TV series experiment beyond Facebook and Twitter

Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram have today invaded our lives as giants Facebook and Twitter did before them. TV producers and broadcasters were right on the money when they decided to adopt these “new networks” which are more specific, more targeted and therefore sometimes more relevant. Given Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., one of the most highly awaited series of the year, chose to broadcast one of its first trailers on Vine, here is a brief overview of a few original and innovative social TV campaigns.


“Ainsi soient-ils”

In France, several TV producers and broadcasters have used social media to innovate, including ARTE front and centre. The chain turned to Tumblr to promote two of its most recently released television series.

At the end of 2012, the “Ainsi soient-ils” series created the event on the Franco-German chain: more than 1.2 million viewers followed on a daily basis the adventures of four young seminarists aspiring to become priests. The chain’s campaign was a success not only because the series addressed a subject of universal interest, but also because of a groundbreaking campaign that combined traditional marketing and new media. The campaign used dramatic images (the RATP went so far as banning one of the images from its network) along with a trailer presented in movie theatres, advertising space and a presence on Tumblr.

On Tumblr, the series’ subtitle – “Ma vie de futur prêtre n’est pas si différente de la vôtre” (translation: My life as a future priest is not that different from yours) – borrows the voice of a young seminarist named Aurélien. Aurélien does not appear in the series, but he could very much have been one of the students revolving around the series’ heroes. Like many such sites, this one uses animated GIFs to relate with offset and humour the daily life of a future priest in the 21st century.

Despite a launch date several months before the series was aired, nothing indicates that this Tumblr and the series are related apart from its URL: certain media therefore fell for the trap laid by the campaign. Behind the blog, social TV agency Darewin, the same agency behind the zombie attack on Twitter and accustomed to actions halfway between fiction and reality, sought to accompany the airing of “The Walking Dead”.

Over the course of an 8-week period, Tumblr registered a total of 30,000 page visits and visitors spent an average of three minutes on the site. The campaign also had very specific media spinoffs with 15-35 year olds, from Inrocks to Golem13.

Although it was not the only factor explaining the series’ success with audiences, this well orchestrated promotional campaign managed to generate talk about the series in an original and adapted manner, even though the series tackles a subject that is not really susceptible of interesting younger audiences.

Almost one year after the release “Ainsi soient-ils,” ARTE is launching its newest original production. This time, “Odysseus” deals with a mythical theme, Ulysses’ return home. The series was the focus of a major European coproduction for the channel.

To accompany the series, the broadcaster decided to renew the experience on Tumblr using animated GIFs. However, he totally changed his strategy and decided not to confuse reality with fiction but instead play with the audience by adding a touch of web humour to excerpts of the series.

He hit the bull’s eye and reached his public. While episodes are aired, the audience is quick to make fun on Twitter of certain characters judged too “soap operish.”

Translation: “Waiting for Ulysses, Sad Penelope is Sad. 

Source: Odysseus (Tumblr)

Is making fun of a series a communications operation orchestrated by the broadcaster? The channel’s web team claims that it’s first and foremost a second-level strategy aimed at adapting to web codes and remaining “accomplices of our followers.” Unlike “Ainsi soient-ils,” no large-scale promotional campaign was organized to prepare the release of “Odysseus” and the numbers indicate that this latter series did not generate the same level of success (500,000 viewers on average). Nevertheless, by banking on humoristic social network communications, ARTE maintains its sympathetic capital and even manages to strengthen its image as an online channel.

These two means of following through on the over-the-air broadcasting are part of a more global strategy aimed at attracting younger viewers to the channel.

Beat Girl, a webfiction exclusively on Pinterest

Pinterest is another image-based social network that recently enthused Nuno Bernardo, founder of multimedia company beActive. In fact, he was so enthused that it convinced him to devote an full part of his latest multimedia franchise to this social network.

“Beat Girl” tells the story of a young woman making her way in the world of music. Her story is told on the big screen (a feature film was released in the UK and Portugal in May 2013), on mobile devices and online (via a webseries), in a novel and through a Pinterest account. “Beat Girl” is therefore “the first scripted series to be told on Pinterest.”

The Pinterest account in question is under the name of Heather Jennings, the franchise’s hero, and is written by Jasmina Kally, who is also the author of the original novel.

Situated midway between a photo novel and a moodboard, the account can be compared to an online personal journal, divided up into several thematic or promotional “scenes.” There are twelve other scenes that are narrated in a linear manner and incorporate video episodes of the webseries.

Source: Screenshot of the “Beat Girl” Pinterest account

In light of the operation’s undeniable success, in 2012, the account was mentioned as one of the ten most influential Pinterest accountsright after the account of no one else but Barack Obama… Moreover, an American company recently purchased the franchise rights. There is no doubt that this experiment will soon be repeated at a much larger scale.

The first series on Vine

Finally, the latest social network to appear online also inspired content creators and other producers. American channel LogoTV became the talk of the town last June after releasing its first serial drama on Vine, strategically titled “The Vines of Sauvignon Blanc.” This drama tells the story of a grape producer who has only two minutes and six seconds left to live.

Limited by the very nature of Vine (one six-second video per image), the entire series lasts a little more than two minutes, i.e., the time of 22 episodes that are relentlessly repeated in a loop (click here to view the first episode). Each episode was broadcast daily at 1:00 p.m. on the channel’s Vine account, and the series’ casting included several TV stars.

Obviously, such a project must necessary have a ironic touch. Thus, the press release states that the channel’s intention was to save its viewers some precious time: “Already overcommitted viewers need not worry about dedicating too much of their frenetic summer schedules to the series as the entire season will play out in just over two minutes.”

Beyond the irony, it’s a real promotional success for this small-scale American cable operator that caters to a gay and lesbian audience as well as a rather original way to desegregate its programming and create a buzz by using humour.

In view of these four examples—to which we could add the use of Songza and Instagram by the heroes of Girls to promote their third series—broadcasters are certainly interested first and foremost in these new media as means to make their content go viral and create something new at a lower cost.

In the social network arena, attempts to interact with the public are rare or non-existent. The four examples provided above use one-way communication, i.e., from the producer to the viewer. Although the viewer is called upon to interact with the social networks he uses, he is not given the opportunity to engage in any form of creativity regarding the brand. Rendezvous in 2014?

Oriane Hurard
Oriane Hurard is a producer with Les Produits Frais as well as a festival programmer for new storytelling formats (transmedia, webseries, VR) and a new media and community management instructor.
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