March 30, 2012
MIPDoc keynote & multiplatform magician distills ingredients for touching audiences: popular 'populist' TV, value-added data use
“This is probably the most important place where the money is, but it’s a medium-term view,” Adam Gee (@surrealthing), who’s spearheaded Channel 4′s multiplatform work for 9 years, told MIPDoc this afternoon. And it’s no place for slacking: “Since you can measure everything [in multiplatform entertainment], you ought to.”
Here are the transmedia shows and social campaigns he discussed.
This “live personal health service” diagnoses people via webcam, live on TV. People can save diagnoses online, check BMI (body mass index), gauge risk of disease or the likelihood that they have autism; and compare results with others by gender, region or ethnicity, among other categories. The show, which diagnosed everything from psoriasis to diabetes-related weight trouble, received a BAFTA and an International Emmy nomination.
Going back to this notion that if you can measure, you should, an NHS partnership enabled Channel 4 to calculate savings to the country’s health services. Over 403,000£ has been saved so far.
“Adding value is basically the base for making effective use, both creatively and commercially, of data,” said Gee. “Data is all about an exchange of value.”
Embarrassing Bodies’ My Health Checker “was designed to show that if you give people something worthwhile … they won’t just part with their data, they’ll part with it happily — and not just happily but with very personal data,” said Gee. For example, weight and ethnicity are not revelations people make lightly.
While savings to the NHS are a clear social value-add, its long-term value is its success in inducing “behavioral change that government tries to effect but fails.” If the show helped the government save, it’s because it taught people to get serious about preventative care, correct ways of checking for disease, seeing doctors when they ordinarily wouldn’t, or even just gauging the difference between symptoms that can be remedied at the pharmacy or with a doctor. On an average broadcast night, the show gets a million pageviews — suggesting the impact it could have as time progresses.
“If you can use interactive media in conjunction with popular populist high-audience television, you can make some real impacts,” said Gee, who has made that his philosophy at Channel 4.
This project used data visualisation to teach sex ed, using the stats of about 1000 people at a time. Do people in the West Midlands lose their virginities sooner? What about iPhone users? What kind of fantasies do people have? The app even lets you track the stats of anonymous individuals, like a 37-year-old man who likes pop music and likes nipple clamps.
This deliciously consumable content ultimately serves a purpose: people perceive the data as entertainment, but start comparing the learnings to themselves. “You start to get a sense of what is normal, and you start to get a sense of what is risky,” said Gee.
“It’s very much a peer-to-peer operation. Young people are asking questions and people of various ages are responding based on their experiences,” Gee added. “You can see there are massive gaps in knowledge that need filling,” he concluded, pointing us in the direction of a part of the site labeled Porn Myths.
But multiplatform data manipulation is for more than just navel-gazing. Gee’s last example sought to stop fish waste: over half of all fish caught in the North Sea are thrown overboard, dead. The effort garnered 12 million views, with Twitter (@hughsfishfight) also playing a major role. A large portion of access to the show came via mobile, and Apple picked it out as a top lifestyle app of 2011.
The show/campaign first ran last year but is running again, and is already making waves. Two weeks ago, politicians from Portugal, France and Spain were working to block legislation to ban fish discarding; in response, Fish Fight ran a weekend campaign about their intentions.
Over 137,000 Tweets were waiting for them in Brussels when they showed up on Monday; they ultimately didn’t move forward.
The Fish Fight site also calls out brands, like Prince, that lied on their packaging about being “marine-friendly”. Companies actually made their goods truly marine friendly rather than remove the labelling. “So there’s been massive commercial impact as well,” Gee said.
In conclusion, Gee imparted, “Sometimes having a purpose and a framework for what you’re doing, and a kind of rationale, is a really valuable thing to bring to the party.”
These are the questions to ask yourself, and to answer:
- What am I bringing to this project that’s more than a great TV show with existing social media to discuss it?
- What value am I adding, what user need am I meeting, what desire am I fulfilling?
“Needs and wants — it’s the bedrock of multiplatform commissioning and multiplatform production,” said Gee.