Groundbreaking link between interactive TV/ cell phone series

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A new series sponsored by Castle Lite links television’s story-telling power to the consumer-based power of cell phones to create an interactive marketing and entertainment experience that reinforces and demonstrates the message behind a brand.

The Castle Lite message is that making the right choice is the responsible thing to do. And that’s what comes across in the three-minute drama series Crossroads which features Detective Dex Dube.

In each episode, Dube is faced with a moral dilemma and forced to choose between two possible courses of action. Does he, for example, (A) interview the dying witness in a murder case or (B) leave the work until tomorrow in the hope that the witness will still be around because he’s promised to meet his girl and propose?

And this is where the campaign becomes interactive because viewers are invited to cast their votes and choose for themselves, thus actually influencing the way the story goes.

“The idea came off the strong positioning of the brand,’ said Felix Kessel, executive creative director of Brand Activation 141, the company behind the campaign.

“What’s unsaid in Castle Lite’s brand promise is that the right choice will always lead to a brighter future and in the same way, Crossroads is about making the right choice for oneself and not necessarily about what’s morally right or wrong.’

Kessel said that the series couldn’t exist in isolation; it is therefore backed up with above- and below-the-line campaigns which focus sharply on each individual episode or choice. In order to increase the excitement, various small incentives (cell phones, air time, etc.) are offered to randomly-chosen viewers who vote by sms.

“Castle Lite considers its target market to be rich black men with a strong awareness of what it means to make responsible choices. We have therefore employed extensive in-tavern and in-store activations including placing on-the-ground collateral like point-of-sale displays and bringing television sets into bars so that patrons can watch the series.’

Print advertising is confined to the daily press, he said, whilst a 15-second tag-on to Castle Lite’s existing 45-second TV commercial reminds viewers of the moral problem which Dex faced last week. The entire campaign is rounded out by the distribution of web links for downloading individual episodes and by a strong radio presence.

“Besides placing normal commercial slots, we also provide DJs with copies of each episode and a brief about the dilemma that it poses,’ said Felix. “This allows them to engage the audience in 5- to 10-minute discussions about the choices that Dex must face. A classic one being, of course, the “career-over-love-life’ problem in episode 1.’

What makes this campaign unique is that the audience gets to choose the ending of each story by voting for what Dex Dube should do – for what his “right choice’ should be – and this determines how the programme will proceed, culminating in a riveting conclusion created, as it were, by the voters.

“This is simply a part of the powerful content revolution sweeping through marketing today.’ said Kessel. “It is an answer to the call for originality by major marketers, like SAB, who are constantly pursuing new ways of activating their brands in the lives of their consumers. In this particular case we disrupted the one way TV medium and allowed the normally passive audience to take part in an interactive and graphic demonstration of a brand’s promise.’

Crossroads was produced by Curious Pictures, produced by David Jammy and directed by Donovan Marsh and flights on SABC 1 at 7:25pm on Thursday evenings between January 25 and March 29, 2007.

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