Monday, 12 January 2009

Top 3 Pitfalls of Cross-Platform Placement for TV Content (Brand Equity through Cross-Platform placement)

First post of the year. I’m back from a two week boiling hot-liday in Brazil, and I never thought I could actually miss the London weather. I just wasn’t expecting to come back to a near -10ºC.

As I’ve relatively procrastinated the explanation of the remaining elements in my TV III Branding Schematics in behalf of fresh comments on current digital affairs, I’ve decided it’s time to get back to focus.

The TV III Branding Schematics

From all the three TV III Branding constituents, I fully covered the first one (aggregation), and explained the first attribute of the second constituent (placement). So here I continue, now writing about brand equity through placement in TV III, more specifically about cross-platform strategy.

Attributes that have been covered in this blog are in yellow

So now that you are situated, let’s move forward.

All new american TV series have a website, most of them have a mobile presence, the edgy ones have an ARG to burst its launch and loyalty, of course, they have a soundtrack available on iTunes for download (now DRM-free and with variable price), popular ones have a book with big pictures and little text at Borders, perhaps a board game, or even characters available for interaction on twitter. This is the era of transmedia. Content crosses all platforms, be everywhere, the more the merrier. Well, not really. You’ve got to know how to do it. Properly.

Cross-platform placement is a natural necessity in times when the competition for audience attention extravasates the TV domain and viewers become users, sometimes players, diverging their eyeballs to social networks, video games and whatever media that attempts to rival the supremacy of the old rectangular screen.

1. Cross-platform is not a reduced version of the same thing

Having content spread in several platforms means new entry-points to the narrative of your show and to your channel brand. However, it shouldn’t be beneficial only to new audiences, it also must function as a retaining element for your current viewers. This is why content, when placed across platforms, shouldn’t be a mere reduction of the original programme, a simple version of the same thing. Prospective viewers should be lured to sample bits in a secondary platform and then converge to the main show (and to the main sponsors). For them, a minor version of the programme would probably work, but your retained audience needs something new, something else, something to put them in a circular motion so every time they feel inclined to leave they come across something fresh in the next platform, which adds new facts to what they already know, and sends them back to the main screening, and so forth and so on.

2. Cross-platform can damage your brand identity

The brand identity of your programme goes beyond its lettering, title, casting, characters or storyline. Brand identity resides in an overall aesthetic perception the audience has of your show. Aesthetic elements translate into shaky handheld cameras, dreamy foggy backgrounds, gradient illumination from dark to light areas, fast on screen movement in action scenes, open wide establishing shots, and any other recursive visual and style aid that sets the mood and the personality of a TV show. Not so coincidentally, the elements I’ve just cited couldn’t be more prohibitive when adapted to the small screen of other platforms, some due to digital compression issues, others because of the human limitations of our eyesight. A conversion nightmare.

The bottom line is: if you take a show with the elements I mentioned before, and adapt it to the mobile screen, it will look like rubbish. You’ll be able to notice compression squares in the image and won’t have a clue of what those tiny little actors were doing in that wide shot scene.

On the other hand, if you shoot a mobile version by eliminating the shaky cameras, the fog, the gradient light, the action scenes, and turn everything into a big close up, I’m sorry to inform you, but you’ve got yourself now a complete different show. You’ve lost many of aesthetic elements that constitute your brand identity in the mind of viewers. They might even not be able to articulate what made them to disliked it, but deep inside, unconsciously, they’ve noticed it. And if it’s not appealing, you break the circular motion. You lose your viewer.

It sounds like some sort of an impasse, I know. And this is why cross-platform placement should be planned ahead during production. My suggestion is, when possible, always choose redaction over reduction. It’s best to create new material of an existing content than to adapt it and risk to get your brand identity “lost in conversion”.

3. Cross-platform is not tossing content:

Grandmas often say: A place for everything and everything in its place.

You might be part of an incredibly vertically integrated media conglomerate. Even then, hold your urge to place content everywhere. Shelly Palmer presents a very simple categorisation of TV content according to each type of viewing and distribution life span on his book
Television Disrupted. I’ve contributed a bit with the list down here.

Emergent Content:
  • News, sports and live events.
  • Short shelf life.
  • Better for linear viewing.
  • Some might be suitable for reduction.

Evergreen Content:
  • Sitcoms, Movies, Dramatic Hours and Documentaries.
  • Long shelf life.
  • Perfect for on-demand.
  • Better redaction then reduction.

Disposable Content:
  • Talk-shows, service shows, infomercials.
  • Medium shelf life.
  • It is in the mid range of linear and on-demand.
  • Some are suitable for redaction, others for reduction. Common sense doesn’t exist, but the ones who have it are truly blessed.

In the following posts I’ll discuss other placement attributes such as intra-textual, intra-brand and extra-brand placement. The more we advance, the more these concepts overlap. Quite interesting.

Any other cross-platform pitfalls come to your mind?

Have you ever been driven to a TV show by a secondary media platform?

Do you consume extended content in other platforms?

Have a good week.

1 comment:

james wood said...

I found this a good read, but planning to avoid the pitfalls is definitely worth taking into consideration, when looking at convergence, cross platform or multi platform / 360 commissioning issues.

I'm involved with social media and web video branded content clients looking multipurpose content and normally have to advise on repurposing content for different audiences and mediums.

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HD Productions
Web branded content and distribution

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