Monday, November 14, 2016


Sesame Street

By Anne Zeiser
Founder of Azure Media 
Author of  Transmedia Marketing: From Film and TV to Games and Digital Media

Anyone who’s been in business or managed teams of people knows you can’t have two people running the same show. Accountability must lie with one person. Because ego always creates conflict with two co-heads, President-elect Trump’s recent top posts has created a two-headed monster.

Trump’s appointment of Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee Chairman, as his chief of staff is the politically expedient decision for the top White House position, appeasing the Republican leadership.  Priebus is a GOP insider with close ties to House Speaker, Paul Ryan. Trump’s appointment of Steve Bannon, the recent chairman of the Trump campaign and former chairman of the conservative Breitbart News, as his chief strategist and senior counselor is a cagey positioning of who Trump really trusts and wanted. But Bannon won’t fly in Washington as chief of staff because the alt-right lightning rod has been the architect of many of Trump’s most polarizing nationalistic and racist messaging during the campaign. The murky title of “strategist” gives him the president’s ear without anyone knowing how much he owns it.

How do I know whether Priebus or Bannon is Trump’s true consigliere? Journalists and public relations professionals know that the person listed first in a press release signals who’s the most important.  That’s Bannon in this case, despite Priebus snagging the top chief of staff title.

What Trump has tried to do with these dual appointments is to give both the ultraconservative voters and more moderate GOP leadership someone to look to in a position of power as “their guy.” But this two-headed moster is a critical mistake. Instead of sticking to his business know-how by placing one person in charge, Trump’s dual leadership posts is a prescription for internal civil war in his administration.

It will end with Trump figuratively lopping of one of the monster’s heads by uttering his hallmark statement to one of them, “You’re fired.” 

This updated story also appeared on LinkedIn Pulse.


Anne Zeiser is a critically-acclaimed transmedia and social impact producer and media strategist. She's stewarded films and iconic series for PBS, produced news for CBS, managed national brands for marketing firms, and founded Azure Media, which develops transmedia projects on air, online, and on the go that fuel social impact in communities, in schools, and in capitals. With media partners from PBS and the BBC to Miramax and Sikelia Productions, Zeiser has successfully launched and marketed film studios and media organizations, feature and documentary films, television series and specials, mobile games and apps, and online video and media communities. She's the author of Transmedia Marketing: From Film and TV to Games and Digital Media from Focal Press' American Film Market® Presents book series. You can follow her at the book’s Web site or on Twitter @azuremedia.



By Anne Zeiser
Founder of Azure Media 
Author of  Transmedia Marketing: From Film and TV to Games and Digital Media

My son’s middle school pre-election vote was prescient. Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by 7%. “Could this actually happen in real life?,” asked my 12- year-old. “Yes it could.” For more than a year, I have predicted that this outcome was likely. Ask my friends and family about the heated discussions at cookouts and holiday get-togethers. Most dismissed my theory that Trump would win because of the hidden, growing trend he represented and pandered to. I suspected the polls wouldn’t fully reveal this partially underground phenomenon. 

Now that it has come to pass, what to say to a kid who heard Trump’s “build a wall” statement in real time and called him on it vehemently? A kid who formed his own opinion of who was the better candidate, landing firmly on Hillary Clinton. So, when Trump became the President-elect, what could he learn from the loss of his chosen candidate?

These are my suggested takeaways:

1. Life isn’t fair. It never has been and it never will be. The sooner and the more deeply you learn this, the better-equipped you will be to handle life. “So what?” if a kid stole your ball, the teacher blamed you for something you didn’t do, a colleague presented your idea as his, or your candidate didn’t win? The takeaway: Decide how you are you going to handle it. Are you going to blame your current circumstances on external forces?  Are you going to dwell on the fact that it’s unjust? Or, are you going to translate that ire into resolve to do something about it… starting now? 
2. Find the good in people. Are all of Trump’s supporters, bigots, misogynists, and haters? Probably not. But they’re all scared. They’re afraid of losing something precious — their economic or social standing. We know how swiftly fear brings out the worst in people. We saw the rise of fear in Nazi Europe and we saw FDR brilliantly allay it when the Great Depression descended upon this country. The takeaway: Work hard to understand what people are afraid of. Is it fear of lost jobs, diminished quality of life, or “otherness?” Once fear’s understood, you can combat it – by demonstrating how rising tides raise all boats or how we all share a common human experience. 
3. Understand that you have power.  Whether you’re a 12- or 87-year-old; a business owner or unemployed; a white male or a member of a disenfranchised group; you are powerful, especially in this country. You have rights. You have a voice. You have platforms. You have agency.  The takeaway: Every person’s actions matter. The greatest movements began with one person who inspired others to stand up for good. What you do in your life – no matter how seemingly insignificant – has a ripple effect on the people around you, and so on, and so on. Gather up your power and feel its strength.
4. Identify clearly what needs fixing. While there’s a lot to do to make the world a better place and it’s great to feel passionate about many things, you can’t fuel real change without identifying concrete problems and solutions.  What will ensure all Americans have equal rights under the law? How do we give everyone an opportunity to prosper? What measures will protect our planet from climate change? The takeaway: Find your cause(s) and identify the various ways to improve it. Some solutions involve top-down institutional or policy change. Others use bottom-up grassroots public pressure. Most use both. What elements of those solutions can you truly advance?  
5. Create a practical action plan.  Actions affect change. Your actions should be proportional to the concern you feel. If you think the long-standing future of the country is at stake, then make a long-standing commitment to getting involved. Progress requires hard, protracted work. You can sign a petition or post on social media, but will armchair activism be enough? The takeaway: Evaluate the most effective ways you can make a difference. Are you a strong writer or a tech guru? Can you lend your skills to like-minded people or groups? Perhaps you will shape your career to positively impact this world. Will you run for office? Invent something useful? Advocate for the needy?
In seeking lessons around the outcome of the recent election for my 12-year-old – a person old enough to understand what’s going on in the world, but not old enough to fully feel his agency in changing it – I learned a lot. Proof positive that parenting often teaches us more than we teach our children.  In that spirit I share what I hoped my son would learn during this exceptional time – a time that’s raw, but rife with opportunity.

This updated story also appeared in the HuffingtonPost.


Anne Zeiser is a critically-acclaimed transmedia and social impact producer and media strategist. She's stewarded films and iconic series for PBS, produced news for CBS, managed national brands for marketing firms, and founded Azure Media, which develops transmedia projects on air, online, and on the go that fuel social impact in communities, in schools, and in capitals. With media partners from PBS and the BBC to Miramax and Sikelia Productions, Zeiser has successfully launched and marketed film studios and media organizations, feature and documentary films, television series and specials, mobile games and apps, and online video and media communities. She's the author of Transmedia Marketing: From Film and TV to Games and Digital Media from Focal Press' American Film Market® Presents book series. You can follow her at the book’s Web site or on Twitter @azuremedia.

Monday, August 1, 2016


Add caption

By Anne Zeiser
Founder of Azure Media 
Author of Transmedia Marketing: From Film and TV to Games and Digital Media

Social media has made everyone a brand and everyone a brander. Do you register on your social graph as snarky or heartwarming? What reflects you better, driving a Jeep or a BMW? Audiences have an innate understanding that a brand's public expressions, the company it keeps, and what others say about it imbue it with characteristics and attributes.

Presidential candidates are the ultimate American brands. In pre-literate eras, their brands were expressed through cartoons and posters. They've since evolved to campaign buttons, brochures, ads, logos, taglines, and theme songs. Like all brands, candidates reflect a coherent set of concepts that are the sum of:
  • Identity - what they stand for
  • Image - what they represent
  • Aspiration - how they make audiences feel


To understand a brand's essence you must find its true brand personality or persona. A simple, intuitive, and clarifying construct to reveal personas taps the long-standing storytelling character device - the archetype. Archetypes have been prevalent through our earliest oral and written storytelling traditions, populating mythology and literature. Plato wrote about seminal characters, which have recurred in some of the greatest stories of all time. Achilles, from Greek mythology and Superman are both "The Hero." Little John in Robin Hood and Chewbacca in Star Wars are both "The Regular Guy."

Carl G. Jung identified and described seven universal archetypes in his Archetypal Theory that symbolize basic human needs, aspirations, and motivations. In 2001, Margaret Mark and Carol Pearson applied Jungian archetypal storytelling and psychology to brand identity in The Hero and the Outlaw, identifying 12 familiar brand archetypes or personas.

Check out all 12 archetypes - mapped along two continua along the Y and X axes - revealing four groupings of human motivations.

Courtesy of Azure Media; Design: Elles Gianocostas
Where do the presidential nominees and their VP picks land among these archetypes? The candidates' true personas blend their personalities with their core ideologies. You may identify more than one archetype at play in each candidate, but one persona is always dominant.  And you'll see that both the Republican and Democratic nominees have chosen running mates who complement their personas. (For details of all 12 archetypes and to learn how to discover a brand's identity, see Transmedia Marketing: From Film and TV to Games and Digital Media.)


Donald Trump - "The Ruler"

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Donald Trump is clearly "The Ruler" persona - a powerful leader who can be either good or evil. Trump runs his business empire (and ran The Apprentice reality show) with absolute power.  To make America prosper, he expects to rule the county in the same top-down, authoritarian style.

Trump's unabashed about his singular power, claiming "I am the only one who can make America truly great again!" And, he sees himself as the only one who can stabilize an unsteady ship: "No one knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it." David Boaz, EVP of the Libertarian think tank, Cato Institute, supports this autocratic designation. "We have one candidate who's not even pretending - he is promising to be a one-man ruler."

Trump boldly plays out this persona by uttering un-PC criticisms and ad hominems about his enemies and people he sees as "other" or a threat. This is particularly attractive to America First-ers. His critics view his leadership style as too extreme, calling him a "dictator," "bully," and "demagogue." These reproaches are fueled by his public admiration of leaders such as Vladimir Putin and Saddam Hussein. 

You might see elements of the "The Jester" (the comical truthsayer) in Trump because of his over-the-top comments. Or, you may see his disruptiveness as signs of "The Outlaw" (anti-establishment freedom seeker, which Bernie Sanders truly embodies).  But in the end, Trump's dominant persona is "The Ruler."
"The Ruler"- an archetype of Security and Control: StabilityA powerful leader. Part of the establishment. Sets the rules that others play by. Can be benevolent or evil.

  • Motto: Power isn't everything; it's the only thing
  • Core desire: Control
  • Goal: To create a prosperous, successful family or community
  • Greatest fear: Chaos or being overthrown
  • Strategy: Exercises power
  • Gift: Responsibility or leadership
  • Trap: Authoritarianism or dictatorship; inability to delegate
  • AKA: The boss, leader, aristocrat, king, queen, politician, role model, manager, or administrator
  • Fits if it: Is a high-status brand used by powerful people to enhance their power; Makes people more organized; Offers a lifetime guarantee; Empowers people to maintain or enhance their grip on power; Has a regulatory or protective function; Is moderately to high priced; Can be differentiated from more populist brands or one that is a clear leader in the field; Is a market leader that offers a sense of security and stability in a chaotic world 
  • Examples: Star Wars character - Darth Vader, Microsoft, The New York Times, Universal, IBM, Mercedes, American Express, British Airways, Barclays

    Mike Pence - "The Sage"

    Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
    Given the concerns about Trump's despotic and loose cannon persona, it's no surprise that Trump (or his party) chose a safe, more predictable running mate in Mike Pence. Pence is "The Sage" persona - a provider of intellectual solutions through research and diligence.

    A former Indiana staffer bolsters this persona, saying Pence "likes to chew over an issue extensively before presenting it to the public, and wants to hear from multiple sides before making up his mind."

    In addition to the social conservative cred and ties to the Koch brothers that Pence lends to the Trump ticket, he offers an almost "boring" offset to Trump's flamboyance. "He balances Mr. Trump out in terms of personalities," says political science professor Andrew Downs, director of the Center for Indiana Politics at Indiana University-Purdue University in Fort Wayne. "He is Midwestern polite. He's also very good at staying on message."

    But as an absolute ruler, will Trump mine the considerable value of and give voice to Pence's "The Sage"?
    "The Sage" - an archetype of Independence and Fulfillment: IndividualismProvides intellectual solutions to problems. Offers expertise and advice. Has serious objective tone. Finds truth through research, objectivity, and diligence.

  • Motto: The truth will set you free
  • Core desire: To find the truth
  • Goal: To use intelligence and analysis to understand the world
  • Greatest fear: Ignorance, or being duped or misled
  • Strategy: Seeks out information and knowledge; self-reflects and understands thought processes
  • Gift: Wisdom or intelligence
  • Trap: Dogmatism or studying details forever without acting
  • AKA: The expert, scholar, detective, advisor, thinker, philosopher, academic, researcher, planner, professional, mentor, teacher, or contemplator
  • Fits if it: Provides expertise or information to others; Encourages audiences to think; Is based on new scientific findings or esoteric knowledge; Is supported by research-based facts; Can be differentiated from others whose quality or performance is suspect
  • Examples: Star Wars character - Yoda, CNN,, Intel, Gallup, McKinsey & Co., Harvard University, Oprah's Book Club, Philips, HSBC, Albert Einstein


    Hillary Clinton - "The Hero"

    Alex Wong/Getty Images
    Hillary Clinton's appearance at the Democratic National Convention crystallized her "The Hero" persona - a strong change maker who benefits others. She exuded the "White Knight" - literally and figuratively - when she accepted the nomination.

    Throughout the election, Clinton has touted her legacy of public service - including law school service projects, children's health care reform, and post-9/11 funding - as improving the world. Forbes attributes her achievement of that track record to "persistence, strong will or sheer determination." Bill Clinton reinforced this crusader persona in his spouse-in-chief speech, recalling her accomplishments and naming her "the best darn change maker I ever met in my life." 

    But Clinton's extensive service record can play as a recitation of her resume, rather than a heartfelt expression of her deep-seated empathy. Her critics call her "cold" and "arrogant" - possible results of her single-minded focus or falling prey to the "The Hero's" trap of hubris. Clinton acknowledges that disconnect: "Throughout all these years of public service, the service part has always come easier to me than the public part."

    So, it's no surprise that Chelsea Clinton introduced her mother to the DNC as a warrior, but wrapped in a highly personal package. "My mother, my hero, our next President: Hillary Clinton."

    You may see elements of "The Sage" in Clinton because of her serious tone and command of facts, or "The Explorer" (challenges themselves and others to do new things) because of her never-ending causes. Still, she and her machine have cast her dominant persona as "The Hero.
    "The Hero" - an archetype of Risk and Mastery: ChangeProves self through amazing physical acts. Strong, but uses a controlled strength to benefit others.

  • Motto: Where there's a will, there's a way
  • Core desire: To prove one's worth through courageous acts
  • Goal: Expert mastery in a way that improves the world
  • Greatest fear: Weakness, vulnerability, or being cowardly
  • Strategy: Is as strong and competent as possible
  • Gift: Courage or competence
  • Trap: Arrogance or always needing another battle to fight
  • AKA: The warrior, crusader, rescuer, superhero, soldier, dragon slayer, winner, or MVP
  • Fits if it: Has inventions or innovations that will have a major impact on the world; Helps people be all they can be; Solves a major social problem or encourages others to do so; Has a clear opponent to beat; Is an underdog or challenger brand; Is strong and helps people do tough jobs exceptionally well; Can be differentiated from competitors that have problems following through or keeping their promises; Has audiences that see themselves as good, upstanding citizens
  • Examples: Star Wars character - Luke Skywalker, Jerry Bruckheimer's programming, US Army, Nike, FedEx, BMW, Home Depot, Ford, Tag Heuer, Duracell, Land Rover
    Tim Kaine - The Regular Guy
    To counter the uncharismatic and harsher aspects of her persona, Clinton has reinforced the "heartland" roots and values she shares with her warm and easy-going Veep running mate, Tim Kaine. Kaine is "The Regular Guy" persona - a friendly, humble, guy next door.

    Kaine's accessibility is evident in his natural speaking style and quick smile, appealing to the working man and woman. When describing his considerable public career during his DNC speech - from mayor to U.S. Senator - he visibly fought his corn-fed humility. Social media latched on to his good-guy persona with a rash of "Dad jokes."  @ericschroeck Tweeted, "I just want Tim Kaine to make me some scrambled eggs when I'm sad and ask me, 'What's wrong, scout?'"

    A huge value of Kaine's avuncular persona is that he's the antithesis of a braggart or bully. That allows him to extol the virtues of Clinton's accomplishments and to take down Trump-the-bully with good-natured impunity:  "You know who I don't trust? Donald Trump. The guy promises a lot. He has a habit of saying the same two words right after he makes his biggest promises: Believe me. His creditors, his contractors, his laid-off employees, his ripped-off students did just that, and they all got hurt."

    So far, Clinton and her party have quarried the benefit of Kaine's "The Regular Guy."
    "The Regular Guy" - an archetype of Belonging and Enjoyment: CommunityIs down-to-earth and accessible. Bonds with others by being humble, hard working, and friendly.

  • All men and women are created equal
  • Core desire: Connecting with others
  • Goal: To belong
  • Greatest fear: Being left out or standing out from the crowd
  • Strategy: Develops ordinary solid virtues; is real; applies the common touch
  • Gift: Equality, realism, empathy, or humility
  • Trap: Blending in or becoming a lynch mob
  • AKA: The Average Joe, good-ole-boy, girl-next-door, everyman, working stiff, solid citizen, good neighbor, mensch, realist, or silent majority
  • Fits if it: Gives people a sense of belonging; Offers everyday functionality; Is low to moderately priced; Is produced by a solid company with a down-home organizational culture; Can be positively differentiated from more elitist or higher priced brands
  • Examples: Star Wars character - Chewbacca, Disney (later), eBay, Lowes, Dunkin' Donuts, Miller Beer, Sonic, Walmart, Cover Girl, Chevy, Wendy's
    What's most noteworthy about this campaign is that the "negative sentiment" for both of the presidential nominees is the highest in any modern presidential election in the past seven decades - since Barry Goldwater.

    These polarizing negatives reflect voters' concerns and distrust of the nominees falling into their personas' traps. The Achilles' heel for Donald Trump, "The Ruler," is authoritarianism or dictatorship and inability to delegate. The Achilles' heel for Hillary Clinton, "The Hero," is arrogance and always needing another battle to fight.

    But in the end, our next president will be determined in the general election by how much voters believe that each candidate can deliver on their persona's brand promise.
    This story also appeared in the Huffington Post.


    Anne Zeiser is a critically-acclaimed transmedia and social impact producer and media strategist. She's stewarded films and iconic series for PBS, produced news for CBS, managed national brands for marketing firms, and founded Azure Media, which develops transmedia projects on air, online, and on the go that fuel social impact in communities, in schools, and in capitals. With media partners from PBS and the BBC to Miramax and Sikelia Productions, Zeiser has successfully launched and marketed film studios and media organizations, feature and documentary films, television series and specials, mobile games and apps, and online video and media communities.  She's the author of Transmedia Marketing: From Film and TV to Games and Digital Media from Focal Press' American Film Market® Presents book series.

    Thursday, June 30, 2016


    © Focal Press; lllustration from Transmedia Marketing

    Shared content on social media is the fastest growing and perhaps most influential media force today. It broke the story of the Navy SEAL’s raid on Osama bin Laden, advanced marriage equality, reenergized Star Trek-er George Takei’s career, and launched the selfie. It’s truly the global virtual water cooler. And it rarely operates in a vacuum. As the connective tissue to your film or other traditional and digital media, shared content both markets the story and is the story.

    So, increasing your content’s shareability is a top goal. Shared content is an inexpensive means of distribution and promotion that spreads the word and assets for your media project. It’s also a ringing endorsement of it. In a world where friends and family’s approval means as much as critics’, audiences are likely to check out the content that others in their tribe deem share-worthy. And, with easy access to social media on second screens and on the go, sharing is more prevalent than ever. When your fans use, love, and tell others about your media project and its content, that’s a smash hit for you.

    As a 21st century media maker and media marketer, you’re already halfway there. You offer huge value to your target audiences simply through the deep bench of assets from your content creation and curation. You have an abundance of content through your film or media project and its marketing. You have considerable expertise and insight into the context and relevancy of your story and its associated genres or themes. You have an array of online distribution platforms – from Web sites and social media to blogs and online video. And you have an entrenched understanding of your niche audiences, knowing who they are, where they go, and what motivates them. For that segment of the audience, you can be the hero.

    Is there a secret sauce to making a media or entertainment property’s content go viral? No, but these 10 key tips and their entertainment mini-case studies can help you  maximize the impact of your content so that your key audiences will participate with it and share it.

    TIP #1) Integrate Your Film and Its Marketing Into a Single Narrative

    Tweets or shared online video teasers, once seen as marketing tools for a bigger product, are media products unto themselves. Today, in any form, media content can both advance the storyline and market the story. From the beginning, approach your film or media project and marketing from a holistic content creation perspective. Don't differentiate between story and marketing. Step back and think of yourself as serving a passionate defined, niche audience by creating, curating, and distributing content. So all of your content – whether “owned” (assets you create such as the film and digital platforms), “paid” (ads and product placement), or “earned” (publicity and social engagement) – are installments in an overall audience experience. As such, your film and its poster, teaser trailer, Facebook page, Web site, ads, actors’ tweets, and special events are all part of its overall narrative, which collectively can enchant your audiences.

    Anchorman 2 – Ubiquitous Ron Burgundy

    Ron Burgundy co-hosts a North Dakota station newscast in character.

    Paramount Picture’s campaign for Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues made Ron Burgundy, the 1970s throwback news anchor, ubiquitous. He was in Buick ads extolling the virtues of glove compartments; on Conan remarking how babies have gotten uglier; on a huge billboard near Penn Station with a 3-D moustache; and on KXMB-TV in South Dakota co-anchoring a live newscast. Each sighting delighted social audiences, fueling speculation about where he’d show up next.

    Burgundy also posted about real-world events, like the UK royal baby. Paramount created shareable Burgundy-inspired games and original videos tagged with Burgundy’s tagline, #StayClassy. Because of Will Ferrell’s genius at making the character hilarious in any context, Ron Burgundy went viral.

    TIP #2) Think Transmedia

    By its very definition, an integrated storytelling approach embraces multiple media platforms. Transmedia simply means storytelling across several media platforms, with each element making distinctive contributions to the audience’s understanding of the narrative or story universe.  Using many platforms isn’t new. Leonardo da Vinci was a true fifteenth-century polymath – thinking, creating, and expressing across every conceivable platform of his era. Today’s modern transmedia is about creating immersive storyworlds and engaging audience experiences using various media – film, TV, radio, books, publications, games, online, mobile, music, events, live installations, toys, and more. Being transmedia offers huge benefits. It boosts the chances of your audiences intersecting with your media property on some platforms, thereby cutting through the morass of available content. And providing integrated content on several platforms provides deep participatory experiences that translate into your audiences’ active engagement with your content.

    Despicable Me 2 – On air, Online, On the Go…and Even In the Air

    "Despicable Me 2 Blimp” by Gavin St. Ours/CC BY 2.0 
    Universal’s Despicable Me 2 Despicablimp over California.
    Despicable Me 2, the animated film sequel about the evil Gru and his little yellow henchmen, premiered in the U.S. in July of 2013. Six months before, the 165 X 55 foot Minion Despicablimp introduced U.S. audiences’ to the film. It crossed the country three times, appearing at key events – its journey trackable via the film’s Web site. And the appeal of the Minions didn’t end in theaters. As part of the sequel’s release, a free mobile Despicable Me role-playing game launched – downloaded more than 100 million times in its first three months.

    Several children’s books released and Despicable Me universe-inspired virtual items were available in the catalogue for the massively popular multi-player online game (MMOG), Roblox. Around the sequel’s release, downloads of the original movie, Despicable Me and existing Minion Madness mini-movies on iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play topped the charts. Universal’s Despicable Me 2 sequel grossed more than $360 million in domestic and almost $1 billion in foreign box office sales.

    TIP # 3)   Offer Value

    When your content and its context offer value, your audiences are motivated to explore further or take action – click, view, or share. That’s why so many people vote on American Idol’s winner or create parody videos. With enough value-driven exchanges, audiences choose to become part of your project’s community and story as co-creators, co-marketers, and even as characters. To offer value to your audiences, give them something they didn’t have before – information, insight, or perspective. They want timely, ongoing content and information about your project’s storyworld and production universe. This content is an immediate reward. Through your content, keep the story moving and fresh. Add context and social relevancy. Link your narrative to other important or aligned content. Play generously with other content makers and audiences. Exchange ideas, cross-promote, and give credit to others.

    PBS’s Idea Channel and Everything But The News – Feed My Curiosity
                            PBS’s Idea Channel/YouTube
                             Mike Rugnetta’s weekly posts about quirky, 
    yet engrossing subjects has garnered 52 million views.

    PBS’s brand is known for delivering value through quality information and content, much of it long-form. To reach new audiences, PBS created YouTube vlogs and Webisodes that have taken off. Every Wednesday Mike Rugnetta posts new videos on the Idea Channel that examine the connections between pop culture, technology, and art. The channel focuses on audiences’ natural curiosity and uncovers the interesting and the quirky.

    In addition, PBS Digital Studios’ humorous original documentary-style series, Everything But the News, follows Steve Goldbloom’s “misadventures as he attempts to cover the startup scene in California” for PBS’s NewsHour. Both series harness, yet poke fun at PBS’s serious, smarty-pants roots, and in their ingenious execution have broadened the pubcaster’s info-curious audience. No surprise, they’re shared widely online and have won a slew of awards.

    TIP #4)   Invite Your Audiences Into the Tent

    Nothing honors audiences more than saying, “come play with me.” Usher your audiences into the tent to help you find, tell, and share your story. You’ll learn what makes your audiences who they are, see new creative possibilities for your project, and understand the power of the collective to promote and, ultimately, self correct. But don't invite them in if you want to maintain control or are thin-skinned.  They can cheerlead, promote, and add humor, but also they can complain, criticize, and deface. If you trust them, your fans will take care of the obnoxious or mean-spirited. And, if you do your job right, these audiences will be some of the most valuable and loyal members of your production and marketing team.  With your ongoing content, pay attention to what resonates with audiences and develop new content accordingly. Ask open-ended questions. Invite your audiences to create content around your project. Celebrate and share their responses and user-generated content. Overall, create an organic forum that supports an active, ongoing community around your project. When you’re lucky enough for that to happen, allow it to take on a life of its own and simply feed the beast.

    Doritos – Make Me a TV Spot
    A single father directed his son and dog in the 
    “Time Machine” ad airing on the 2014 Super Bowl.

    For several years in a row, Doritos has won the creative MVP award for Super Bowl ads with their crowd-sourced TV spots. They’ve given their audiences standing and voice by allowing them to create their featured ads, decide which will appear during the broadcast, and choose the $1 million grand prizewinner.

    The good-natured humor of Doritos’ 2013 “Goat 4 Sale” and 2014 “Time Machine” winners received high ranks among all Super Bowl ads as most liked and most memorable. Proof that anyone can have a great idea and that inviting and celebrating audience participation is a clever engagement and branding strategy. Embracing audience participation has translated into a significant boost in awareness and sales for Doritos.

    TIP #5)   Make Your Fictional Universe Captivating

    Characters and storyworlds offer huge opportunities for socialization, especially among comic book-inspired properties, big franchise films, and AAA game sequels. Because young children don’t distinguish between the real world and characters’ storyworlds, characters like M&M’s mascots, Mickey Mouse, Pokémon, Mario, and Clark Kent have populated kids’ entertainment and products for decades. Traditionally, adults were less likely to enter these story universes. Before social media, viral story mythologies for The War of the Worlds and The Blair Witch Project propelled real audiences into fictional storyworlds by making audiences believe they were factual accounts. With today’s sophisticated audiences, such ruses are much less feasible. And, they’re no longer necessary. Now, adults move seamlessly between fiction and reality to enter narrative experiences and engage with storyworlds and characters – from The Hunger Games’ Panem to House of Cards’ Frank Underwood.  Blogs, in-character Twitter accounts, vlogs, and story in-universe Web sites can creatively reveal key aspects of your plot, characters, and storyworld.

    The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – Read It…Believe It

    The Daily Bugle/Tumblr
    Spider-Man’s in-universe newspaper provides 
    sharable content to propel the storyline between film
    The Daily Bugle is a fictional New York City tabloid that has been part of the Marvel Universe since 1962 and was featured on film in 2002 in Spider-Man. To provide backstory and teaser content for the Spider-Man storyworld in between Marc Webb’s two acclaimed films, Sony’s team created The Daily Bugle newspaper on Tumblr for The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The micro-blog’s online version of the publication has its own masthead, a named publisher – J. Jonah Jameson – a city editor, and various reporters who write stories and editorials. These revealing stories have been shared extensively across the Internet, exponentially propelling the ongoing storyline and teeing-up future films and other in-universe properties.

    TIP #6)   Share Your Production Universe

    Today’s audiences are prolific media makers in their own right. They may love and understand your production universe more than you realize. Superfans are voracious consumers of exclusive, behind-the-scenes content. You can socialize your media and entertainment property’s real-world universe by leveraging your artists, fans’ social chatter, promotional assets, and production news. Peter Jackson’s vlog diaries of the production of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit include footage of him at work, live fan events with exclusive film footage, Q & As, “how tos” on post-production, and info on Air New Zealand’s tie-in promotions. Jackson’s steady stream of content about the making of the first installment of the trilogy, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey generated 800,000 Facebook “Likes” before the film released. Celebrities – including cast, crew, artists, and reality stars – are instrumental in advancing a project’s story and promotion. As a result, conducting social media for a project is often built into celebrities’ contracts, just like press interviews and promotional appearances.

    Chef – Cast, Crew, Pets, and Real Chefs

    Jon Favreau/Vine
    During production of indie film Chef, 
    the cast shot many Vines.
    Indie film, Chef used socialized video storytelling to engage fans with its real-world production news and actors. Jon Favreau, the film’s writer, producer, and director (and director of elaborate blockbuster CGI action films, Iron Man and Cowboys and Aliens), embraced Vine videos to connect audiences to his small-scale project. During the casting of the film about restaurant kitchen culture and food, he created and disseminated 6-second micro-videos for new cast members, including Dustin Hoffman and Scarlett Johansson. And, he encouraged the actors to make their own Vines.

    Throughout Chef’s production and promotion, Favreau issued celebrity intros, behind-the-scenes clips, promotional tour footage, and even videos of his dogs under the Twitter banner, #chef. This generic hashtag also attracted a broad stream of social audiences interested in food and cooking, adding social content from true foodies. His non-fiction narrative married the social currency of high-profile celebrities with the authenticity of down-home posts from real kitchens – delivering the spirit of the film and its subject to social audiences.

    TIP #7)   Use Mystery and Reward

    Creating intrigue and mystery around a passion topic or project helps it spread. To make content share-worthy, many successful viral entertainment marketing campaigns develop content that first, creates mystery around a passion topic or project; and second, rewards audiences by giving them information or assets that make them feel special or in the know. The powerful tension between these emotions has an amplifying effect. It’s accomplished first by providing teaser content that asks as many questions as it answers to create pent up audience demand; and then by releasing coveted content in a drip-feed to sustain the demand. This places superfans in the position of having content or information first. They share because they know their tribe will be interested and to demonstrate they’re in the know. In turn, audiences in their sphere of influence share it, and so on.

    The Dark Knight’s Why So Serious? – Solve the Scavenger Hunt, Meet the Joker

    Why So Serious?/
    The Dark Knight’s ARG gave superfans an immersive 
    and rewarding experience.
    To unite and activate Batman fans in a interactive quest, 42 Entertainment created a participatory alternate reality game (ARG) for Warner Bros.’ The Dark Knight. The 2007 film’s tagline, “Why So Serious?” gave a nod to the film’s protagonist, The Joker, who had not appeared in a Batman film for almost 20 years. Launched 14 months before the film’s release on April Fool’s Day, the “Why So Serious?” experience connected the fiendish character to audiences’ real worlds, engaging them with in-universe and real-world Web sites that fleshed out the fictional Gotham City universe. provided audiences with a “to do” list that grew as the film’s release approached, leading them through elaborate scavenger hunts with teaser videos, Web sites, real-world bakeries, and bowling alleys. Superfans who completed these tasks received the ultimate reward of direct communications from The Joker, receiving mobile phones that sent texts about hidden online games and clues. The “Why So Serious?’ multi-month campaign culminated in free tickets to pre-release screenings of the film and engaged more than 10 million unique players in 75 countries.

    TIP #8)   Make It Fun or Funny

    Social media is a fun release for many people. So, to boost your content’s shareability make the experience fun or funny. What’s more fun than puppies and babies?  The mere sight of them elicits an emotional reaction, which is why photos and videos of animals and kids are the most shared content on social media. Engaging audiences with fun-loving experiences also increases shareability. At the 2014 Grammys, Arby’s jokingly asked Pharrell Williams for their hat back (his signature hat looks like the Arby’s logo) and social platforms lit up. Humor and comedy are so central to the sensibility of shared content that the Shorty Awards (for social media) has a category just for the funny. Go to any of your social platforms’ newsfeeds and more than half of the content you find is someone’s idea of funny. Whether the original story is comedic or not, in many instances you can make its shareable content fun or funny.

    Game of Thrones – #RoastJoffrey – Comedy’s the Flip Side of Tragedy

    The Game of Thrones hosted an online roast of 
    TV’s most despised character in #RoastJoffrey.
    The Season 3 Game of Thrones episode, “Red Wedding,” which killed off some of the show’s most beloved characters in a bloodbath, was HBO’s most social show in its history. To capitalize on the vehement conversation about despised character, King Joffrey Baratheon, 360i’s off-season campaign leading into the Season 4 premiere mixed the emotion of hate for the young king with the socially-viral technique of comedy. HBO launched an irreverent social media roast of the program’s reviled ruler on Twitter, Instagram, Vine, and Facebook using the hashtag #RoastJoffrey.

    Fans, “citizens” such as Arya Stark and Hodor, stars such as Maisie Williams and Kristian Nairn, and even real-world brands spewed their venom. Game of Thrones’ Twitter account hosted the roast, the hashtag tagged the roast content, and the Web site,, curated the content. The campaign garnered more than 40,000 tweets, including @Charmin’s, “There are some people so crappy even we won’t go near them. #RoastJoffrey #tweetfromthethrone.” Even rival network program @NBCHannibal chimed in, “#RoastJoffrey? Sounds delicious.”  The roast became a cultural touchstone.

    TIP #9)   Be Visual

    “A picture is worth a thousand words” speaks to the idea that a single image can convey a complex idea. Visuals are consummate storytelling devices. Not only do they communicate concepts and emotions, but they stimulate memory and retrieval of that complex idea when re-seen. Concept art remains seminal to films’ identities. Who can forget the ominous, massive shark lurking beneath the water’s surface ready to attack an unsuspecting swimmer from the 1975 Jaws poster? Or, Saul Bass’s arresting two-minute sequence for the 1960 Hitchcock film, Psycho, using kinetic typography and minimalistic use of color and graphic expression to portend the horrors of things to come.  Key art is equally critical to videogames because it portrays the overall story universe, the key characters, and a sense of the all-important gameplay. Because human brains are visually wired for survival, art and video are the most-shared content on social media. Use your concept art, poster, logos, color palette, typography, one-sheet, collateral, title sequence, teaser videos, trailers, and sizzle reels to visually tell, and ultimately, share your story.

    Halo 4 – Piece Together the Picture
    “Fanboys” and “fangirls” of beloved properties and storyworlds are so interested in the minutiae of a project that product news or promotional assets offer viral opportunities. Two days before the official box art reveal for Halo 4, Xbox used the art as a shareable social vehicle to keep fans feeling like insiders. They sliced the box art up into 32 pieces and seeded each piece across 32 popular social fan communities, challenging fans to cooperate and solve the puzzle together. Within a half-hour, the mind-hive audience had solved the puzzle; within an hour, Halo 4’s box art and the social puzzle was the top story on Kotaku and was then picked up by numerous game, entertainment, and news sites. Social conversation tracking  registered a 92 percent positive sentiment. Fans loved piecing together the art to “see” the next iteration of the popular game.

    TIP #10) Provide Calls to Action

    In order to get things, you must ask for them. If your goal is to get a click, a share, a download, a signed petition, or a butt in a seat at your film, you must point your audiences to it. And, it must be one click away. Audiences will do that next thing when their sense of agency – that they can and should act – is activated.  When audiences directly engage with your project and they receive emotional and tangible rewards through more content, they’re inspired to further engage in deeper actions. Your film or project’s content should offer various calls to action on a sliding scale of investment – ranging from simply clicking on a link up to hosting a fundraising event. Therefore, there’s a place for everyone in your project no matter his or her level of engagement or willingness to act. Over time, audiences will ratchet up their engagement to do more and become your most ardent ambassadors. These calls to action can be about delivering story or sharing content, or they can be about changing the world.

    Food, Inc. – Healthier Eating, One Bite at a Time

    Participant Media’s action platform, 
    TakePart provides audiences ways to get involved.
    Participant Media’s Oscar-nominated and Emmy award-winning documentary, Food, Inc. by filmmaker Robert Kenner was a startling exposé of the USDA and FDA-regulated U.S. industrial food production system that churns out unhealthy food, often in unsafe conditions. Variety said the film “does for the supermarket what Jaws did for the beach.”

    But shock and fear wasn’t enough. There was an opportunity to change audiences’ attitudes and behaviors using the film and the calls to action in TakePart’s awareness campaign and the film’s subsequent FixFood social media and video campaign. Research conducted by USC’s Lear Center showed that emotionally-engaged Food, Inc. audiences encouraged their friends, family, and colleagues to learn more about food safety; shop at local farmers markets; eat healthier food; and consistently buy organic or sustainable food.

    Honoring your audiences – listening to what they say, following them where they go, determining what they want, and inviting them to play in the sandbox – is the single most important aspect of making your content go viral. If you want audiences to share a video, retweet a Twitter message, or follow a clue, it must be worthwhile. That’s why you must know your audiences well, because what’s worthwhile to one person is a total waste of time for someone else. Then you’ve rewarded them, whether by unlocking hard-earned exclusive content or delivering a feeling of satisfaction for helping a good cause.

    Your shareable content can be the voice of a fictional character, the forum for audience contribution to the plot, the big reveal of the project’s poster, or the launching pad for project news. By using all of your project’s assets, you can create a global, real-time conversation among your project’s follower base of passionates, influencers, evangelists, and content co-creators. These coveted ambassadors can help you explore, embellish, and spread your story.

    This article originally appeared on the American Film Market's Producer's Resources and is drawn from her new book, Transmedia Marketing: From Film and TV to Games and Digital Media.

    Anne Zeiser is a critically-acclaimed transmedia and social impact producer who has stewarded iconic series and films for PBS, produced news for CBS, managed national brands for marketing firms, and founded Azure Media, which develops transmedia projects on air, online, and on the go that fuel social impact in communities, in schools, and in capitals. She’s the author of Transmedia Marketing: From Film and TV to Games and Digital Media, a new title from Routledge and Focal Press in the American Film Market® Presents book series. Connect with Anne at the book’s companion Web site, on Twitter, and on Facebook.