00c6 – new transmedia experience raising awareness about China’s Gendercide

Intro

00c6 is a transmedia project about China’s imminent Gendercide crisis, centering on a fictional post-apocalyptic SciFi webseries. The project was started in 2011 and went through quite a lot of changes, especially in title. To provide a complete understanding of its production and creation process as well as its structure, we created our trademark project DNA map, including all links to every channel.

Webseries storyline

“In a near future, China’s society has developed a critical demographic imbalance. The number of male Chinese increased rapidly. Women become a minority. A greedy subculture emerges, taking advantage of this situation. Ruled by a private conglomerate called “the æ Corporation”, the market for selling the pleasure of a woman for one night to desperate men is a monopoly. The price for this exquisite virtue are the men’s lives!
Set out on the remaining remote archipelago of deserted and flooded Hong Kong, men in groups of three have to compete against each other in a brutal fight of survival. The trophy, a single woman inside a secret compound. Only the last survivor is granted access…”

Phase #1

Let’s untangle the most confusing part of the project first, the title. Originally, this project was the Masters of Fine Arts thesis production of Marco Sparmberg at the HK Baptist University’s Academy of Film. When story development and location scouting began in late summer 2011, the initial idea was a 20min short film with the working title BLACK JUNGLE. Despite the positive experience gained on producing a new story format before (the webseries SQUATTERTOWN), Marco rooted for a traditional short film for his thesis to comply with outdated university regulations and the proven limited willingness of dealing with experimental formats by the university’s lectures and staff.

[concept art]

Soon, as the script progressed, most locations were locked down and pre-production began, the title was changed into HÆXAGON. The Æ became an integral part of the short film’s production design and story. Two project web pages were set up. One, the cryptic 00c6.org that was supposed to function as hidden code and primary project page. The other, haexagon.org, as corporate page for the fictional company from the original story.

logo_evolution[Æ logo evolution]

Updates about the production were mainly given via personal social media channels of cast and crew. Only a G+ page was launched to provide the ability to follow the project publicly. Fundraising for HÆXAGON was solely conducted on a private and corporate sponsorship level, no public crowdfunding campaign on any online platform. From the projected HK$300,000 the team was able to raise 1/3 in cash, the rest in soft sponsorship. The film was complete according to production plan by end of April 2012, without major quality trade-offs.

One of the primary challenges of this thesis production was the legal situation. The university did not provide any support on a single legal production issue, which means the team was not able to acquire any form of insurance needed as the university was not willing to stand in as production company. This situation rendered the entire project as an illegal venture under the Hong Kong law.  Hence, we created our own production company, as it is common practice for feature film projects (but not necessarily for shorts).

Also, common practice is to name a production company by the title of the film. In January 2012, Haexagon Concepts Ltd. was founded and HÆXAGON was its first project. The previous fictional haexagon.org project web page was turned into the official company page and 00c6.org became main focus of the project.

web_evolution [00c6.org page evolution]

After the short film was completed, screened internally at the university to fulfill its thesis production purpose, an international festival run was attempted.

Meanwhile, Haexagon Concepts, the production company, was turned into a transmedia IP management & development agency and started regular business operations by producing other content and IPs.

The storyline of HÆXAGON was further developed into a feature film treatment with the title DAMAGE REMOVAL. The short film however, was never screened publicly nor released officially. Screener copies on DVD and Blu-Rays are available but not for sale.

poster_coll [HÆXAGON poster collection]

Phase #2

Despite dealing with other projects and new clients we always felt HÆXAGON, as one of our in-house signature IPs needed a next step forward and won’t just end with the completion of this short film. In late 2012 we always used HÆXAGON for technical experiments and tried to pair it up with new solutions and strategies that emerged. Like a lab guinea pig, it got every media injection available to see how it reacts.

In early 2013 the plan was made to bring the project into its second phase. In order to reduce the title confusion with our company, the project was renamed 00C6 and the short film reedited into a webseries season, adding a number of new content. Hence, five episodes for the first season were created. The story got extended by means of an interactive tumblr blog (access password: 00c6) that functions as whistle-blower character, disclosing secrets from the series’ fictional universe.

First, the series will be available exclusively on Blip.tv and published on YouTube on December 6th, 2013.

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/AYOVrBoA.x?p=1 width=”640″ height=”388″]

Objective in this phase is to provide a stronger focus on the project’s non-fiction aspects. A new Twitter account is used to provide articles, writings and other background documentation about the real Gendercide situation in China. While 00c6.org functions as fictional extension to the webseries that is hosted at video platforms alongside with other videos about the production, Flickr (make sure to log-in otherwise you might not be able to see all pictures) is used to host the incredibly powerful set photography of Jonathan van Smit that tell their very own little stories. Combining platform of fiction and non-fiction elements is Pinterest, providing an array of pin boards on both topics and all major project content.

00c6_YTthumb_trailer [web banner]

With this strategy, we created a number of entry points for new users/participants. Depending on from what side 00c6 is being approached, there are always interconnected links or additional information that lead to another platform without duplicating content in different channels simultaneously. The range and versatility of the non-fiction project part will be growing within the months to come.

Phase #3

Right now, we just started Phase #2 and want to test the general response on the project and what kind of feedback we get from online/mobile audiences in order to develop further storylines and project extensions.

We already experimented with some technology last year and were planning to create a hiking experience. A trail that leads to the locations where the webseries was shot with either an augmented reality overlay app (image recognition like Aurasma) or hidden NFC check-ins where hikers can watch clips from the project that were shot at that respective location. This experience would tap into the local Geo-cashing community and needs specific incentives to be conducted successfully.

map

On the non-fiction side of the project, we are currently talking to other related organizations that deal with a similar topics and exploring co-operations and future side projects. Hence, there is much underway but primarily it depends on the audience and where it wants us to be headed with 00c6.

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#transmedia watch Hong Kong (Summer 2013 edition v.2)

This HK Transmedia Watch follow-up post will showcase a small local student project that combines Indonesian Puppetry with transmedia elements as well as take a look at the endorsement culture and stalling strategies of local film distributors when it comes to promotion gambles that potentially maximizing the box office results.

Digital Wayang

I stumbled more less by “accident” upon this project as Facebook was targeting a sponsored post to my wall on the day of the event. Created by a group of media design students from HK Polytechnic University, this project attempts to revive the almost lost artistry of the Indonesian Puppet/Shadow Play and its vast and rich storytelling heritage by the use of digital means.

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Core of Digital Wayang was a live performance of renowned puppet artist Aldy Sanjaya who came to HK with his whole set of traditional puppets to present a part of the well known Ramayana story. He was accompanied by a set of story world supporting animations projected onto the stage.

wayang

The project also includes a board game of which I was fortunate enough to receive one of the prototypes. A digital version of this game will soon be released as iPad app and brings the user deeper into the fascinating universe of Wayang. After the digital show Sanjaya gave an introduction to Indonesian culture and the history of his puppetry art.

IMG_7564 Digital Wayang offered a mesmerizing experience of visuals, game and culture. It gave a glimpse into how traditional art can be garner to a young audience by the use of transmedia. While the limitations of the project within this academic environment were outweighing its commercial appeal, it still displayed the potential of interdisciplinary media and experiential entertainment based on traditional storytelling and local culture. It most definitely made me research on Indonesian puppet theater and think about other ways of “media-upgrading” this unique story experience.

http://www.digitalwayang.com/

https://www.facebook.com/digitalwayang

http://digitalwayang.blogspot.hk/

Endorsement culture

The heavily buzzed local dance film The Way We Dance launched at HK theaters early August after being locked up for 5 months following its premiere screening in March 2013. The distributor applied the frequently used and favored strategy of withholding a local film, produced for a local audience, from the local market while running it on festivals all over the world. I’ll talk a bit more about this specific market stalling tactics later on, let me walk you through the marketing choreography of this film first.

Obviously, The Way We Dance comes off as HK’s version of Street Dance and taps into the most desirable target demographic imaginable. Street dancing is tremendously popular amongst local teens and even tweens, and presents its local story about following your dreams with up and coming music and model stars. Hence, the vitally important Millennial audience group is perfectly served. In fact, this concept is the wet dream of a HK producer and sounds like a money making machine. The Street Dance films have produced solid box office results so far. What could possibly go wrong with a localized version?

The traditional marketing machinery was quickly ramping up after screenings at Udine and Edinburgh. Appearances of cast and crew at preview screenings, radio shows, TV and a street performance of graffiti artists tied in with people holding up pre-selected cards with dream wishes for a nice Facebook photo. Social media was leveraged to its fullest. Events at HK universities and WeChat where actors talk, talk, talk, talk and talk… (not dance).

The 360-buzz worked. Word of mouth and reviews have been dazzling positive throughout. The distributor lined up a typhoon of veteran film stars and director legends like Ann Hui to endorse the project publicly (without understanding the culture behind it though). One could have the impression this project is a collective effort of the entire HK film industry, at least what is left of it anyway. The veterans praised the film with comparisons to the HK New Wave movement from the early 1980s. Wait! WHAT??? A film that is about street dancing and targeted to Millennials? Kids that consider everything older than 5 years is dusted movie history?

Clearly there is a significant disconnect between this traditional art film campaign and and the YouTube generation it is created for. It does not matter how often the audience sees the film’s cute actors talking about themselves and how amazing the production time was. A campaign simply renders ineffective once no one thought about how to get these kids involve and let them interact. After all it IS about dancing and music. Fast, vibrant, connected and energetic. This is what a campaign needs to serve to keep pace with its audience. What they got instead was a snail race and the films own audience outrun it the moment the crew started shooting in silence.

In fact, cinemas saw what was going on with the film’s marketing and gave it a limited amount of shows for it’s opening weekend. The first 4 days (including previews) cashed in a solid but not overwhelming HK$ 1.4 million. Considering the amount of buzz this borders at the realms of under-performance. But HK kids love the film, they want it to be a success. Hence, they jump in where the distributor failed. Large amounts of tickets are being bought up by fans, sold amongst their friends via WhatsApp, WeChat and Facebook. Others create Facebook events to get their peers mobilized. The effort was enormous and picked up speed quickly. Usually, a local film would drop in admissions during it’s first week in cinemas but The Way We Dance managed to keep steadily afloat, with a total box office of HK$ 3.54 after the 2nd weekend.

人人有狂舞派睇(集資幫助貧窮基層)_20130816-122016

Just as side comparison, Dante Lam’s new film Unbeatable (admittedly a more commercial and mainstream production) just made HK$ 9.46 after 4 days (including previews). Even though it got more screens in cinemas it had a slightly less buzzed traditional campaign going, mainly based on 1 single magazine cover. While Unbeatable aims for a clearly higher demographic that is fewer in numbers, I dare to say that the core message of following your dream is equally included like in The Way We Dance.

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Recently, another local release went for a similar basic marketing campaign. The horror film omnibus series Tales From The Dark. My very first encounter with Tales was at the cinema. Right in-between thundering trailers to Men of Steel and The Wolverine there was this two and a half minute something with a supposedly scary background music and a dozen of HK stars trying to convince me how horrifying and cool this flick would be. Essentially I sat through interviews disguised as trailer.

This is a very common way of promoting films. Usually the first teaser to a local production is always a 2 minute making of. Personally I find that most irritating. After all, Hollywood studios won’t show you how the Avengers look like in front of a green screen before the first teaser trailer with all the smashing effects is out there for months already.

Endorsements have become the prime objective to all marketing efforts. The actual film has become less important than the person that is endorsing it. What distributors forget is that this situation resonates very little with the Millennials demographic but rather engages a far older audience that is less willing to spend their quality time in dark rooms with small screens. Eventually the economics are simple. When distributors target the senior demographic group the box office result will be less due to the discount schemes. On top, this audience group will most likely choose weekend morning shows which brings the discount ticket price even further down.

Stalling as promotion

Let me cycle back to the notorious stalling tactics by distributors. It has become fashionable to premiere and run a HK film abroad for a period up to 1 year till it finally hits the locals screens in its own market. Usually this involves screenings at festivals while domestic press is reporting about the raving reviews and marketing stunts this film does somewhere on the other side of the globe. Ann Hui’s A Simple Life was such a case. The cultural conscious proofs this tactics right. HK audience seems to react very strongly to things that they are excluded from. Hence witnessing a local film doing its theater run in North America builds up an enormous urge to see this “forbidden” treasure once the local distributor is gracious enough to allow it to its own viewers.

Since this has proven to ensure the success of a film in HK we usually get to see all the highlights of HK  cinema for the running year during the industry’s fair Filmart in March as stealth screenings or one-off events until their actual release far later down the road. Pang Ho Cheung’s Vulgaria was such a shelved title. But different to most films it gained significance in cultural meaning and momentum during the months of hiding from the screens due to political developments and trends in HK happening in spring and summer 2012.

Apparently, some local films are being shelved for several years as the distributors wait for a miracle. Obviously the main trouble does not lie within distribution but rather the fact that local films are being produced without the slightest attempt to gather the needed market and audience research up front. In fact most local films are never intended to be appreciated by a local audience and hence will never see the point of significance for a release.

What strikes me recently is the silent underground movement of the Bollywood films on HK’s screens that discloses what’s wrong with the city’s marketing thinking of maintaining the status quo instead of pivoting to innovation. Evidently there is a growing community of HK moviegoers that appreciates the extravaganza only an Indian film can offer these days. It is a rare exception that Bollywood films get picked up by local distributors or even see a wider release despite the proven recent success of films like 3 Idiots or Barfi. However, there are still day-and-date released of all the big blockbusters.

Specialized niche distributors like Cineworld, sitting somewhere inside Chungking Mansion, with strong connections to the home land buy up entire screens and resell the tickets. Shows are usually limited but always sold out. In fact ticket sales go so well that after one of the major cinemas in town that had the seat capacity and “willingness” to book Bollywood films closed down earlier this year, shows moved to an IMAX screen.

#transmedia watch Hong Kong (summer 2013 edition) Hong Kong’s movie marketing 2.0 and the attempt to be “transmedia”

After Hollywood’s two reigning emperors proclaimed a soon implosion of the movie industry distributors are under pressure to make this summer’s tent-pole blockbusters work. In fact the pressure is so great that even lethargic HK distributors uppen their game. The “innovations” that are hitting the streets right now would not be worth mentioning in any other city, but here in HK they are a big step forward after years of ignoring what happened in other markets.

Hurray, we got NFC!

One of the major players and often innovation implementers is JCDecaux. Simply because it runs all signages and ad spaces on the MTR, an environment with traditionally steady amount of foot-traffic as well as tech savvy consumer demographic. We have seen a great deal of escalator redesigns via custom made large scale sticker posters and turning entire corridors into Canon’s scenic photo landscapes or giant crawling babies trying to sell diapers and milk formula.

Let’s first talk about an old troublemaker, the QR code. It is still a constant in the MTR ad sphere despite the countless failing attempts of advertisers to make it work. Posters with QR codes are regarded as interactive advertising and hence can considered as paramount practice (from a HK perspective). JCD tries different ways to make them work as this means business to them. Entire poster campaigns were created that help educate the usage of QR codes.

Earlier this year JCD launched Pricerite’s virtual e-store on the MTR by installing posters displaying the company’s product range, each with a QR code that would let you order products on the spot (http://www.campaignasia.com/Article/340614,jcdecaux-helps-pricerite-launch-8216virtual-e-store8217-campaign-in-mtr.aspx). Tesco ran this campaign already 2 years ago and it was picked up in Japan and Europe before this began making sense to a HK based brand.

As Samsung gained tremendous market share on the HK smart phone sector in the past year the introduction of NFC enabled advertising has become a viable option. As integrative measure, JCD came up with a QR/NFC bundle package that not only provides the physical linkage on site but also the online content. Film distributors (and other advertisers) do not have to worry about their landing page content anymore and whether it works.

After introducing this strategy in March quick responding brands like Osim or SKII used this offer, even before Samsung itself jumped on it. Now, we see the first movie campaign rolling out with this technology, Pacific Rim. I talked about Warner’s mobile content debacle with the Dark Knight Rises last summer in my 2012 recap post. This time they simply outsourced to JCD to make it work and it really works. But then again, what do people who actually scan either of the codes get? A small mobile enabled landing page with 1 link to like the movie’s HK Facebook page and 2 links to YouTube trailers.

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Last year we were already experimenting in-house with NFC enabled posters to our projects, using the same NFC stickers like JCD is doing now. A poster would have several NFC spots and users that scan would receive different video clips according to the character pictured. However, as a standalone gimmick this did not make much sense, so we tried to include it into a wider outdoor experience concept. However, we decided to use NFC stickers for BluRay covers to our projects in order to provide an additional story extension tool.

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At the end of the day, NFC is a 1 way communication channel. So what exactly is the interactive value from JCD’s code bundle product and why should passengers on the MTR bother scanning the codes? To be honest, I have yet to see someone stopping in front of any poster and scanning a code. In fact, when I did pictures of this poster and tried the code passersby looked at me as I were crazy and would do something socially offending. Do we have a certain behavioral barrier on interacting with content in HK? Unfortunately, when it comes to regular content like this, yes. But not so much when it comes to yellow rubber ducks or cute, fluffy monsters.

Hurray, we got ice cream and games!

I also mentioned in the 2012 recap that Disney is being heading the transmedia game in HK. They continue doing so with Monster University by creating the movie’s campus in front of the Time Square shopping mall. Tie-ins with fashion brands and countless other merchandising deals flooding the city for weeks now. When something is rolling out that huge in HK it must be successful at the box office, at least that is the traditional thinking pattern. The illusion of “it’s big” always prevails over “it’s good” and people will flock to the cinemas. But will Disney break even on these marketing expenses just by the theatrical run revenue in HK? Probably not, and they do not have to anyways.

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Other distributors trying to gain some ground at the animation front. Fox started to deploy an all branded ice cream truck for its latest features The Croods and Turbo. But what is more important to Fox than animation is Wolverine this year. The studio’s very own super-hero franchise summer blockbuster that goes up against Warner’s Man of Steel and Marvel’s (Disney) Iron Man 3. Hence, the movie’s importance is so tremendous that Fox set up an interactive game screen that uses motion recognition and a touch screen to be controlled by the visitors of a 2nd tier shopping mall in Tsim Sha Tsui East.

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What we might get and others already have…

In South-Korea, CJ Entertainment experimented with the Wi-Fi Poster to get people engaged. Passersby can access a dedicated wifi network that is being send out by the poster in order to access the movie’s webpage. Ultimately this bears little potential. While the technology is intriguing it just replaces the process of scanning something with logging into an open network without having actual content value add on or interactivity with the movie’s story universe.

Last year, we also experimented in-house with image recognition apps that would overlay video content on specific photos or locations as sort of augmented reality interface for your smart phone’s camera (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUeSLLpKsrQ). The app is called Aurasma and is connected with Google Maps. Users can create their own points of photo recognition and input own content. Recently, Getty Images picked up this technology for their “Transmedia Storytelling” campaign. The campaigns preferred carrier app is Ogle which is based upon Aurasma. In June, we had the chance to present Getty’s augmented reality enabled photo packets at the HK Webfest 2013 for the first time ever.

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While the above mentioned technology is available for your smart phone, you always need to do a step or 2 before actually “interacting” with the content given. Either downloading and installing an app or connecting to another network. I always tell participants in my transmedia seminars that they need to start thinking about how to create content for interactions with something users/audience are already using instead of establishing something new which creates additional work and education.

Something that comes this concept the closest are the Weibo walls found in Beijing cinema lobbies. You can log into the wall directly from your Weibo account on the phone and grand the wall access to your phone’s photo folder in order to add your pictures and messages to the wall by a swipe. The technology is simple. There is no direct communication between the wall and the phone, it all runs through Weibo. Hence, the possibilities for service providers/advertisers/content producers to gather a vast amount of behavioral data is enormous.

In HK we also have a number of tech startups already holding solutions that help tracking and collecting such data. When we visited this year’s exhibition of the ICT Awards 2013 Winners there were 2 companies that offered digital signages that not only provide a large touch screen solution, for example for cinema ticket bookings, but also recognize and analyze facial expressions while customers using the device. Now, content can be specifically tailored for usage. This technology also works in app form on tablets or smart phones. Admittedly, while this technology is the wet dream of every advertiser it also sounds scary as we already arrived at Spielberg’s Minority Report, with which the loop of the industry’s imminent implosion would come to a close.

HKWebfest 2013 Snaptee t-shirt design contest winners

HK based mobile app startup Snaptee is official sponsor of the HK Webfest 2013 and not only sponsored the festival’s staff outfit but also created a mobile contest where participants can create and design own t-shirts via Snaptee’s iOS app. Themes had to be related to the festival. By the end of the contest on June 9 a large number of designs were submitted to the dedicated contest page: http://snaptee.co/contest/hkwebfest

4 winners have been selected and will receive their t-shirt coupon codes via email (shown are platform user names):

– howardtian
– fleee04
– etchy
– hongkonggong

Big congrats to all winners and thanks for all your creative submission!

teecontest

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About Snaptee Limited

Snaptee Limited is a startup based in Hong Kong founded by Wai-Lun Hong and Gary Lee, who previously bootstrapped a startup to USD 5 million revenue in 2 years without outside funding. Now, the two entrepreneurs are building Snaptee to realize everyone’s creativity.

About the 2013 Hong Kong Webfest

The first event of its kind in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Webfest aims to  connect international and local brands with local content creators in order to discover new forms of how transmedia storytelling can be utilized for brand building and especially audience reach. The festival comprises of screenings, panel discussions and Google Hangout sessions featuring experts from France, Singapore and China. The festival is an Associated Project of the 2013 Le French May and is supported by the Los Angeles Webfest and the Marseilles Webfest.