Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Week 6: Transmedia storytelling and User generated Content

In 2009 a new television show, a performer and a stylist have all become platforms for transmedia story telling. Society now transforms every story, photograph or brand into or apart of a wider franchise that is played out amongst many media channels. Teenagers producing their own content on social networking sites such as Facebook and Youtube are now having a strong influence on decisions that were once made in media by powerful CEO’s. Media corporation ownership is highly concentrated in particular areas around the globe and thus there has been a rise in the attractiveness of properties that are able to make use of the synergies created between different forms of media as well as have maximum reach figures by appealing to niche markets. These changes in digital media have created a shift in the increase of franchise building and in transmedia storytelling in general.

A transmedia story illustrates a process in which ‘elements of a fiction are dispersed systematically across a variety of media platforms for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience’ (Jenkins.H, 2007) A story may spread across many media channels such as television, radio, comic books, novels, video games, interactive online games, social networking sites and even children’s toys and cosmetics. Each of these different media platforms are introduced in order to ‘pick up’ more consumers along the way and to widen the fan base for a particular franchise. True fans of these products and entertainers are able to dive deeper into the plot of the story or the life of a celebrity through transmedia storytelling. As a result of this build up of material, true fans are able to convert their knowledge into online videos, games and Wikipedia and blog entries, this is called user generated content.

In the past decade there has been a rise in popular franchises particularly in the market of children’s toys, the most competitive being female dolls. Iconic brand Mattel, since the 1950’s has long been recognized for one of the most popular and successful franchises of all time ‘Barbie’, the tall, thin, big breasted, blonde figurine has taken pride on the top shelf of every little girls bedroom for over five decades and since its introduction has spanned its wings into many other media platforms. Barbie is no longer just a doll, she has her own website with interactive games, games for play stations and other gaming consoles, computer games, clothing label, accessories and not to mention her hundreds of friends and boyfriend that can be purchased to complete the ‘life of Barbie’. The ‘Barbie’ phenomenon peaked in the 1990’s the decade when I grew up and I can assure you if you weren’t an owner of an extensive array of Barbie dolls and all of her accessories you just were not cool at school. “Bad news came with botoxed lips and belly shirts. In the summer of 2001, toymaker MGA Entertainment introduced Yasmin, Jade, Sasha and Cloe—the Bratz. The new fashion dolls came in a rainbow of skin tones, with pouting, street-smart expressions” (Nash. K, 2005). Mattel in a rush to gain back a stolen market share worth $700 million dollars introduced the My Scene dolls in 2002, again a new generation of young girls picked up on the craze and the Barbie franchise continued to blossom. Today over eight years later the Barbie name still transcends across many media channels just like it did when I grew up with them. The ability to continue the franchise over a significant period of time is also a benefit for the media corporation whom own it, as they are able to reach older markets that were once obsessed fans, thus brand loyalty is formed.

As a result of this brand loyalty consumer generated content is produced. An example of this is a newly formed and rapidly expanding franchise Gossip Girl. While Gossip Girl is not yet playing in the same league as Barbie I predict that it will be just as popular for generation Y today then Barbie was for the same generation ten years ago. Gossip Girl has already become an important advertising tool for many young trendy brands, as I will explain in a moment. Perhaps the most interesting and relevant fact about this up and coming franchise is its introduction into cyber community Second Life. Second Life is an online 3D virtual world imagined and designed by you. From the moment you enter Second Life, you’ll discover a universe brimming with people and possibilities,” (Second Life, 2009). Second Life itself is apart of a integrated communication community where users can instant message and voice chat each other at anytime. Episodes of Gossip Girl have been created in animation and with made up scripts specifically for Second Life users. (Find example below) Second life promotes itself as an escape from reality, a place where everything you ever wanted to do, people you want to meet and the lifestyle you want to live are able to literally become your ‘second life’, “A place to connect, a place to shop, a place to work, a place to love, a place to explore, a place to be … different, free yourself, free your mind, change your look and love yourself” (Second Life, 2009) are just some of the slogans used to immerse users in a fictional life. In addition to this, websites have been created by fans to replicate the life lived by the characters in the show. Fans attempt to live life through deceit, drama and gossip just like the characters do in each episode. For example, at my high school last year one student made a website and collected the latest gossip from parties, private conversations and life events and posted them on this website in the same language used by the narrator on the television series. Whether the user generated content for this particular franchise is good or bad the brand is expanding at a rapid rate, the show is only just entered its third season and its fan base and user generated materials on sites such as Youtube are growing larger and larger every day.

In relation to my profession of advertising I would agree that the user-generated content being produced by the public is beneficial to many franchise type businesses. As I mentioned earlier Gossip Girls popularity skyrocketed throughout 2008 and as a result the Vitamin Water Franchise was able to score a deal with the television network. Product placement as I mentioned last week is an advertising technique on the rise and transmedia storytelling plays a big role in how businesses decide where to advertise or on what shows. Vitamin Water has become so linked with Gossip Girl that it even appears in the animated version on Second Life. In addition to product placements it is also important to note that integrated marketing campaigns work similarly to transmedia storytelling thus advertisers can feed off the ideas built by this new form of digital media and in addition the creative industries can continue to integrate and develop further as a hole.

This video is an example of user generated content from Second Life a spin off of the Gossip Girl television series!

This video shows you a history of the 50 years of Barbie and advertising.... not directly linked to my blog but to my profession... i found this one interesting!

Flew, T. (2008). New Media: An Introduction (3rd Ed.), New York: Oxford

Nash, K. (2005). Mattel: How Barbie lost her groove. Retrieved October 20 2009 from http://www.baselinemag.com/c/a/Projects-Management/Mattel-How-Barbie-Lost-Her-Groove/, pp.1-9.

Second Life, (2009). What is Second Life? Retrieved October 20 2009 from http://secondlife.com/whatis/

Jenkins, H. (2008). Transmedia Storytelling in Entertainment, Retrieved October 20 2009 from http://whatconsumesme.com/2009/what-im-reading/transmedia-storytelling-and-entertainment-a-syllabus/

Jenkins, H. (2007). Transmedia Storytelling 101, Retrieved October 19 2009 from http://www.henryjenkins.org/2007/03/transmedia_storytelling_101.html

Both videos were discovered on Youtube!

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