How one Vancouver company used multimedia to blow up a TV show.
Last summer, a new television show called Continuum debuted on Shaw Media’s Showcase channel. A sci-fi thriller set in a future Vancouver, it’s a show like none other before it. Not only is it broadcast on TV, but it also provides Continuum stories for other media, including comic books, blogs, contests and video games. This multiple-media platform is known as transmedia, and it shows how one local company has cracked the puzzle of cross-purposing intellectual content.
Creative shop Zeros 2 Heroes Media Inc. (Z2H) has provided digital content à la carte to online and entertainment companies since 2006. But its largely traditional-thinking clientele meant it was never able to demonstrate the full range of its capabilities.
Vancouver digital veteran and Z2H president Matt Toner met with Shaw Media at the 2012 Merging Media Conference in Vancouver, and learned that Shaw was planning Continuum, a new sci-fi television show that presented possibilities for digital work.
When Z2H pitched the project, its people were stunned to learn that Shaw wanted the full range of digital services for the show, and the show’s creator and producer, Simon Barry, pushed Z2H to do as much as possible to promote Continuum.
Relishing the opportunity to extend their creativity, Z2H proposed a digital-media campaign that would use “layered media” – television ads, websites, social media, mobile apps, graphic novels, video games and events – that would create multiple entry points to the show, thereby drawing a bigger audience. It was multimedia on steroids – a marketing approach that had been tried in parts before, but never, Toner believed, in such a comprehensive way.
Toner and Ryan Nadel, the core members of the Z2H team, began rolling out some of the components, such as graphic novels, before the show began airing. They created personalities and entire worlds for the Continuum characters. For example, Z2H built a website for the villains of the show, espousing their views. Another website created a back story and overview of the Continuum series.
To generate feedback and touch more people, Z2H created a YouTube channel, a Twitter stream, a Facebook page, a graphic novel with its own website and a video game that drew in fans who rarely watched TV, but attended game events. For every audience in a fractured media universe, there was a portal to the Continuum show.
The results were impressive. The show’s ratings broke the record for an original scripted drama on a cable channel and it was the most talked-about Canadian TV show in social media, reaching some 25 million people in one form or other. It gained 20,000 Facebook followers and was in the top five searches in the Internet Movie Database (IMDb). The Continuum hashtag was one of the top trends on Twitter and there were a million page views of the show’s website. More impressively, the show was picked up for airing in Britain and 12 other countries. Continuum has been signed up for a second season and the Z2H team is preparing even more media “touch” platforms.
• Go for it. Given the green light, be prepared to empty your toolbox to create something exciting.
• Kill your babies if you have to. A campaign has to be responsive to new information. Z2H had to dump one prized media feature when it realized it didn’t fit the campaign.
• Don’t fire and forget. Continue to touch consumers constantly and in multiple ways.