -- always a risk in the digital era when people can a movie trailer on YouTube dozens of times. Transmedia can give fans just enough extra to explore, share and discuss, without ruining the movie for them. And all of this activity will be monitored by entertainment brands seeking to create more appealing content in future.

If you're not yet versed in transmedia storytelling, here are some things you should know:

The Creative/Marketing Line Has Blurred
TED2023 is evidence of the blurring line between creative content and marketing. With its highly produced online promo, "Prometheus" has transcended the two-hour movie format to become an immersive and pervasive entertainment experience.

Since the dawn of the internet, movie marketers have been attempting to leverage the internet to build excitement around releases and, ultimately, "go viral." The majority of these efforts have failed because they have been created in isolation from the core creative team, by a siloed agency with no access to talent or authority to add to the story. In many instances, additional content that is not planned in concert with the core creative team ends up explicitly contradictory to the movie -- a major frustration for fans and stakeholders alike.

TED2023 shatters that paradigm. The spot was masterminded by Ridley Scott and Damon Lindelof, and directed by Scott's son Luke. With stellar production values and, in Guy Pearce, a top-tier actor, it feels tonally consistent with the movie universe. This integrated approach represents the way that all successful entertainment brand extensions and digital marketing campaigns will be run going forward.

Successful Transmedia Engages on Multiple Levels
Like all the best examples of transmedia storytelling, TED2023 can engage audiences on multiple levels. Enthusiasts can delve into the fictional web site for Peter Weyland's company (www.weylandindustries.com). Those unfamiliar with Ridley Scott's prior work may find their interest piqued by the video and the discussion around it, and be drawn deeper into the "Prometheus" mythology. Those who don't pursue all the transmedia "rabbit holes" still will know about the movie.

The Marketing Is an Extension of the Story Itself
Most commercial brands are learning that traditional marketing and advertising rules don't necessarily apply online. For example, banner adverts are largely ignored, particularly by Gen Y's digital natives, and attempts to reach consumers on social media remain experimental. TED2023 illustrates an alternate route for digital campaigns: partnering on co-branded transmedia story extensions, which can take the form of web video, social games or even scripted stories told through Facebook or Twitter. Simply put, you're no longer a commercial to be ignored or tuned out; you're a part of the story, and audiences will respond accordingly.

Challenge and Opportunity
In the transition to transmedia, marketers have the opportunity and responsibility to become bona fide storytellers. The content they generate must be compatible with the themes, tone and messaging of the film. This requires a heightened level of communication between producers, studio marketing teams and agencies brought on to execute a transmedia campaign.

In 2010, the Producer's Guild of America ratified a "transmedia producer" credit for those responsible for managing the extension of a brand across multiple platforms and facilitating communication with marketers, digital, licensing and gaming partners. Marketers interested in bringing new value to their clients should investigate hiring an accredited transmedia producer -– or even applying to gain the credit for themselves. Every marketer needs to consider the best way to extend a brand across multiple platforms. TED2023 is just the tip of the iceberg of what is possible.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jeff Gomez is CEO of Starlight Runner Entertainment and has worked on a number of properties including Avatar, Tron Legacy, Halo, and Hasbro's Transformers. Simon Pulman is director of business development for the company.
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