Transmedia research “The Art of the Heist”

Transmedia Storytelling “A transmedia story unfolds across multiple media platforms, with each new element making a distinctive and valuable contribution to the whole. Ideally, each element makes it’s own unique contribution to the unfolding story, each can “be experienced separately and still be enjoyable,.  “Henry Jenkins in Convergence Culture” (2006)

In Jenkins (2006) book, Convergence Culture, there is a broad reaching discussion of transmedia storytelling which he defines as “a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience”.

In transmedia storytelling there is “no one single source or text where one can turn to gain all of the information” (Jenkins 2007). The term, “additive comprehension,” coined by Enter The Matrix game designer Neil Young, is used to describe how different texts add new pieces to the narrative that build a picture of the fictional world within which these stories lie.

Character development

Transmedia storytelling is about engaging audiences. One of the interesting things that i found out was the research which helps in the creation of the character development and also in the developments of the plot.

Ag8 is a UK company who were involved in a project called Purefold, which was a series of webisodes inspired by the movie Bladerunner. Within the project they created an interactive comedy by which the brand Ford was embedded into the actors. The  sit com “The Jones “was played out as a blog for the users to interact with the characters, they could help with the creation of the characters and the script. The initial storyline was set up as a girl who was created through a sperm donor who discovers she has 27 other siblings and off shProxy-Connection: keep-alive
Cache-Control: max-age=0

goes around Europe in search for them.

Another interseting thing i discovered is how AG8 used  direct involvement from the  social media aggregator FriendFeed, which picks up on comments and integrates them for  “real-time online conversations from the audience.”

Sir Riddley Scott the director seen “the Jones” and brought them onboard with creating a mini web series of Bladerunner.

The only reported possible snag so far is the fact Scott’s company lacks rights to the story by P. K. Dick’s book Do androids dream of electric sheep?  the novel upon which the original movie was based. Because of this, none of the actual intellectual property from the movie will be used, opting instead to take inspiration from the film.

The project was set up with the intent of exploring the subject of empathy and what  it mean to be human?’ It was created under the Creative Commons liscense, this meant that the audience could fully interact with the character design and the unfolding of the script. The license means fans of the series can take the episodes and remix or otherwise repurpose them, and even make their versions available commercially under the same license.

This is an excellent example on how the  use of social media, audience involvement allow for a rich media experience. By working under the Creative Commons liscence, audience participation can move off in any direction, whether this be script or character development, artistic, musical, creating graphic novels or holding fan based events.

information above sourced at

The following examples i am going to give for my research …..if you follow this link you can watch the video explaining about the campaign.

Ad agency McKinney-Silver designed the three-month campaign, dubbed The Art of the Heist, to boost visibility for Audi’s A3 premium compact car. According to Jason Musante, an art director for the Durham, NC-based agency, a new 2006 A3 was “stolen” from an Audi dealership on Park Avenue in New York City last April. The “thieves” left behind a smashed window. Signs went up in place of the A3 at the New York International Auto Show asking for information about the “theft.”

My first example is called The Art of the Heist. Ad agency McKinney-Silver designed the three-month campaign, dubbed The Art of the Heist, to boost visibility for Audi’s A3 premium compact car. They  launched Audi’s “luxury hatchback,” the A3, in the United States in a never-before-seen fashion. A 90-day, 24/7 online/offline alternate reality campaign that blurred the line between fantasy and real life, it was a sensation that took on a life of its own.

The Art of the Heist was in its simplest of explanations was a spy movie come to life. It was based around the theft of the first Audi A3 in America. It was a spy movie that you didn’t exactly watch onscreen, but one that you could actually participate in.A story which went from the virtual world to the real world and back. In real life, 2 robbers smashed a window of an Audi showroom and took off with the car. Security guards ran off after the suspects. All over America at motor shows signs were posted in an attempt to have the car retrieved. Bloggers and motor enthusiast websites began to report online about the missing car. Eventually out of curiosity you investigate it yourself by going to the audi website..and so the story kicks off

The Art of the Heist is a complex and intriging campaign  that included virtually every known available medium — print ads, billboards, TV commercials, radio spots, websites, live events, emails, videos, wild postings, blogs, IRC chats, direct mail, voice transcripts, puzzles, photos and scanned-in documents.

By far the most intriguing aspect of the campaign was an interactive fictional story sponsored by Audi that was told across multiple platforms. It also included live participation by followers at various events nationwide, some of which included:

  • New York International Auto Show
  • Jim Ellis Audi dealership, Atlanta, GA
  • Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Indio, CA
  • E3 Expo, Los Angeles
  • AFI film parties
  • Campaign finale party at The Viceroy Hotel, Santa Monica, CA

The story used a technique known as alternative reality gaming, in which a community of users becomes a part of the story, interacts with the characters, and helps each other solve the mystery.

“The story centered around six 2006 A3s containing secure digital memory cards (or SD; a postage-stamp-sized storage device used with certain cell phones, digital cameras, smart phones and PDAs) with code plans for the largest art heist in history,” says Lee Newman, a McKinney-Silver group account director. “One car, a red A3, contained the key to decrypting the plans.”

The story’s protagonists were Nisha Roberts, an expert art retriever; Ian Yarborough, her boyfriend and tech whiz; and Virgil Tatum, a world-renowned video game designer.

The Art of the Heist unfolded in multiple chapters via various story sites and using specially set up websites. The websites contained hundreds of documents that gave the characters a comprehensive back story for the audience to go through. Newman says these included:

  • Backlogs of emails from the characters
  • Phone recordings, videoconferences, conversation transcripts and text chats
  • Index of image and text documents relating to work done before the story started
  • Blueprints, maps, crime photos, suspect lists, surveillance videos, security camera footage and MP3s
  • “Easter Egg” films, hidden in undisclosed one-word links as the story unfolded. The two-minute QuickTime films enabled the audience to see key moments in the story that would otherwise be undocumented.

The three characters raced for their lives cross-country as a pair of hit men pursued them.

“Since events unfolded in real time, participants were not only able to watch what happened, but were also able to influence events through their direct participation in live ‘retrieval missions’ that were webcast in real time,” says Musante. “A ‘living movie’ involved many different layers of presentation, which allowed participants to choose their level of involvement.”

According to statistics researched and compiled by McKinney-Silver, more than 200,000 people became involved with the search for the stolen A3 in a single day. An estimated 500,000 people were involved in the search on an ongoing basis. Within the first few days of the campaign launch, fans created seven fan sites.

this information was sourced at, it is a video i watched.

In the video Mike Monello gives me some very usable and valuable information based on his experience in Transmedia story telling…He says that way to tell transmedia stories is in the root of the simple  human behaviours and desires which are successfully implimented in experiential entertainment. Experiential design is the way to approach transmedia stories.

His research shows that designing for a communal shared experience is  more meaningful for the audience and the storyteller.  People crave participation within a community.   The internet gives us this oppertunity with massive scale and visibility. This needs to be intergrated and takes a major role within the design of any  your plans for transmedfia storylines.

To Build a world larger than your characters. Create a deeply rich environment where people can play inside the story, forget who they are and role play for the moment.  This is in many ways MORE IMPORTANT than the characters or the plot.  Loose threads that fill out the world are a vital component in instigating role play and content creation from your audience.


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