My last post about Mad Men’s fake Peggy Olson character raises an interesting debate. Should the television show’s producers create the online-personas of the characters, or invite the public to assume them?
The first “gold standard” case study for television & web integration was Heroes, which launched character identities online 3 months prior to the show’s 2006 debut.
When HBO produced “Hooking Up,” they managed the online personas of our various characters. I played Professor Klein on video, but the HBO Labs folks managed the Professor Klein personality. Makes sense, since the writer’s had a better vision for Klein than me (and were already on payroll). But did the show fully exploit the collective audience of the cast (primarily online-video stars)?
As television shows recognize the power of social media, the producers may want the writers carrying the character voices. Clearly Dwight Schrute’s blog is the product of some of the junior writers from The Office, and not managed by Rainn Wilson. Or maybe they and their audience would enjoy the organic response of devoted fans?
Here are the options:
- The producers take a hands-on role in the show’s personalities, and have writers express the characters’ voice (ala Heroes). That’s not to say that anyone can’t assume a fake persona, but the show would market its own (and squat character names on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook) before the show airs.
- The network or producers contract with third-parties (like SupportingCharacters.com) to help them manage this strange new world. As an example of how well an agency can pull this off, see the still-active Sasquatch MySpace page (a promotion for Jack Links). Sasquatch recently kicked karate guy’s ass, but unfortunately it’s available only on this flash site that doesn’t play.
- Hands off. Let the show evangelists manage these efforts because they’ll be more devoted, cost a studio less, and probably promote the show with greater agility than one that must sift through attorneys. The producers could give the vocal fans early access to content like shows are already doing with bloggers, but allow a fake character to roam freely in lieu of promoting their own.