Is Purefold pure gold for brands or pure confusion?
Coming soon from Free Scott, the new entertainment venture of Ridley Scott and his brother Tony, is a trippy new sci-fi entertainment project called Purefold that plans to let brand’s sponsor the content, and let the audience drive the plot line using social networking platforms.
Produced by Ag8, the concept will see participating brands “…take an alternative route to brand integration than traditional product placement and embrace invention within a narrative framework.” The project explores transmedia entertainment and will launch off of cross-platform channels.
Purefold just might represent pure gold for brands looking to reach audiences in an extremely interactive format, but as of now, it has a lot of people baffled as to how it will work, what it will be, and if branded content is a good idea or not.
Discussions about Purefold on Friend Feed, the main resource planned to “harvest” story ideas, are already brewing about the question of what it means to be human, the driving theme behind the story that will be loosely based on Blade Runner. Ag8 is getting people to explore the idea of what “transhumanism” is in the Purefold discussion group on Friend Feed, but the project is often met with confusion, with participants trying to understand what is happening, and what role they will play.
For insight as to what people think of Purefold, I’ve been asking around.
Jenifer Hanen, a blogger from Los Angeles, was wary of the idea of brand’s sponsoring content based on projects she has seen fail, but likes the DIY media side of the project and the idea to have the plot line driven by the audience. Listen to a conversation I had with Jen about Purefold here.
Film Production Designer Tema L. Staig, who is based in Los Angeles, first reacted to the idea of Purefold saying “The project sounds almost like virtual mad libs for content and advertising.”
She also had this to say:
“Universally, people have always needed to create visual and/or verbal stories and have a cathartic experience through those stories, either through the telling or the viewing. This is what makes us human. This is what connects us across the globe.
Historically, unrelated cultures share similar myths and stories, suggesting that we all have a desire to explain the natural, unnatural, and supernatural. It’s our most primal of needs.
It will be interesting to see how Ag8 takes story telling to humanity’s next level. The idea of us, the greater audience being involved directly in the story is compelling in that it creates (in theory) even more empathy for the characters – those characters are a part of us. It’s our baby, even if just a little bit.
How will it effect society? Will it bring us together around a global campfire? What new brainstorms might it spark? The possibilities are endless.”
Here in London, I asked Mervyn Lyn, who is Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for Sony Music and often gets involved with branded content for the entertainment company, what he thinks of Purefold. At first reaction, he said it reminds him of MTV’s Dubplate Drama that turned to the audience to drive the story line, a show he enjoyed because it made the viewers feel part of the show. As for letting brand’s sponsor the content, he was cautionary about the idea because so often people are suspicious when a company attempts to sell them something through a new medium.
“It depends how it is done and if it is trying to lean on branded content then they will have to strike a balance between the brand and the content so that each side doesn’t feel they are losing out,” he said.
They need to be very careful in making it driven by advertising because people see this as being railroaded and people will be cynically asking ‘what are they trying to sell me?’”
The approach Purefold is using will be ground breaking in entertainment, according to producers, and it will be distributed according to the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license, giving both audiences, brands and platforms equal use rights through their participation.
According to Ag8’s Tom Himpe, Purefold will be broadcast across a variety of media platforms and spread virally across the Internet.
“Most brands are aware of the fact that social media has changed the dynamics of the conversation, and they can’t just spell out their message in the same way as with one-way advertising methods,” he said. “We are giving brands the opportunity to create stories over an extended period of time, in collaboration with their audiences and relying on top industry talent in both writing and directing. That’s quite a unique package, especially in view of the fact that they can use the audiovisual assets freely across all their platforms and channels, from retail to mobile, from cinema to television.”
For now Ag8 is not revealing who the brand sponsors will be, but based on Friend Feed discussions the writers are already compiling what the story line will be, all set in the near future. The question many have is how brands will fit into the discussion, and for that, Himpe had this to say:
“There are two ways in which we are “guiding” the conversation. First of all, the brand is setting up the framework of the conversation, by defining one or multiple brand propositions they want to explore and picking a story line through which they want to explore that proposition. This sets up the framework within which we harvest online conversations.
So we’re not just harvesting random conversations across the entire web, we set out specific parameters with the participating brands. Secondly, while we’re listening to what the audience wants to see within the episodes, the ultimate creative control still resides with our editorial team and the Free Scott Directors, who are making creative sense of the audience’s input. So there is another level of control there. However, it’s very important for brands to understand that Purefold is about creating top quality entertainment, and not about extended the length of their tv commercials.
There’s a different balance here, and sure, that’s something they might have to get used to.”
Still confused, but ready to watch Purefold unfold,