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September 19, 20113 Comments

The Transmedia Approach

Integration is chaos.  With so many agency / channel specialists – clients waste a ton of money paying for redundancies in their big agency fees.  Furthermore, when Kellogg wrote the textbook on marketing integration years ago, I know that what they describe in their scenario planning was not what marketers are attempting to pass off as an integrated marketing plan.

Today, 'Integrated Marketing' is defined as a multi-channel plan using the same message across all channels.  What we know now is that one size does not fit all! The same message or conversation doesn’t work in all media channels.  We know customers behave and consume media differently in each channel and therefore often impressions are wasted.

All brands have a story to sell
While I create television spots, banner ads, mobile apps and websites, I do not believe that individually they can convey a brand’s story or experience.  Nor should we be attempting to try and shove years of innovation into 30 seconds.  It’s plain silly.  In this Post Digital economy, we have the tools, data and know-how to create smarter marketing and engaging brand stories.

Story-selling & Transmedia
Ten years ago, I began a building brand plans based on behavioral insights, media opportunities, and storytelling.  I began calling it Experience Planning. In reality it was Transmedia Planning.   

The basic premise of transmedia is that rather than using different media channels to simply retell the same story, you utilize these channels, their communities and functions to communicate different elements of the story.  Its success relies on fragmenting a narrative and making each platform do what it does best which, in turn, extends the life and longevity of the story.  Contrary to some thinking, this practice isn’t device-driven (Television, Laptop, Kindle, Nook, iPad), but is platform driven as it is the platform that subtly dictates and influences audience reactions, social and behavioral trends and user experiences.   The bottom line is that with a solid transmedia strategy in place everything remains connected by the same central narrative and theme, but each channel excels at what it does best, rather than bending to fit a central idea that’s being repurposed for multi platforms.

Building Brand Experiences with Transmedia Plans
With storytelling at the heart of our business model it’s not surprising that our entertainment and lifestyle clients were some of the first to embrace a transmedia approach. In fact, when working on the Matrix Film Franchise with Joel Silver Pictures in 2001, we used a transmedia approach to connecting our story in film, games and on the web.  We did this to create a story that can only be experienced by engaging with all of the different forms of content. The result, warner bros began using this as a way to put “butts in seats” for years to come.

Once we saw the success of the plan and method we saw it as an opportunity to test the same method to sell brand stories, just the way entertainment properties sell content.
Could it work in consumer-packaged goods?
Yes. Here is an example of a transmedia plan we created for Knob Creek.

Screen Shot 2011-09-18 at 4.44.43 PM

Could it work on Financial Services? 
Yup! Here is an example of how we used in at Chase.

Screen Shot 2011-09-18 at 4.50.04 PM


Could it work for a big box retailer? 
Sure it can! Here is a sample of how we used transmedia planning to create a new retail experience for do it yourselfers.

Screen Shot 2011-09-18 at 4.48.24 PM


What we were doing began to catch on, as we have seen a new crop transmedia story-telling companies emerge.  Some of are some of my favorite examples:

Transmedia + Communities
Now that people are powerful media channels on social media platforms like facebook, twitter and google+, a transmedia approach to selling your brand’s story couldn’t be more important.  In the post-digital world, meeting awareness objectives is more complex than running the same spot on TV, YouTube and in pre-roll. In order to have real-time conversations, you have to tell / sell and engage people in a story that is worth repeating.

The latest evolution of the approach is called ARG (alternate reality games). ARG includes a gaming element and encourages community participation. Real world examples of this type of Transmedia planning can be experienced with content properties like: Why So Serious?, the ARG for Batman: The Dark Knight and I Love Bees, the ARG for the Halo 2 game.  We used ARG when we took Dibs to teens.

In a world where creativity is measured by performance, this is an approach we know works.  The greatest part of all of living and working in the post-digital era is that the data and tools exist to create highly targeted transmedia plans that create measurable earned media for a brand.

Does your brand need a social data-driven transmedia plan?  Contact @substanceNYC or shoot us your marketing objectives to newbiz [@] wearesubtance dot com

The Transmedia Approach via @jpenabickley

January 1, 2007No Comments

ON: Super Bowl & The need for a broader brand story

The buzz about Integrated Marketing remains strong, but this year's
Super Bowl proved that talk is cheap. This year's array of ads shows
that most marketers are still banking on standalone, creative-heavy
spots to capture customer attention.

Forrester believes that only by
integrating television spots with existing campaigns and multiple
channels will marketers be able to stay relevant for today's empowered

Which ads showed the best team spirit? I give My top votes
to: Burger King, Dove, and GoDaddy.

ON: Super Bowl & The need for a broader brand story via @jpenabickley

October 18, 2006No Comments

Is Your Brand Safe?

Are you pro or against working with ad networks?

If you, either through an internal department or an agency, work with ad networks, are you happy with the placements your ads get through ad networks?
Why or why not?

What is your biggest fear about relying on ad networks for the placement of your ads?
How have you tackled this?

Should mid sized & smaller publishers (the interactive ad long tail) be made to categorize their content in an open market place?

If so who should regulate and publicize publisher compliance?

If there were such a service would you pay for membership that helped protect brands through categorization and fine based penalties for non compliance?

Add to Technorati Favorites

Is Your Brand Safe? via @jpenabickley

October 18, 2006No Comments

The Online Ad Game

There are so many aspects to the online advertising space that confuse marketers and agencies who act as the client advocate in the interactive space. After conducting a number of industry interviews with ad agencies and advertisers I have found that there is market confusion around ad networks and the safety of your brand.

Over the next few posts I thought I would address some high level issues and recruit your feedback and ideas in this forum to begin an open dialog with the best of our industry in order to develop a strategy and possibly an organization that will begin to guide the interactive ad industry in a positive direction that will inevitably lead to larger online ad spending from advertisers for 2007.

Ad Networks
Historically, an organization charged with the representation of advertising space for a group of Web sites for the purpose of maximizing revenue and minimizing administrative costs through aggregation. The role of an Internet advertising network is to transact, serve, track and report the distribution of creative from advertisers to publishers using an efficient, interactive marketplace.

Today they have become sophisticated operations designed to allow advertisers to place their advertising materials in front of selected individuals.  The typical selling proposition of a network is that these individuals are good prospects for the particular product or service on offer. But ad networks differ in several ways, including:

  1. How the your audience or individuals are selected or targeted
  2. The range of publishers' sites on which the advertisements may appear

A network can also be categorized according to the nature of the financial arrangement between the advertiser, the network and the publisher.

  1. The True Network= bases on revenue sharing agreements across a wide range of sites
  2. Arbitrage network = buys unused, unwanted remnant inventory at bargain prices in hopes of repackaging and reselling it profitably
  3. The Broker network = simply manages the transactions and adds little value for advertisers.

The beauty of the Ad Network, dependant on type, business emphasis, organization and approach, is that most networks offer a range of options, including demographic, geographic and dayparting. Many allow advertisers to mix and match various types of selectivity, creating a near infinite range of possibilities for finding specific categories of prospects and serving them targeted messages.

So why do Ad Networks have such a bad rap with advertisers and agencies alike?

One answer could be….
While ad networks offer increased reach ad networks also offer less control for brand advertisers. Marketers placing impressions on an ad network will be challenged to keep tabs on where their advertising appears. Marketers are justly vigilant about protecting their brand -- especially online, where they must inevitably give up a degree of control -- but ad networks can be particularly frustrating.

  1. Who do you hold responsible when you brand shows up on inappropriate content?
  2. How can you hold the agency, ad networks or publishers accountable?
  3. Is your Brand truly Safe without some sort of industry standard categorization of content?

Sound off...

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The Online Ad Game via @jpenabickley

October 5, 2006No Comments

ON: 56% of Active Gamers Are Online, 64% Are Women

Among the roughly 117 million "Active Gamers" in the U.S. in 2006, more
than half (56 percent) play games online, and 64 percent of all online
gamers are women, according to Nielsen Entertainment's third annual Active Gamer Benchmark Study, released
Thursday. Moreover, though teenagers still constitute the largest
percentage (40 percent) of active gamers, more than 15 million of those
gamers (almost 8 percent) are now 45 years old or older.

Although women make up nearly two-thirds of all online gamers, men
outnumber women in the overall videogame universe by more than two to
one. And although older females make up the largest percentage of
casual gamers, active gamer teens and young adults comprise a
considerable portion of this market, with more than half playing casual
games an hour or more a week.

The social elements of videogames are becoming an increasingly
important part of the gaming experience, with those in the active
gamers category spending more than five hours a week playing games
socially. Some 64 percent of active gamers play on PC-based systems,
which offer users connected experiences through massively multiplayer
online games (MMOG) that other platforms cannot yet match. Personal
computers also are the platform of choice for players of casual games,
especially among women.


ON: 56% of Active Gamers Are Online, 64% Are Women via @jpenabickley

October 5, 2006No Comments

ON: Google’s Mashup Dance

Google Gadgets
now allows anyone to add them to any page, not just your Google
personalized homepage. Here's a sample; try it out for yourself and get
the code for your blog, MySpace page, or whatever site you have. More
info at TechCrunch.  See below.

ON: Google’s Mashup Dance via @jpenabickley

October 3, 2006No Comments

ON:The Black Dahlia


Entertainment properties are quickly showing a move towards in video ads and a user interface that makes you, the consumer, a part of the movie magic.  I cannot comment on the movie.  but the ads and microsite exude creative hotness and an awesome experience.  Visit the http://webapp1.latimes.com/theblackdahlia/ to jump in to the storyline.

This campaign, launched by Universal and the Los Angeles Times, marks
the first integrated print, online and out-of-home campaign using
actual news stories -- pulled from the Los Angeles Times archives --
about the notorious and still unsolved "Black Dahlia" murder that
stunned Los Angeles in 1947.

Traffic was initially driven to the minisite by Los Angeles Times,
Chicago Tribune and Newsday ad inserts. Ads have also been place on the
latimes.com website driving audiences to the minisite.

ON:The Black Dahlia via @jpenabickley

October 3, 2006No Comments

ON: Converging Channels

I've been reading Convergence Culture by Henry Jenkins. It's
brilliant - lots of great ideas and required reading for anyone who works to drive consumers to a brand.

One form of convergence he covers is something I have been evangalizing for years -
the flow of content across multiple media platforms. The  book dedicates a chapter to
The Matrix films as a cross channel narrative.  The story that unfolded across different
platforms.  Rather than there being a film narrative that has spin offs, key
elements of The Matrix story are in the video game, the animations, the
comic books. He argues
that few consumers will be able to dedicate the time required to get
the whole
picture, which is why cross channel or "transmedia" storytelling drives the formation of
communities - communities that share information – and triggers word of
mouth.   I know this to be true as I had a hand in shaping this creative thinking.

That said, i have used the same strategy in some of my most sucessful brand efforts for Jim Beam Brands.  See one of my most sucessful marketing case studies - Knob Creek for an example of this.


Since there are so many elements to the story, every member of the community is
likely to have something to share, some social currency to trade, so communities
form and information is passed around the network.

The model that has held the industry's collective imagination for the last few
years has been media neutral planning. In essence, this is the belief that we
should develop a single organising thought that iterates itself across any
touchpoint.  See another explantion of this in my cross media plans / experiences was the great chase.

Want the formula?  read the book.

ON: Converging Channels via @jpenabickley



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