Story

In a search for the NEW big idea

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The Room for Big Ideas is closed for installation.
Image by John Kannenberg via Flickr

In a time and age where I can chose whether to listen to a brand or to read my friend’s status update – how can a brand get my attention?
In my opinion it is all about big ideas

Isn’t the big idea dead already?

Mark Earls believes that big ideas are dead, over used, and that we should focus on small tests and campaigns. However I am talking about differnt kind of big ideas. I am not talking about a short lived one time gig. I am talking about deeply rooted concept at the heart of the brand, that affects its dealing wiht customers, the product they build, and  the way they treat their customers.

What is a big idea?

Big ideas are concepts that beyond a product or one’s daily life, that are more important than price or features. Big ideas are ones who change the way we look at life and society. Big ideas are ones that are powerful enough to make the man on the street listen to your message. A big idea is that one story that brings value to people – not only consumers.

In some cases brands are not openly stating their big idea. In some cases they don’t even realize their big idea until the community, their users, tell them it exists.

Let’s take Twitter for example. Twitter’s big idea is communication without boundaries. This idea fueled the Iranian uprise, which in turn personified this idea. As stated before, it was a false hope in my opinion. Still it was amazing to see the energy that this idea brought to the community.

Canon and HDSLR are  another example. Canon released their 5D Mark II DSLR camera with the ability to shoot HD videos. This quickly materialized to another big idea – everybody can be a filmaker – now in an affordable way.

What isn’t a big idea?

Well, the product itself. Features, without a wider context, are merely technical parameters. They don’t improve ones life. Price is not a big idea – again, unless it is in a wider context, such as in the case of HDSLR cameras.

Also, Fun is not a big idea. Fresh is not a big idea. these are just awesome keywords for a brief. “Like” competitions are definitely not a big idea. Hiring “buzzers” is many things, big idea is not one of them.

The Time is Now

Modern western society is in a unique situation. World War II ended with the good guys wining. Communism lost the battle. Most of the western world is democratic, and relatively liberal from an economic point of view. Governments are losing their position as setters of big ideas. Yes, Obama most used word was change. But at the end of the day, nations are creating less and less big ideas that affect lives.

But people are still looking for bigger than life concepts and experiences. They want to feel that they are a part of something, something bigger than day to day life. They want to be excited!

Someone will fill the void. Brands and companies are the best candidates for that. They have the incentive and money to do it.

So what’s your big idea?


How Much Interactivity Do We Really Need?

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When I ask people about cinema, technology, or Internet TV, I hear a lot of references to the possibilities of viewers’ interactivity. I’ve met creators and tech enthusiasts who told me with sparkling eyes that now they can truly interact with their viewers. They can even let viewers decide what will happen next!

Well, open and honest, I don’t want to affect the plot. Not at all.

I watch TV, films, and Internet TV in order to be entertained. I want someone to create a world for me – a believable world that I can relate to. I have no problem with different ways that creators increase my involvement with what I see on screen. Great soundtrack, as well as less conservative methods to create a world, are fine by me.

But, please, don’t ask me to decide what the character will do next. Don’t ask me to decide if it will turn right or left. Not only it doesn’t increase my involvement, it reduces my suspension of disbelief.

Having said that, there are many ways that technology can make me live the story I see on the screen. Check out Lance Weiler work in this field – fascinating and innovative ideas come to life in his creation, surrounding viewers with multi-layered experience.

Letting me decide how the plot will evolve is feasible. I just don’t believe it is needed.

How do YOU feel about the idea of viewers’ controlled plot?

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The Secrets of a Good Fiction Web Show (I) – The Plot

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Producing a web show is a complex task. Usually we work without budget, and on top of our day job. The market is in its infancy, so it’s still a challenge to attract viewers. Many aspects of the format are not clear, such as interactivity, format, and length (a key point raised by Justin).

My approach to tackle these issues is that no one can beat a good story.

In this post I’ll share my thoughts on ways to create a compelling fiction episodic web show. Something to be desired (STBD) is an example of such a show – continuous story, with core characters.

The aim is to initiate an open brainstorming between new media producers, writers and actors, via the blogsphere, twitter, and all those nice 2.0 tools we have today.

The challenge

For me, the main challenge in writing dramatic web show is how to retain viewers in a continues story. I believe that the tool to do that is to create dramatic continuity and emotional attachment with the main characters.

How can we achieve that?

Here are the main elements :

Length– Justin wrote an eye opening post about his struggle with episode length and frequency. This issue is not only dramatic -it affects both production logistics and cost. I believe that length of a chapter is of importance – it shouldn’t be 20 seconds cause it is almost impossible to maintain a plot at this length, nor should it be half an hour due to budget constraints and viewers attention span. But the difference between 5 minutes episode to 10 minutes episode is not as important as the first 30-60 seconds. This time frame has to be very engaging in order to keep viewers watching. Both Something to be Desired and Galacticast are doing a great job in creating strong opening for each episode.

Cliffhanger – nothing new here. Cliffhanger is a must in my opinion at the end of each episode. This is the key to get viewers engaged with the show. It requires pre-planing of almost a whole season, or at least a block of episodes, but its importance cannot be overestimated. It is the link to the future of the story from viewers point of view.

Link to the past – some viewers didn’t follow the show from its beginning. it is extremely important to get them involved as soon as they see any episode. Some believe that additional information on the show’s website will do the job. I tend to disagree. I watch my shows on Democracy player, and others watch them on AppleTV, and on sites like Blip.tv. These viewers never get to the website. Furthermore, people want to be entertained, nothing else. We should make their life as easy as possible. I think that the best solution for this problem is “last week on…” clip at the beginning of every episode. Simple, cheap, and viewers already used to it.

Limited amount of characters and plot lines– we need to get people engaged quickly. In order to do that we should have minimal amount of lead characters. This will ease the process (and cut production costs). Supporting characters should always stay in the background, if at all.

Subtext – I am a sucker for subtext. That’s why I am such a big fan of “The Wire“. Subtext fills the characters, their relations, and the plot as a whole, with substance, and make the viewers think about what they see. However, it might be a personal fetish 🙂 .

What are YOUR views on these topics? What else is needed plot-wise in order to create good fiction web show?

I’ve tagged this post with the word story. feel free to tag your relating posts in the same way.