A recent article in FastCompany (have I mentioned I’m obsessed with this magazine) caught my eye and sparked a little creative thinking:
Inside Xtranormal‘s Budding Do-It-Yourself Movie Empire:
‘Xtranormal puts simple tools at the disposal of regular people. Choose from a selection of several dozen characters. Enter text (profane or otherwise) for your characters (bears or otherwise) to act out. Set your camera angle. Sprinkle in sound effects. Presto! You have your own mini-movie, ready for its online premiere… the company’s original goal was to produce an application to give film studios a storyboarding tool during preproduction. Hollywood loved the idea, but the animation and controls were too basic. Not true for the do-it-yourself crowd… revenue now comes from selling special characters and sets to users. While the company has yet to make a profit, [Xtranormal] anticipates getting into the black during the first half of 2011. With plans to go mobile and allow for collaboration over social networks, the challenge for [Xtranorma] will be to keep things simple while giving Joe Public more options to unleash his inner Tarantino.’
Read the full FastCompany article here.
And Spark!: my creative juices start flowing and the ‘what ifs’ just won’t stop…
What if… a cable channel used this ‘make your own movie’ site for a viewer ‘create your own promo’ contest? The cable channel would invite viewers to create their own promo for a popular show with Xtranormal’s tools, and then the cable channel would pick the best promo (or few) to run on air. Xtranormal’s revenue ‘now comes from selling special characters and sets to users’ (FastCompany)– so what if revenue came from creating customized characters/sets/sounds/actions/etc for the cable channel’s promotion?
Brainstorming this idea:
Situation: A cable channel is set to premiere a new season of a popular show (or a high profile special) and wants the show/special’s promotional mix to include social media. The channel thinks leveraging fans through social media would be a good way to connect with viewers and to spread the word about the show. The channel has seen competitors embrace social networks to increase viewer engagement and knows it needs to amp up previous efforts in order to really make a splash with this new show/special. They’ve been looking at some recent examples of how other cable channels are engaging viewers (just 2 among many, many others):
1. Bravo’s championship of Twitter and it’s creation of @BravoTV, ‘a real-time social media experience and interactive site where fans can engage with each other 24/7 about their favorite Bravo shows and Bravolebrities.’ (via FutonCritic)
2. Starz launch of the Facebook game ‘Spartacus: Gods of the Arena’ to the first 10,000 fans to sign up, a few weeks earlier than the show’s linear premiere to ramp up interest in the new show and to ‘[c]ater to fans’ growing belief that a TV show should live on in other forms of media’ (via Mashable)
The cable channel starts to see a trend: let the viewer be in control of their own ‘viewing’ experience, (viewing in quotations because they know watching TV is no longer a passive viewing experience by traditional definition, but an interactive experience that spans platforms and senses) yet keep the TV show as the center of the conversation.
But what to do to make their own interaction with viewers unique? Hmm…
And then, a crafty researcher picks up her latest issue of FastCompany and reads the article about Xtranormal. Shazam! The lightbulb goes off–
Solution: The cable channel lets it’s fans create the promos for the upcoming show/special. Winning promos will run just like normal promos, giving the lucky winner (or winners) his/her 15 minutes of fame.
How the contest would work: The cable channel would promote the contest on air/off air/through social networks/on its website. Promotions would drive viewers to the channel’s website, where the microsite for the contest would have videos about the upcoming show/series, contest guidelines, etc. so viewers could learn about the show they are going to be creating a promo for. And of course- the most important aspect of the microsite would be the embedded Xtranormal technology, allowing the viewer to create his/her promo directly on the channel’s website. Viewers would only be able to use the custom characters, voices, sounds, actions, settings, etc. that Xtranormal would have created for the cable channel (back to the FastCompany article- the company is hinging making a profit on customization). If each viewer has to work with the same customized elements, then it’s the dialogue/action/overall creativity they choose that will make the promos unique and entertaining but at the same time still ‘on-brand’ for the channel.
And talk about easy…viewers would simply have to create the promo with the customized elements and hit upload. And the social networking aspect? A viewer would have to share the video on at least one other social site when they submit the video to the channel’s website. (think of the ubiquitous ‘share now’ buttons that link to twitter, facebook, digg, stumbleupon, etc. ) The ripple effect from sharing could be, in my humble opinion, huge. (People love to share weird/interesting/unique things with friends, especially when incentivized)
Why I think this contest could be a big success: All three parties involved- the cable channel, Xtranormal, and viewers would benefit. And it’s pretty simple.
1. Cable channel benefits: What better way to ensure that promos resonate with viewers than if the viewers create them themselves? And the cable channel would also benefit from letting viewers do a lion share of the promotion for the show through sharing videos through social networks… ah the ripple effect.
2. Xtranormal benefits: Perhaps help them turn a profit? From the FastCompany article: ‘revenue now comes from selling special characters and sets to users.’ Creating custom elements for a cable channel would increase revenue by a larger scale than just selling special characters/sets to individual users. Also, lots of added promotion for Xtranormal through the cable channel’s use of the technology (assuming the cable channel would either keep the Xtranormal tag on the video or at least link to the Xtranormal website)
3. Viewer benefits: Chance for your creative work to be on TV? Not too shabby… and the chance to feel like your thoughts matter/can influence a cable channel? Also, not too shabby– I’ve written about it before, but I think the more viewers/consumers feel involved with your brand, the better– for all parties involved (past post here)
Now all I need is a cable channel and Xtranormal to buy into my idea… but I do think the idea of uploading video as a way to engage viewers is a very simple and workable idea… so hopefully this idea is a real possibility!
I haven’t done much research on as to what demographics best fit this idea, but judging from the stats and demo information from YouTube and Twitter/Facebook, I’d say video upload/watching attracts a broad audience:
‘People are watching 2 billion videos a day on YouTube and uploading hundreds of thousands of videos daily. In fact, every minute, 24 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube…Our user base is broad in age range, 18-55, evenly divided between males and females, and spanning all geographies. Fifty-one percent of our users go to YouTube weekly or more often, and 52 percent of 18-34 year-olds share videos often with friends and colleagues. With such a large and diverse user base, YouTube offers something for everyone.’ (via YouTube factsheet).
Gender is also relatively equally split on facebook/twitter, and the 18-44 age break accounts for 70% of users for both facebook and twitter. (information via this infographic)
Given this small amount of research, (my data lovin’ self is begging for more, but you probably aren’t) and the findings that both YouTube and Facebook/Twitter’s sweet spot in terms of age looks to be 18-44, (taking into account that 18-34 year olds mentioned as the ones who share videos instead of the 18-55 age group for Youtube and the 18-44 age break for the social networks) a younger skewing cable channel would probably benefit most from this type of promotion. I would also assume that a channel with an already strong online ‘fanbase’ would most greatly benefit from this type of promotion, as the cable channel would have to leverage these core fans to be the first guinea pigs (or referencing The Tipping Point, the influencers who will spread the word about the project).
And why do I call the idea simple? The idea of uploading video isn’t earth shattering- or hard- and Xtranormal touts itself as a simple, easy to use platform. From their info page on facebook: ‘ If you can type, you can make movies. The characters in the movie speak the dialogue in the script, and react to performance triggers—icons that are dropped directly into the script, just like smileys in IM/chat. Movies can be shared through e-mail, blogs and online video sharing and social networking sites such as YouTube™, MySpace™ and Facebook.™ And a cable channel running a contest? Not exactly earth shattering, either.
Simply, this idea embraces social networking, advances in technology, and the changing ways in which viewers consume television to, hopefully, successfully promote a television show/special & engage viewers.
So what do you think? Feasible? Silly? Boring? Willing to try it out?
At the very least- am I showing you that maybe, just maybe, researchers can be creative thinkers?
And just for some giggles, the video I made on Xtranormal… in about 5 min… just to show how easy it is: