An introduction to transmedia in Singapore: outlook and predictions for 2014-15

It has been two months since I went to Singapore to join the pioneering efforts of South East Asian content creators that shape the future of Asian storytelling, but already lots of things are in motion. It feels like the market just waited for the right technology impulses to wake the sleeping transmedia Merilion.

Most certainly we will see significant projects coming from the SEA region in 2014-15 and among them will hopefully be the long awaited proof of concepts for the industry traditionalists that kept saying “wait and see” for the past couple of years.

Defining transmedia in Asia

Regardless of a long Asian tradition in creating vast cross-platform story universes in genre productions, comics and monster franchises, “transmedia” is nothing but a buzzword at this point in time. Storytelling practices of the old masters have been lost in pop culture, ignored by the education system or arrogantly dismissed by recent generations.

Local creators who read up on the topic and try to apply means of transmedia to their projects are rare and mostly visionaries with a strong sense for business development. Ultimately, transmedia does not have much of a pure storytelling character in Asia anymore nor are its primary drivers public funds or academic projects.

Seen as temporary bridge solution, at best, a transmedia concept is something that can add value to entertainment properties and brand building campaigns, but only when you got the right media strategy, partners and production set up.

Budget-wise it is still a nightmare and there are very few qualified agencies around that could handle a full transmedia campaign, creatively and administratively. The question of qualified local talent that brings in a hybrid education and right mindset will be a pressing issue for the months to come.

The Asian tradition and the lack of innovation

Ad agencies and production house still hire people with decades of expertise in banner booking on shopping mall facades instead of looking for digital natives with a storytelling background. It just makes no sense when you see a brand looking on JobsDB for a Social Media Manager with 12 years working experience. Only a few institutions offer hybrid models of education for jobs in the digital and design space only to see their graduates becoming flight attendants or button punchers at TV show control rooms.

Project and content development is still the weakest point in the production chain and barely taken seriously by anyone with money. Being common practice for independent producers to develop their own content bigger production houses frenetically push this unprofitable work toward summer interns from film schools where project development is not even on the curriculum. Too many industry deals are made simply based on name and reputation of project partners regardless whether they can deliver or how they address recent market trends.

The main obstacles of innovation in Asia, however, are corporate structures that have not been altered for the past 50 years and there is no motivation to change something that has worked so well for so long. Everybody got money for the quick fix but not for sustainable long-term strategies with build-in future add-on revenue streams.

Adding to this comes a social factor that prevents innovation to grow like putting salt on soil. The fear of failure is the industry’s biggest enemy. Spreading especially in Japan but lately in China and SAE as well, due to the fierce competition on the market, creatives tend to play safe by copy-paste. The fear of failing by doing something new and subsequently being socially isolated is just too overwhelming.

In general, Asia is a very fragmented market, different cultures, languages and systems. Pan-Asian projects have barely proven to be successful yet, while main driving markets like China and Japan becoming more and more self-isolated. South-Korea is still ruling the Asian entertainment segment with its strong content exports while China fails to gain its desperately desired international soft power share. Dynamics in the market are great and a structural rearrangement imminent.

Why is SAE such an interesting market when it comes to digital media?

For one, far different to any industrial country in the West, the average age in the SEA region is 30, most non-metropolitan areas even far below. A demographic that embraces new technology and is culturally more inclined to experiment – unlike the same demographic in China, where a consumption-only mentality reigns.

Within the years to come, all SEA countries that have not done so yet will install full coverage 3G mobile networks. This might sound like a long overdue technical adjustment of development countries. But one should not forget that this region never had coherently working (landlines) broadband internet yet, due to vast geographical challenges. Hence, we will soon see a number of demographics and generations that never had internet in the first place being exposed to mobile connectivity everywhere and anytime. The way these people will use and behave in the digital space will be radically different.

Creators’ independence in Singapore

Singapore happens to be one of the few Asian countries that hold specific public funds for new media projects, although those funds are new and barely taken advantage of. Fund criteria are often excluding the majority of projects up front or address an entirely different medium altogether. Four years back I was involved in the Singapore Integrated Media Fund, which is still up and running. Despite its fancy title the fund exclusively addressed the local production and spent of feature films.

The Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA) has and is about to set up funds for digital hybrid media projects, in fact it recently opened a call for projects in partnership with Unilever. But word on the street amongst local producers is: “We’ll do it on our own”. There seems to be some sort of public funding fatigue going around as every creator in town has had his/her personal share of adventures with these funding structures.

The general opinion is, and I strongly agree with this, a local industry can only thrive when it finds its own independent ways to survive on a sustainable level. Subsidization models create an atmosphere of self-censorship and misleading self-content that could work against the growth of the industry. Hence, one could say Singaporean creators are about to discover their digital creative identity by finding new business models for the entertainment market outside the obsolete system.

Every time I go to Singapore my horizon of what transmedia can deliver widens tremendously. Personally, I am stepping more and more away from feature film and TV to get involved in the advertising side of things. Transmedia strategies for brand building, business development and corporate training. Transmedia as means for experiential marketing.

The line between entertainment and advertising is gradually but quite distinctively disappearing. Branded entertainment, specifically for mobile consumption, will soon be a major industry pillar. Obviously, transmedia is simply a form of mindset. How creators approach projects, open up content to audiences and deal with new revenue models.

Empathy Led Activation

During the countless meetings and talks of the past two months I met the Singaporean media producer turned transmedia visionary Isaac Ray Thomas. He created a concept that perfectly sums up where Singapore is headed with the commercial side of transmedia projects. He calls it “Empathy Led Activation” (ELA) and you can check out his SlideShare here:

ELA embodies terminologies company execs and marketing directors can relate to and provides a very precise angle on the qualities of transmedia strategies in Asia. It is the mere design thinking methodology in telling stories that explains how this power can be leveraged to create specific audience/consumer actions.

ELA does not stop at a simple action or reaction a consumer will do after or while being immersed in a story experience. It also can influence audience behavior in daily life. This aspect is especially interesting to brands when it comes to social issues as well as corporate social responsibility programs. Just recently Unilever addressed this aspect of story marketing.

Language & identity

Traditionally, Singapore as a market in itself is far too small and film & TV producers have turned to Malaysia or China a long time ago. Despite the huge success of Singaporean film in 2013, domestic box office as well as international festival circuit, more and more filmmakers read the digital signs of the market and want to transition into alternative formats of production.

While Singapore is still a new nation and storytellers trying to find their very own narrative voice, the city-state is also one of the most international cities in the world. I have been around quite a lot but that many nationalities and religions on one single island is quite unique. Hence, there is a significant potential for international content that can travel to come from this country. Expanding productions into the SEA region is just the start. Many creators want to go beyond and could prove that a successful cross-cultural transmedia project can exist.

However, this cultural diversity also comes with an ongoing struggle about language identity within the traditional entertainment sector. “While we love movies from Hollywood or the United Kingdom, we do not want to see locals speak the same language they do.” Evidently, it boils down to the instant comparison between production values of Western English and local English movies/TV, where Singapore always picks the short end.

Traditional media around the world is facing the same issue, whereas transmedia can offer alternative points of entry for audiences; outside the boundaries of its own preoccupations and expectations. Therefore having barely international established formula or standards for transmedia production values is an advantage and eliminates quality comparisons up front.

On top, dealing with a variety of languages is something most local new media creators already do on a daily basis. Social media interactions and maintenance is done in at least two languages (English and Chinese), often even specialized channels for Tamil and Malay are being included to a project.

Hence, transmedia creators will be better equipped in dealing with various languages at ones and know how to work them into the stories in the first place, while those coming from traditional media need to adopt. New media technology also enables more diverse language implementations and is often more flexible to expand with the audience, like adding subtitles or providing more language options inside apps. This integrative aspect makes it an easy way to address and reach out to an audience outside the borders of Singapore.

Technology drivers

NFC/RFID appears to be a technology tool with untapped potential for creators in the region. Despite the wide use in the public transportation and card payments sectors it has yet to be commonly adopted by event organizers and especially storytellers for location based interactions.

OTT (Smart TV) will be one of the major drivers across Asia, tied in with m-Commerce. Spearheaded by the Chinese market, where a number of video platforms and media groups started co-operations with TV manufacturers, we will soon see an epic merger of mobile, commerce and entertainment. Tencent for instance, which runs highly popular web and mobile chat services like QQ and WeChat develops an in-house mobile payment system that integrates to their new Smart TV system WeChat TV, rolling out before Chinese New Year.

Meanwhile in Singapore, TV networks are still hesitant when it comes to leveraging OTT’s full potential with tailor made content and integrated cross-services. During a panel discussion at Screen Singapore in early December 2013, Lee Soo Hui, Head of Media Business Unit at Starhub, mentioned that the network is interested in going into the transmedia direction but still has not found the right local content. The other TV network giant, Mediacorp, does offer a variety of integrated (very) early stage OTT and online viewing infrastructures with its services Toggle and Xinmsn but seems to struggle taking the next step forward. The sociocultural conundrum outlined above is still in play here.

As one of my personal pet projects, I still see entertainment potential in the live action content Fulldome format, which has proven to be the most immersive tool of visual storytelling on the market. High-resolution Fulldome features tied in with an extended (mobile) transmedia experience outside the projection venue will take up a major stake of the business.

However, the venue infrastructure in SEA has yet to be established. China on the other hand will surely lead the introduction of this format as it has been subsidizing new dome venues for the past years and is ready when it comes to digital distribution infrastructures.

Transmedia in Singapore will start small and incremental. Dealing with the budget issue lean ways of rolling out a project will become the best practice. Given what kind of projects are being developed and pitched right now, location based transmedia experiences appear to dominate the first wave of projects.

I am reminded of this trend every day when passing the construction site of the new National Stadium. Singapore’s new sports hub and jewel of interactive media architecture. Once the stadium opens it will surely be a sandbox for advertisers and experience designers.

11728688533_c1c7c9b3b9_z

The journey ahead

Now, this article might sound like that there have been no substantial projects produced in Singapore so far. In fact, talented Singaporean creators already came up with remarkable transmedia experiences over the past 6 years. Some even commissioned by large brands, others gained short-lived international media recognition. However, still, the market kept dismissing the trend and the signs of time, till now.

There is no doubt that Singapore is about to become a pioneering hub for transmedia in Asia. However, this development is not ignited by government initiatives, festival labs or academic programs. It is a movement solely headed by a small but growing group of independent creators that circumvent the corporate gate-keeping mentality by offering integrated strategies execs cannot refuse.

Communicating and educating what transmedia concepts are about in a language brands understand while creating tailor made content for and with the local audience will be their selling point. Once this is clearly communicated it will be obvious for brands and agencies that without pivoting to a transmedia approach in customer relationship management there will be too much left on the table.

Singapore is no media paradise at this point in time, but rather a rough territory for digital prospectors. The chances for striking gold are plenty but also risky. While the journey ahead is still long and bumpy, the direction is clear.

—-

Notes:

As there are a couple more factors that come into play but have been barely touched upon, I will publish an extended and updated version of this article, especially addressing the implications and changes of the movie industry in SEA with the emergence of transmedia in the region, in the upcoming edition of our Asian Screen report series.

For all Singapore creators and producers, I created a monthly meetup series where we discuss about transmedia concepts, latest local projects and exchange ideas. Please join the community of storytellers here. For everyone outside of Singapore feel free to join as well and stay in touch with the local industry on news, projects and future reports.

Transmedia Watch Asia (Winter Edition 2013-2014)

In this winter 2013-2014 edition of the Tranamedia Watch Asia I’ll be talking about industry news on Getty Image’s latest marketing campaign, the launch of Singapore’s transmedia community as well as the business model of experiential storytelling and a viral marketing ghost stunt.

Getty Images APAC

In early 2013 Getty Images was the only major brand in Asia that understood the potential of transmedia and incorporated it into its own business model. A bold new marketing campaign put transmedia storytelling creation in the spotlight. After an interactive installation at Cannes Lions 2013 Getty offered its diverse content library is the ideal starting point for every transmedia creator or brand that wants to explore different ways of reaching out to their clientele. Supporting this campaign Getty started extensive education and advocacy efforts. Its Transmedia Storytelling in 5 Steps infographic made quite the rounds on social media and industry blogs. The company also offered corporate training sessions for their own clients. Another bold step was to actively support Asian media festivals. Getty was one of the main sponsors for the Hong Kong Webfest, which was also used as staring point for the transmedia campaign print distribution. The festival received the first batch of Getty’s photo packets, which are a mosaic like image collection that reacts with the Aurasma app to present video content overlays on smart phones. Elvira Lodewick, Getty’s APAC marketing director, the brain behind this entire initiative, also conducted a creative lab at the Spikes Asia conference in Singapore where transmedia concepts for marketing strategies were prime. IMG_7128

However, following an internal restructuring process in November 2013, Lodewick, who was the primary driver behind this campaign, left Getty and all transmedia efforts were subsequently shut down. Getty’s impact were just about to take up speed and tremendously helped convincing other Asian brands to take a shot at transmedia. The sudden conclusion of this campaign will hopefully be of temporary nature only and not send the wrong signals to the market.

Singapore Tranmedia Meetup

In Janaury 2014, Haexagon Concepts launched the Singapore Transmedia Meetup. This bi-monthly event series will bring together like-minded content creators and industry experts from entertainment, advertising and media technology. With a constantly changing schedule of speakers, talks, project presentations, pitching and idea exchange sessions the meetup aims to build and nurture a strong local creators community while advocating the concepts of transmedia.

Upcoming events will tackle topics like experiential storytelling, location based transmedia experiences, content marketing and the focus on customer relationship building via storytelling. To check out latest events and discussion sign up as a member here: http://j.mp/SGTMMU

The meetups are supported by the Transmedia Alliance and venue sponsored by AV8 Media.

Freeing HK/SG

Freeing HK provides the first room escape game in Hong Kong, furnishing Hong Kong people with an unprecedented entertainments. Apart from the sophisticatedly designed rooms, the delicate scenarios involved enable players to imitate the roles in movie stories. You have to find the hints to solve the riddle and escape from the room within the limited time, or you will have to bear an inconceivable aftermath!”

A modern treasure hunt so to speak. Participants voluntarily get locked up in a small room and need to decipher hidden clues and stories in order to free themselves. Others have to master a dark Indiana Jones-like labyrinth. Each location is themed differently and the provider even offers seasonal challenges. The experience is mostly used for corporate training as team building exercise but also very popular amongst young adults who visit with their group of friends.

Tickets running fast every day and it is hard to get a free slot at some locations. In fact the concept is so popular, especially in 1st tier Chinese cities that new providers popping up within months. In Shanghai alone, there are about 100 providers operating a total of around 300 locations. Freeing HK itself expanded quickly during the past 18 months, now running 5 outlets in Hong Kong as well as franchised to Singapore, Guangzhou and Macau.

Freeing HK offers two language versions, Chinese and English, depending on location and experience. The business model is accompanied by a spin-off called Mr. Escape which also comes as mobile app and got certain features of a reality game. Overall, it functions as marketing tool as well as experience extension.

Raffles Place Ghost

Just recently this slightly aged Singaporean project came to my attention while talking to one of the creators. The Raffles Place Ghost campaign for a local HR agency made quite some media waves back in 2008. The case study video below gives a good insight in strategy and structure of the campaign. The video was professionally seeded with a decent budget and hence gained a certain viral effect at some point. Quickly spinning out of control, the agency behind the project had to claim ownership after just 1 week online. Planned was a period of 1 month. What added to the viral factor was a smart setup with fictional characters (ghost hunters) that started online discussions and countless fact submissions by “fans”.

The Asian Screen #3 – Macau film industry & casinos gambling with transmedia

Intro:

THE ASIAN SCREEN is an ongoing series of industry reports on the media and entertainment market in the Greater China & South-East Asian region by Haexagon Concepts, a creative intellectual property management & development agency for emerging media strategies.

This third installment of our industry report series brings you a unique insight to Macau’s film and media industry, including the rise of transmedia. We take a look behind the scenes of one of the smallest entertainment markets in the world, but also one of the most profitable. Macau is more then just gambling and casinos. This analysis will provide you with a number of scenarios that also point to potential business opportunities within the region. It is the most comprehensive document on this topic available online.

TheAsianScreen_3_all_HQ22-1

Report sample (excerpt):

“…Macau is a gambling centric city, there is no denying this fact. Nevertheless, a lot is done in the city in terms of film creation (or at least the necessity of screening these films for its inhabitants) – short film competitions like the The 48 Rush Hours, Macau Indies exhibits/projections, The Creative Macau Sound & Image Challenge, The IPO’s artist showcases on a monthly sometimes weekly basis, the Script Road Macau Literary Festival (small stories, documentaries, etc are created for the exhibit), weekly production pieces for the Sunday News Reels (Portuguese/Chinese channels), the Macau Stories Initiative, the Macau International Film and Video Festival, the Chinese Film Media Awards, Theater and Declamation Events (the amateur Chinese theater in Macau has had a small resurgence in the past years and the Macanese yearly theater plays gather a strong audience around them) and several other exhibitions, showcases, projections and festivals that pop-up sometimes on a yearly basis, sometimes as single showing events.

These events, most of them, at least, are almost completely funded by the Cultural Affairs Bureau, the Macau Cultural Centre or the Macau Government Tourist Office, the Fundação Oriente, Macau Foundation and the Casa de Portugal, Creative Macau, Cut Association, Art for All Society, several other cultural/educational entities, and some are funded by private entities like the Melco Crown Group…”

Download options:

GET THE FULL REPORT FOR FREE HERE:

1) direct PDF download – pay with a Tweet, Facebook or LinkedIn: Pay with a tweet

2) read it on Scribed:

Credits:

Report Lead: Diogo Martins
Supporting Analysts: Kevin Ma, Marco Sparmberg

About HAEXAGON CONCEPTS:

We are a creative intellectual property (IP) management & development agency dedicated to create and implement new forms of digital, immersive and interactive story formats into the Asian entertainment market. We help brands, filmmakers and media producers to find new business models for their stories within the world of merging and emerging media. Building targeted audiences is as essential as equipping content creators with the right technology and distribution strategy in order to connect them to their audience base.
As a creative line-producer we offer either full project development and strategy implementation services for your concept ideas or add-on services for already produced properties. As a go-in-between brands/studios and creators our work process is so flexible that we can easily come in at any stage of your production and add value to your IP. This enables our clients to either run a more sophisticated and successful production or simply sell their IPs at a significantly higher profit margin.

To learn more about working with Haexagon Concepts, any press inquiries or background information & references to this report, contact: concepts<at>haexagon<dot>org

Subscribe to our mailing list to receive future reports and news for free: http://eepurl.com/qku9b

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.

#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.

IMG_7532IMG_7535 IMG_7534

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.

IMG_5242 IMG_5244

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.

600762_10151662975434693_133420940_n72435_628007890558952_234960597_n

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.

1052860_692071274152613_801854688_o

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.

IMG_7128

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.