Skip to content

Cannes 2013: From a world of digital to a digital world.

24 June, 2013

Earlier in the week, there was a good round up from Contagious here on some of the winners at last week’s Cannes Advertising festival.

For me, it was really interesting to look at the Cyber Lions as an indicator for wider themes in our world.

The Grand prix for the Cyber was taken by both Intel’s/tosiba’s multi-episodic content collaboration The Beauty Inside which achieved 70 million views and a 360% lift in sales and Oreo’s ‘Daily Twist work.

On the one hand, Intel’s work is almost a return to old school story telling through moving image (albeit through a new distribution platform). Big production values. Big budgets. Attempting to set the cultural agenda.

On the other, Oreo is a demonstration of a more nimble approach to advertising; short, sharp, low-fi “always on” bursts of activity enabling the brand to react to the cultural agenda.

A place for both approaches in 2013.

Furthermore, take a look at the number of winners which had a digital proposition at their core. Is it only a matter of time before Cannes drops the ‘Cyber’ award or as Faris Yakob pointed out to me on Twitter on Monday, perhaps the word ‘Cyber’ is simply anachronistic??

It feels very much like the influence of the ‘world of digital’ at global creative forums like Cannes, is waking people up to the fact we now simply operate in a ‘digital world’.

Titbits from down the back of the internet #2

19 June, 2013
tags: ,

The Corporation is at Odds with the Future

Is ‘Transmedia’ in TV finally growing up?
29 of the world’s largest bike sharing programmes in one map 
5 Apps and Sites for While You were at Cannes 
Lean strategy in three blows
Do you want to be in the IT Crowd?
The opportunity for Slow Media 
How people read online and why you won’t finish this
When Digital Marketing Gets Too Creepy 
The new aesthetic

Titbits #1

18 June, 2013

from down the back of the internet

The Amazings. Learn from Elders

The Seasteading Institute | Opening humanity’s next frontier
Teens & Facebook Relationship Status: It’s Complicated
The small talk at Bilderberg t’other week
How The Human Face Might Look In 100,000 Years
The House of Genius: Leave your job title at the door 
The United Micro Kingdoms
The Evolution Of Daft Punk’s Get Lucky, From 1920 To 2020
Jony Ive redesigns things
What Facebook hashtags means for social TV

Is ‘Transmedia’ in TV finally growing up?

13 June, 2013

I’m currently working on a few interesting projects for TV broadcast clients which have perked my interest again in the murky world of ‘transmedia story-telling’.

At Red Bee, one side of the Creative Division’s business is helping market businesses/institutions that are funded through the creation and distribution of content (normally moving image if truth be told).

We pull a lot of the same levers as anyone else – print, press, radio, digital etc but of course, broadcast media normally holds much of the focus. But I want to focus in on digital activity for this post.

The ‘T’ word

Let’s face it, there is now a definite blur in online environments between what constitutes marketing and what constitutes editorial. Some people call this stuff ‘transmedia’. Some call it coverage. Some call it advertorial. It’s all of these things but I wanted to spend a couple of minutes with you to talk about the ‘T word’.

Henry Jenkins describes it as:

a process wherever important portions of the misinformation get distributed methodically over multiple supply stations for the purpose of creating a specific and coordinated leisure experience.


Here is a slide that was doing the rounds a few months back demonstrating the interconnectivity of Disney’s ‘supply stations’ … In 1937.


I think the shift that’s happened from Disney’s vision of multi-platform entertainment brands and where we are today is brilliantly summed up by this diagram.

Screen Shot 2012-10-16 at 13.45.46

About four of five years ago, a lot of people got very excited with this approach. We saw a slug of ‘transmedia’ projects. The relaunch of the Batman franchise with the ARG ‘Why So Serious?’ and Dexter springs to mind as well as our relaunch of Red Dwarf a few years back.

Most of the conversation seemed to be around the blur of marketing and editorial principles that resulted in a mildly exciting property  promoting a new storyworld to new and existing audiences by maintaining the ‘fourth wall’ of the story being promoted. It was marketing but nobody called it that – often because the assets were coming straight out of the studios/indie – think of the pincer strategy deployed by WarnerBros for Superman – on the one hand a massive, epic, dare I say it ‘traditional’ three minute blockbuster trailer, whilst also simultaneously releasing General Zod threatening Planet Earth through a series of broken messages.

I’m particularly excited by the theory behind Syfy’s Defiance premise. Essentially a post-apocalyptic Planet Earth set sometime in the not too distant future with aliens and humans living side by side sometimes getting a bit eggy with each other. What’s interesting though is that the storyworld has then been turned into both a linear TV show but also a Mass Multi-PLayer Online Game (MMOG) which plays out in time with the show, some of the outcomes of the game then going on to inform the linear narrative and vice versa. Here is the team discussing it’s creation… (If this isn’t a ‘Planner idea’ I don’t know what is…)

What seems exciting about all this is you can involve a growing number of people in a story in a way which did not detract from the main, let’s call it ‘linear’ story-telling experience whilst still super-serving those that wanted to pull apart and bury themselves into that story world. You could interact with a character on Twitter e.g. Jack Whitehall’s Alfie Wicker from BBC Three’s Bad Education without it impinging on your enjoyment of the main show. As the diagram below shows, we’d be able to develop new narratives which were fundamentally anchored in the storyworld but we’d go off on tangents and then tie it back in at certain intersections in the plot.

Screen Shot 2012-10-16 at 13.46.45

Grant McCracken says people enjoy burying themselves in narratives to;

…craft time and space, and to fashion an immersive near-world with special properties. We enter a world that is, for all its narrative complexity, a place of suddencontinuity. We may have made the world “go away” for psychological purposes, but here, for anthropological ones, we have built another in its place

And of course, the entertainment industry is very keen to make sure that these extensions pay for themselves in someway. Take a look at this interesting taxonomy of ‘transmedia’ activities…getting people to pay for your marketing is a bit of a holy grail really isn’t it?

Screen Shot 2012-10-16 at 13.49.51

Transmedia 2013-2015?

But I think there is something genuinely new gathering pace right now, certainly in the TV industry that is going to lead to some break-out multi-media narratives with the interactivity having genuine mass appeal. I think in the next two years we will have a multi-platform format that will dominate the British pop culture landscape for the next ten years… I’m thinking ITV1 on Saturday night mega-mass here…

There are two key drivers…

1. Device penetration bringing about the rise of the multi-screen living room. Simply the user journey from screen to screen has shortened. I don’t need to go upstairs to log onto the show’s site to continue my participation with what I’ve just watched. If you didn’t watch Gogglebox on C4 to get a glimpse of what’s happening in British front rooms right now, it’s worth a look for a qualitative take. For more numbers go here.

2. Our understanding of TV audiences in a digital world is maturing.

By that I mean firstly we’re getting smarter on defining an audience’s relationship with a ‘broadcast medium of moving images’. Grant McCracken, when discussing the cultural impact of binge viewing recently, he referenced the fact that what binge-viewing does is create ‘sudden commonality’;

…And if we share that binging with our families or friends, we can make that world — that show — a place of sudden commonality. (Think about all those couples with crazy busy, vastly different days creating shared spaces of intimacy around watching even seasons-old shows together after their kids sleep.) Contrary to what others may argue here, we don’t lose that that “shared cultural space,” the shared experience of everyone talking about the same shows. We just narrow the space to an island inhabited only by ourselves instead of all of America watching the same show at once.

I think this sudden commonality is actually what a TV schedule does. The schedule helps create a sudden commonality – not only at 8pm in the evening (heightened further by social media of course) but also the next day – the old ‘water cooler moment’. Why? Because our life patterns fundamentally haven’t changed at the same pace as technology and if you buy into a couple of fundamental pieces of how people make decisions; that a) we make decisions based on what we see others doing (Mark Earl’s I’ll have what she’s having) and b) we’re crap at deciding so we revert back to habit (Barry Schwarz’s Paradox of Choice), you see how important a broadcast schedule still is in our culture.

In other words, broadcasters are the creators of short, sharp, shared cultural spaces. Very few other mediums can do this at nearly the same scale which of course strengthens the stranglehold of TV. Youtube attempted to loosen the grip a few weeks ago with Comedy Week so I’ll be waiting to see how that gets reported but a quick look at the numbers suggests UK terrestrials have nowt to worry about just yet. After all, it is this burst into culture which most advertisers seek too (normally driven by/aligned with supply chain capacities, retail demand and sales targets).

Secondly, we’re getting better at understanding how viewer attention shapes differ depending on the genre and type of story being told on TV. Mat Lock and his team at StoryThings have great points of view on this are and I’ve presented some thinking on this area before too. Ted and Andy’s SecondSync  platform is compiling really interesting analytics (thankfully) corroborating my thinking around different genres’ viewer behaviour (and also moving it on a step by now offering benchmarks for what a ‘social’ show looks like and with Facebook’s show of leg to the TV industry through their hashtag announcement yesterday, the data is only going to get better). And of course over in the US (probably a good 12 months ahead of us), there are constant research findings reporting now on how different types of TV shows are performing, essentially by looking at behaviours on other platforms as a new proxy for ‘engagement’ around TV shows.

A Transmedia future: Commercial, big and multi-genre

So what does all this mean? Well I think ‘transmedia’ is moving out of the fictional genre, out of the fanboy forums at 1am on a Tuesday night and into the front room, with the whole family particiapting at 8pm on Saturday evenings. Unsurprisingly Channel 4 are leading the way in this space in the UK with Million Pound Drop but I think this is just the start of something much bigger and commercially viable with multi-skilled teams of people – advertisers, schedulers, commissioners, producers, web developers getting together and reinventing TV ‘formats’. For example, what could be the role of a TV show sponsor and online retailer Very when Gok’s Fashion Fix plays out? Flash sales on the site enabling you to ‘shop the look’ perhaps? Or Fosters sponsorship of Channel 4 comedy shows like 8 out of 10 Cats – Brad and Dan offering up the chance to offer up a ‘viewer’ team on the show? Or what if I could instantly replay, clip and share the off-side decision on Sky Sports via the second screen showing everyone the angle that convinces my friends the goal shouldn’t have stood?

So is ‘transmedia’ finally growing up. Yes it is. And how will we know when it has finally matured? Probably when we start calling it TV again.

The year serendipity defeats the algorithm in TV land? Part Two

18 December, 2012

The year serendipity defeats the algorithm in TV land? Part Two

The case for Serendipity

As discussed in the last post, there is growing evidence for the permeating influence of algorithms within the world of TV and more broadly across various aspects of our culture. In this post I’ll argue for the involvement of human emotions in conjunction with algorithms to inform the future direction of the TV industry.

Whether we give our personal data knowingly or otherwise, algorithms increasingly know where you’ve been, what you like, where you might be going next and even why and when you’re going. They assume a level of knowledge about us based on the digital trail we leave. In a recent article in GOOD , leading Republican strategist Alex Gage discussed the use of this data in the growing political campaigning field of “predictive analytics” or micro-targeting using the “data exhaust” we all leave when online to successfully tailor political messages at the right time to the right people and in the right place.


So if politicians are getting to grips with consumer behavioural data beyond the ballot box, clearly, there is a tempting opportunity for the TV industry to make use of these technologies too.  A hot topic right now is content recommendation technologies – using data to determine what content to serve up, what content we might like to see, what content to hide, ordering of ads, etc, etc. These engines are designed to help us navigate and discover content, characters, plots, stories that reinforce our world view based on our previous viewing behaviours. The idea of using this data to provide better viewer understanding both for editorial and commercial purposes is something that Channel 4 in the UK is pioneering through its ‘Viewer Relationship Management’ platform. In the same way the politician is now looking beyond the polls, TV execs are looking beyond Nielsen/ BARB.

There is, however, a growing number of critics such as author Eli Pariser who argue that a hyper-targeted, personalised world, although it may make the world more ‘relevant’, doesn’t actually make the world intrinsically or extrinsically better off. Leading digital culture thinker Clay Shirky sums up Pariser’s book the Filter Bubble: What the internet is hiding from you’ , as explaining how Internet firms increasingly show us less of the wide world; “locating us in the neighborhood of the familiar”. The risk, as Eli Pariser shows, is that “each of us may unwittingly come to inhabit a ghetto of one”. In the book, Pariser goes on to argue;

“Personalization isn’t just shaping what we buy… Thirty-six percent of Americans under thirty get their news through social networking sites. As we become increasingly dependent on the Internet for our view of the world, and as the Internet becomes more and more fine-tuned to show us only what we like, the would-be information superhighway risks becoming a land of cul-de-sacs, with each of its users living in an individualized bubble created by automated filters—of which the user is barely aware – not exposing us to information that could challenge or broaden our worldview”.


Essentially, the data we are leaving tells whoever (or whatever) a story of who we are. But, and I think rather importantly for the world of TV and perhaps more broadly, not on who I want to be. Rather the data and resulting algorithmic predictions and recommendations are based on past behaviours rather than future intentions or will.

Connecting audiences, not devices.

There is a final factor that influences the stories we consume through TV. And that is a yearning for connection. At its most basic, humans are communal creatures. We are influenced mostly by those around us – a heavily researched sociological field popularized through authors such as Mark Earls and David Brooks’ books on the topic. delete ). In the world of TV, content consumption may stop when the show does but our enjoyment is heightened by the inherent subscionscious knowledge that others may be watching too, inviting us to share the experience the next day with colleagues, friends etc. Or, as is increasingly the trend, connecting with people whilst the show is on: Twitter UK General Manager Tony Wang cited stats showing that 80% of under-25s are using a second screen to communicate with friends while watching TV, while 72% of them are using Twitter, Facebook and other mobile apps to comment on the shows they watch.

Fundamentally, we use stories we consume on TV to create and maintain connections in our lives.

Human editors take these last two factors into account – our yearning for connection and identifying our past behaviour may not indicate future behaviour. Algorithms do not. This final filter requires judgement through hunches, emotion and interpretation, not black and white raw binary data. There is a human opinion factor that no algorithm in the world can replicate and arguably nor should we look to create one that could. As a consequence broadcasters have relied on the linear schedule as the litmus test for content demand – the moment in our daily lives when most people are likely to be available to watch TV and (importantly) connect with others, rather than serving up content based on our personal digital ‘data exhausts’. And as a result, I would argue, broadening their audiences’ worldview.

Who’d have thought I’d have been head over heels with The Killing on BBC 4?
Who’d have thought my Nan would have been into Being Human?
Who’d have thought my little sister would have been in creases at The Inbetweeners?
Who’d have thought University Challenge would be appointment to view TV for my 15 year old cousin?

It will be important for broadcasters not to over-manage the incredible choice of content that will become available to viewers – content that won’t just be coming from traditional TV brands too. Broadcasters in my opinion should continue to attempt to broaden our world-view by delighting and surprising us on topics and ideas that we love but often didn’t expect we would – revelling in the serendipity that a mass medium can offer people. This means taking viewers on a journey, outside of our ‘filter bubble’ or beyond content recommendations generated by algorithms. This in my mind is the role for channel brands in an age of content overload. Taking us to a place somewhere we’ve never been before or,better still, even knew existed and connecting us all through these new stories.

2013: The year serendipity defeats the algorithm in TV land? Part One.

11 December, 2012

Just had this posted on my employer’s blog. Copy and pasted here. Thoughts welcome.

In the next two blog posts, I’m going to try and explore two cultural trends that are informing big strategic shifts in the way TV is produced, distributed, navigated and found.

In one corner, we’ve got the world of algorithms. Where clever bits of code can choose our friends, inform our governments and serve up TV recommendations based on our previous behaviour. In the other, we have the world of serendipity. Where we stumble on things we like inadvertently, where hunches pervade and TV is recommended based on the time of day it is.

Which one will win? How are they informing each other? And what does this all mean for the world of TV?


We live in an increasingly connected world. Greater connectivity has resulted in more choice. Which, on the face of it, is a good thing. Yet many argue, like psychologist Barry Schwartz in his book ‘The Paradox of Choice’ that actually, too much choice can be counterproductive to a point at which it can be paralysing.

Historically the role of channel brands has been to serve up content. When there were only three channels to get your TV fix from, the barriers to entry were too great for anyone else to reach audiences of any scale, thus a natural cartel was formed, meaning viewers never really had that much choice. The role of the channel was primarily a distributor.

Along came satellite and digital distribution and the emphasis of the role of channel brands changed as the means of distribution allowed more entrants into the TV market. This meant the role of channel brands changed from being distributors of content to ‘curators’ of content, helping us manage the overwhelming choice of TV programmes that we were now exposed to.

The recent rebrand of ITV and the refocus on the channel’s relationship with audiences as the curator of content reflects this shift. As their Marketing Director Rufus Radcliffe said: “The rebrand is about cementing a relationship in viewers’ minds with the shows they love and the ITV brand”.


But as TV becomes connected and we increasingly litter our homes and lives with screens, the question “what do you want to watch?” becomes even tougher to answer. There is an interesting tension now brewing in the TV industry – to what extent should broadcasters look to replicate the digital success stories of hyper-targeted, algorithmically-led organisations like Google and Amazon to help navigate audiences through the vast array of content they are now served up?

Kevin Slavin, founder of a social TV co-viewing experience called Starling, delivered a fascinatingTED talk where he argued that we’re living in a world designed for and increasingly controlled by algorithms. This is increasingly evident in the world of TV. In August this year at the Edinburgh TV Festival, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos spoke of the taste-based algorithms his company is deploying, which are used to inform editorial decision- making in the hope of increasing the hits and reducing the misses of Netflix commissions.

But are ever-pervading algorithms a good thing for the TV industry and the broader culture at large in which stories told through TV play a hugely influential role?

Algorithms are brilliant at creating relevancy in our lives. They do a large portion of the sifting and filtering for us.

As we increasingly acknowledge though, it’s a two way street – we give up control of our personal data in return for the benefits of doing so; removing randomness and increasing relevancy. Ben Hammersley, former Wired Editor and all round digital big-brain, gave a speech earlier in the year to the IAAC. In his speech he discussed his view on “the renegotiation of the social contract because of the internet and the data on it”. He argues, “We understand the value of our data, we have done the sums and we judged ourselves in profit. If advertisers want to know my preferred brand of whisky, or be allowed access to my travel schedule, and these disclosures get me Facebook for free, with all its associated social utility and delights, then fine. Fair play. We sell our data in return for a better world, and we do understand what we’re doing”.

In the next post, I’ll go on to explore the downsides and the benefits of a world less influenced by code and logic. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts – are you looking forward to or already enjoying a personalised TV viewing experience or do you feel like you’re missing out in any way? Are we on an inevitable trajectory of a logically created culture?

Whirledge’s Weekly #3

20 October, 2012

A weekly round up of stuff found down the back of the internet…



Just how do some tech companies make money?

Have a look inside where the internet is kept – Google’s data centre


Why MTV’s new show is probably cursed

Netflix sneaks in some second screen functionality

How Social TV is changing in Europe

**Sell Sell Sell**

A free tool from Google called the Consumer Barometer provides data on how consumers research and buy products

Win an extra hour in the day courtesy of Pepsi

Some great industrial designers to follow

What is digital strategy? From BBH


Catch the ice dude

Hacks for life

The Onion takes the piss out of TED talks


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,784 other followers