Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Showtime breaks barrier in twittertainment

Showtime is doing what renegade Mad Men on Twitter could only dream of: pushing television into another dimension by having characters officially live tweet from screen. When hospital series "Nurse Jackie" returns for its second season next month, Dr. Cooper will be sending out thoughts, observations, even photos in tweets that post in real-time as the show unfolds. (Unfortunately for MST and PST fans, tweets will be timed to East Coast viewings.)

This isn't the first time that characters have tweeted from fictional worlds, of course. Fans of Mad Men ignited the movement to extend television to twitter by launching accounts for characters and have been tweeting unofficially, sometimes during episodes, since August 2008. (In a particularly meta-moment the actor behind Trudy tweeted that her 1960s character had discovered twitter before she did.) Last summer, the Broadway play "Next to Normal" had characters (ostensibly) tweet during pauses in onstage dialogue, as a marketing ploy which proved extremely successful. More and more TV shows--Trueblood, Heroes, Glee, The Good Wife-- have established official twitter feeds, some in the voice of characters, but tweets exist parallel to shows, not incorporated into them. Interestingly, The Good Wife did an episode that revolved around twitter, but the twitter feed involved wasn't from a character, and subsequent postings have been sporadic.

“We want the story to extend beyond the hour that it lives on air," Robert Hayes, Showtime’s GM for digital media told NY Times reporter Brian Stelter. No doubt, Hayes has tuned in to the fact that 1/3 men and 1/4 women viewers multitask regularly by watching TV while using the Web.

But how far will he go to extend the story? Will he be the first to officially recognize the potential that twitter represents in extending a drama? Providing platform for not only extending the story as written, but expanding plots and subplots, creating parallel dramas contiguous with story, developing characters in ways they can't be developed on screen, even testing out new characters with a twitter "focus group" audience?

The @DoctorCoop account is already live, giving writers a chance to develop a twitter voice for him, the hardest thing to achieve when setting up an account for a character.

Why isn't there a feed for Nurse Jackie, I wonder? @Nurse_Jackie and @NurseJackie are live accounts, with no posts. Perhaps they're building the twitter cast slowly. The fun (and success) of @DoctorCoop will be watching him interact in real-time not only with followers (ahem, more of this, please) but with fellow cast members.

Or, perhaps the project is on hold as they trawl for writers well-versed in the medium. If so, let them know @BettyDraper is available ;)


howie at skypulsemedia said...

You are truly cutting edge! Loved this post!

corporaterock said...

Excellent overview of what's going on for TV brand fiction. Let's not forget Castle.

But also, let's stress that while some of this is just plain fun for fans and their followers, the brand's official fiction needs to be carefully crafted and fun for fans.

And you go! @bettydraper

mikeyames said...

Have you seen many examples of large corporations taking advantage of this same tactic...by personifying a popular brand?
I see what @chex_mix has recently started on twitter and wonder if there are other examples you have seen - non entertainment based - but using the principles you highlight in this post?

Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

Thanks for the read and kind words @Howie ;)

@corporaterock Excellent point to reference ABC's Castle which developed a twitter-based interactive mystery to sustain viewer interest @WriteRCastle

@mikeyames A most salient question: does twittertainment tactic extend to successfully promote brands that aren't entertainment properties? I know other co's are putting personalities on twitter--not only @chex_mix (paltry 169 followers) but @MichelinManUSA, @NestleNesquik (both under 2000) @BettyCrocker (5566) and superusers like @WholeFoods (1.7 million followers) @Jetblue (1.6 million) But I'd argue the last three (like @Comcastcares) are more customerservice/coupons than twittertainment. Any CPG brands doing twittertainment? Subject of upcoming post--thanks for the fodder ;)