DocLit: ‘Transmedia Marketing: from film and TV to games and new media’

A practical guide to understanding how to promote new films and TV shows

5 mins read

Transmedia Marketing: From Film and TV to Games and Digital Media
By Anne Zeiser
(Focal Press, 2015)


Today, most content creators whether novice filmmakers or seasoned producers, are often tasked with the onerous prospect of self-promotion. In response to our increasingly DIY media world, a plethora of books, blogs, email blasts and websites offer them sound professional advice. However, few of these self-help items are focused specifically on the peculiarities of marketing film and TV.

Enter Anne Zeiser’s Transmedia Marketing: From Film and TV to Games and Digital Media. This American Film Market-endorsed book is a dense, comprehensive roadmap to launching a cross-platform film or TV promotional campaign. Comprehensive is the operative word. This is no quick subway read.

What is transmedia marketing? Zeiser defines it as “a holistic content creation approach—both storytelling and marketing—[sent] simultaneously across multiple media platforms.” She also notes that it is “the media buzzword du jour.” And by all indications, she aims to brand it her own.

At its core, transmedia marketing is a form of the common practice known as integrated marketing communications, where one aims to create a cohesive and sticky brand identity through all public touchpoints. In other words, everything is marketing. A campaign begins the moment you have an idea for a project. From the subject you choose to the title to the talent to the distribution channels, every single choice influences outcome.

This has long been the guiding principle of the best marketing strategies well before the existence of the internet and as true for the most banal of products, like air fresheners or floor cleaners, as for the glitziest Hollywood fare. People are dazzled or dismayed by various, often subtle signals, which usually have little to do with the utility or quality of a product. However, these cues are powerful, leading us to try, embrace or ignore. Every element tells a story. And the more unified and recognisable the narrative, especially across multiple media platforms, the more likely an audience will invest in it and share it, too.

Transmedia Marketing is a well organized and researched step-by-step primer. Zeiser was head of marketing at legendary PBS station WGBH Boston, where for a decade she shepherded episodes of NOVA, American Experience, Frontline, Masterpiece Theatre and others into public awareness. She really knows her stuff, plainly explaining the why of marketing, as much as the who, what, where, when and how. The author offers practical instruction, quotes from experts, personal anecdotes, high-profile case studies and a veritable Rosetta Stone of industry terms. She includes chapters on theoretical subjects such as the psychology of audiences and identifying brand archetypes, as well as credible sections on fundamentals like market research, timetables, messages, audience engagement and spokespeople. Zeiser also covers emerging topics like interactive content, social responsibility messaging and gamification.

Additionally, the book has useful tools such as lists of notable film festivals and awards. A recurring theme, with lots of material examples, is her very successful strategy for Martin Scorsese’s 2003 PBS series The Blues, which also serves as the text’s narrative through-line.

Despite the wealth of information contained, at a hefty 450 pages, this book could use a good trim. Tangents which showcase Zeiser’s vast knowledge of history and popular culture sometimes get in the way of her best advice. The addition of a formal glossary—a list of all those industry terms highlighted and explained so carefully throughout—would also be helpful, especially for media novices. However, if you are seeking to gain a more meaningful understanding of today’s practice of promoting film and TV and are willing to commit the time to it, Transmedia Marketing is a solid place to begin.

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