How would you characterize the state of transmedia storytelling in Brazil?
The Brazilian market is still in its infancy. We’re really just starting to catch up in all areas of advertising and digital production, but transmedia is growing even faster than we imagined.
We have television stations investing in it. TV Globo [the largest commercial station in Latin America] has a department devoted to transmedia. Agencies are already using the term in client pitches. Big advertisers are demanding transmedia projects. So the will is big, though initiatives are still small.
The World Cup and the Olympics coming here will be very powerful platforms for transmedia storytellers. We have a great opportunity to create narratives that show the world that Brazil is about more than samba, bunda [booty] and landscapes. These global events will allow us to tell our stories and deepen the country’s brand.
What are you working on at the moment?
Elle magazine has invited us to develop the show Dirty Little Secret, which will be like an animated version of Sex and the City, with haircare brand TRESemmé as the sponsor. The series will begin on the Internet but will also have a presence in magazines and on the iPad. We even created a Brazilian character, who is voiced by a Brazilian actress. The project involves teams from the U.S. and Brazil.
You always say that it’s important for storytellers to look to the past for inspiration. In Brazil, soap operas have been the dominant form of television entertainment. What can we learn from the history of Brazilian drama?
The great authors have always wanted to tell a little bit more of their stories, but never had the platform. [Legendary screenwriter] Janete Clair was a genius. If she could have, she would have hyperlinked everything she wrote.
Monteiro Lobato [Brazil’s most influential children’s author] would have a field day with today’s technology! With transmedia storytelling, you are not locked to a little island, you’ve got this big map and people will want to explore it on the Internet, on their cellphone, at an event, or reading a newspaper or magazine. And Lobato was a major producer of worlds, a geographer of stories.
Today’s authors have the opportunity to think, “In what other ways can I speak to my audience? How am I going to engage someone who doesn’t watch TV?” In a country like ours, in which people love content, conversation, dialogue and communities, the opportunities are endless.
How do you see transmedia storytelling being applied to soap operas, and can it work for such a mass audience?
The fact is that we cannot talk to everybody anymore. There may be people who dislike a character and others who love them. Transmedia allows you to develop different parts of a story, for different audiences, on whatever platform suits it best.
A big part of transmedia culture is the idea that the audience can participate in the development of the story. Has this caught on in Brazil?
We’re not quite ready for this in Brazil. This is a discussion that we will have to take very seriously, because it involves issues of copyright, of participation, of the limits of authorship. But the discussion is very good and necessary.
One of our goals is to educate the Brazilian market on fan culture, which is still a very new concept in Brazil. And of course, social networks are key to fostering participation and strengthening the audience’s relationship to content.
Do you think this participatory model can work for Brazilian soap operas?
I still think the author is king. Indeed, we must develop platforms for both the author and audience to listen to one another. But most user-generated content isn’t very good and ultimately, it’s the author who has the ability to create stories.
Before the Alchemists, you worked in branded entertainment and advertising with such clients as Danone, Unilever, Nokia and several important Brazilian brands. What kind of return on investment should companies expect if they decide to venture into transmedia storytelling?
None. We have to take risks and manage expectations. The next discussion we’re going to have with MIT’s Convergence Culture Consortium is about metrics in the transmedia world.
How do we measure the success of a transmedia campaign? The key is understanding what is tangible ROI: money, media return – and what is intangible: brand value and dialogue with consumers.
Branded content is no longer a trend. Content is the future for brands and they need to invest in it heavily, whether that means appropriating pre-existing content or creating their own.
What can the world learn from the Brazilian people?
We’re a very open culture. We’re not afraid of using technology to communicate with each other and the world. Other cultures speak a lot but share very little. Sharing is different from speaking. Brazilian culture already has a very powerful conversation going on and this can be a major differential for us.