Dr. Who BBC America Campaign: I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

As Hannibal used to say on A-Team, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

I love it when a (integrated media) plan comes together.

One of the most rewarding things about participating in online-video campaigns for big brands or network shows is seeing these launch simultaneously with television and print advertisements. We call it “integrated marketing,” and it’s easy in concept and difficult but wonderful in fruition. Okay, I like the payments better, but integrated marketing is still rare enough to be a pleasant surprise… especially when it involves “new media” and social. Of course, it’s difficult for a marketer or agency to time precisely a campaign’s “peak” in various mediums, given paid “insertion orders” (formal booking of space in media) often requires months of lead time. Likewise the “books” (magazines) can require months of advance notice.

I noticed that our YouTube GE Healthymagination campaign was timed well with a series of television spots, and most recently I’ve seen it on BBC America’s launch of Dr. Who (my video below was titled “Time Travel Fail, “What Year Do You Miss,” and “What Would You Do if You Had a Time Machine?” (thanks munchvids for the video response… it’s sad that those don’t get more real estate when the video plays).

The YouTube videos included time-travel themed videos, and included branded ads for Dr. Who

I wasn’t the only part of this campaign, and I’m writing this without any inside knowledge of the agency, budget, timing or execution. Hats of to MysteryGuitarman for this epic video that was also part of the campaign. I’m especially impressed that he found a “rotary pay phone” and managed to add a LED screen. And Joe, it’s making me crazy that you’ve managed to multiply yourself with better special effects than I see in most movies (Freaky Friday, Multiplicity). Vsauce’s video actually made me think, and TheStation participated with “Waiter Takes Out Restaurant.” Check out the whole series (a link to YouTube videos tagged ifIHadaTimemachine, then ranked by views).

The very week these YouTube videos launched, I noticed a prime print advertisement in Entertainment Weekly, a NYC “out of home” component,” and some “earned” media uptake (PR). Furthermore, the YouTube “branded entertainment” video series were wrapped with display and InVideo ads.

I like these “organic” YouTube campaigns that don’t force the brand in the webstar’s videos, but let the creator carry the campaign theme in their own way. The comments I’ve read are largely positive (a contrast from campaigns that require sponsored YouTube videos to have a branded slate at the intro, which is so forceful as to scare people away).

What can producers, networks, agencies and YouTube do to make these campaigns work even harder? A few ideas, but they all have executional nuances so it’s a bit unfair for me to “Monday morning quarterback.” Again- I know nothing more than what I’ve seen as a Dr. Who fan (and the very simple directions got via YouTube to make my video).

  1. Cross-link the videos so Dr. Who fans (I know you’re out there because many of you noticed the picture on my son Charlie’s shirt) would be able to move through them without having to leave YouTube (only a few percent of people leave a YouTube session for an ad, and that’s when there’s a strong reason).
  2. I would suggest the digital agency also run paid-search ads for related keywords (even though I doubt there are loads of people searching “time machine” and “ifihadatimemachine” the cost of that inventory would be minimal). I’d certainly be buying ads for those people searching for “Dr Who, BBC America” and related terms, which would help get more eyes on the campaign website: “TimeMachineTales.” Buzz drives search, and it’s a shame to see Amazon books rank higher than the 2011 version of the timeless show.
  3. Take advantage of YouTube’s “live” programming to augment the April 23 premier with something real time (perhaps one of the webstars watches the debut and invites interaction with fellow fans). If MysteryGuitarMan said he was going live on YouTube on the evening of April 23, I imagine hundreds of thousand would follow.
  4. Recognize that the YouTube aspect of the campaign is valuable far beyond the campaign. For instance, my Fringe promotions have accumulated significant views long after the debut. There’s a perpetual nature to these programs. As Hitviews CEO Walter Sabo says, “Campaign Duration: Forever.” The 105 videos his company has delivered for brands have accumulated in excess of 30 million views.
  5. Finally the real way to “break the fourth wall” is to allow a television show’s cast to interact and collaborate with prominent YouTube creators. This can be difficult, but possible. In the case of my “Meet the Fringe Cast” video, I simply learned the cast was at ComicCon, and I convinced the sponsor (Fox) to allow me the same access the network/producers gave to professional media. In another example, we saw V’s “Anna” (Morena Baccarin) appear on YouTube’s homepage with a custom message for YouTubers, and that was a “bar raising” move. Now imagine iJustine mingling with Mark Sheppard, which would carry as much weight as a local media tour to promote the show. iCarly’s Freddy Benson (Nathan Cress) met with YouTube’s prolific “ShayCarl/Shaytards” in a casual meeting that I would have paid to facilitate if I was Cress’ manager or iCarly’s promoter.
  6. Lastly, and this is really difficult, it would be great to find ways to permit clips from the show intermixed with the YouTube videos. For very good reasons this is rare. Often the network promoting the show doesn’t have the rights to use the content in promotion. The benefit, however, is you can give people a contextual teaser of the show’s actual content… as I did with “Fringe is Scary.” These clips were approved by the producer (JJ Abrams’ Bad Robot) for use with media, and I even snuck in some very tiny snippets beyond those in the media library.
IF I HAD A TIME MACHINE hosts tweets and videos related to the campaign

I’m sure it was not part of the campaign that Elisabeth Sladen died this week (she’s the British actress who played intrepid investigative journalist Sarah Jane Smith throughout the classic BBC series’ 30-year run). But only one Guy calls those shots, and he’s not much of a marketer (thank God).

WTF is “Transmedia Storytelling”

Just like OTT is the new viral, transmedia storytelling is the new online video.

“Transmedia storytelling” is not new vernacular, but we predict it will be the buzzword of 2011… pushing the term “currating” into the archives. I became familiar with the term at a 2010 television/web events in NYC, where large media companies defended their crappy dabbling in online video as “transmedia storytelling.” Some online-video content (Office webisodes) are quite clever.

But only about .05 percent of the audience for a television show will ever see the webisodes buried on some archaic network website… so at least the web “add ons” are not typically essential to the plot. Like the secret code on Fringe intro/outros, they’re additive to the experience… and for hardcore fans. In years to come, the interactive content may be more of a main dish than an optional appetizer.

Now you can learn via AdHack what “transmedia storytelling” is all about. The definition, what makes it work (communal, personal, tangible, discoverable, character development). Anyone doing this stuff particularly well?

As on-demand web video becomes mainstream, large television shows will increasingly win audiences to “online video” “lagniappes”  that rise above the allotted 23-minutes of a 30-minute show. More importantly, they’ll be vehicles to provide engagement with fanatic fans (oh, and provide additive direct ad revenue to a medium that could use some vitamins).

Content producers should be thinking of this content the way retailers think about the high-end or high-volume offerings that are less about incremental revenue… and more about growing the baseline. For instance if you’re Starbucks, you add the TRENTA not to sell a load of them. If you’re a white goods manufacture, you add a pricey “top of the line” product not to sell more of them. The introduction of these items grow your “baseline” or “middle of the road” offerings in indirect ways that are difficult for our executive brain to understand. It’s the dino-brain, folks. It’s all about the limbic brain. It drives most of our behaviors, and is the reason an emotional appeal works in marketing and entertainment… more on that later.

The tricky balance here? The producers of network television can’t well justify investing in this content until an audience exists (and thus a financial marketplace develops). But viewers won’t be attracted to this storytelling extension until it’s more interesting than a silly “Black Ops” boat-racing game for Burn Notice. So it’s a catch 22 that will take years to escape. But we’ll get there.

Sneak Preview: The Talking Hand

For you loyal WVFF readers, here’s a sneak preview of the fourth and final Fringe video. It’s my kids imitating Fox’s Fringe, and it’s called “The Talking Hand.” I’m still working on using the film effect (saturation/contrast) without turning some of these shots into silhouettes. The hand was played by a friend of my son, Patrick. Dalton came over one day recently to play, and I loved his voice. Iggy35 was kind enough to merge Patrick’s hand with Dalton’s face. One of my favorite thumbnails ever.

see larger version

Meeting Fringe’s Mad Scientist

John Noble (Walter Bishop on Fringe) with Nalts

As a result of this Fringe Walter-Bishop song parody video, I had the pleasure of meeting actor John Noble and his fellow cast members from Fringe (a new Fox show I adore). I shot some fun footage with the cast at ComicCon NYC today, and got some parody acting tips from the cast. The actors, their families, and handlers were remarkably approachable, and rolled with my very atypical interview style.

Anna Torv (Olivia) didn’t show up until the panel, but I’m quite sure she would have maced me. She seemed a bit more tentative or introverted than her cast mates, but it was nice to see her smile… on the show she’s pensive and intense. 

I’ve finally figured out what was so unusual about meeting the Fringe actors today, and the video will make it clear to you if you watch the show. Since the show is intense, it’s refreshing to see the actors relax and joke around. I think we Fringe fans would all enjoy seeing bloopers and “behind the scenes” footage, and I truly don’t believe it will make the show any less magical. Tonight I watched some clips of Fringe, and it was no less frightening than before seeing Mickey Mouse out of costume. 

One of my child-like questions prompted Noble to shout “sorry everyone- he’s really pissing me off” in a wonderful Walter-Bishop-like Hurbult tantrum. It brought absolute silence to the room, and Walter’s agent was rather concerned. Luckily, before I was escorted out the building, people realized he was acting (I begged each cast member to pull a “Christian Bale” fit, but they were just too darned nice). 

Really, though…. how often do you get to discuss your wife’s diarrhea with Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson)? Or tell Blair Brown she’s not the bitch you would have expected? Or tell Lance Reddick, in jest, that Anna Torv is ugly, and have him correct you with, “We like to say she’s “girl next door.” 

If you’re not watching Fringe yet, I suggest catching up on Fox.com/fringe. Unlike Lost (by the same producer, JJ. Abrams), each Fringe episode has a self-sustaining plot. But regular viewers get a lagniappe in the form of  secret codes in the form of graphics, a recurring hidden character, and even clues to the next episode’s plot.

Fringe works for me because it’s a combination of psychology, Michael Crichton-like science fiction, thriller, and subtle comedy. It’s a bit gory for some, but I quite enjoy being terrified and tickled in one sitting. 

I’ll post the video soon at www.youtube.com/nalts, and I believe it needs to end with Joshua’s answer to my request to play a corpse on Fringe’s season two.

Common, Fringe casting peeps. I know you’re back in production in NYC, and I’ll carry cables and work craft services for the chance to be an extra, a corpse or even stand-in for The Observer  (my bald head is ready).