Between Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, the young adult generation has acquired a language of its own, spoken in status updates and digital visuals.
The fourth annual “Transmedia, Hollywood” symposium from UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television, USC’s School of Cinematic Arts and USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism will examine the integration of this kind of Web 2.0 into current culture through panel discussion.
Previous “Transmedia, Hollywood” conferences have included multiple panels comprised of industry professionals, creators and scholars. This year’s conference theme, “Spreading Change,” will discuss how Web 2.0 culture is being corralled to help individuals and groups make progress for change with the world’s social issues, and how business advertising is employing that strategy to put a new energy toward their brands.
Denise Mann, a professor in the department of film, television and digital media in the School of Theater, Film and Television at UCLA, co-founded the “Transmedia, Hollywood” conference as a joint effort with Henry Jenkins, a USC professor in the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, to bring together the scholarship as well as the practicality of the media industry.
“The goal of this year’s conference is to bring to Hollywood those voices that are pushing forth a different model of what transmedia might mean, one that’s based more on changing the society than based on simply building up rating or box office success,” Jenkins said.
The conference, presented by the Andrew J. Kuehn Jr. Foundation, includes different stories of what it looks like to collectively utilize different media tools to tackle social problems. Well-known names such as TOMS shoes and the KONY 2012 campaign exemplify this strategy, but the conference will cover other sides of the good-willed usage of transmedia as well. One panel will cover artists and educators who use the spread of memes to take down media stereotypes.
With a generation growing up among Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, parameters for what web culture means have greatly changed, opening doors for mass community building. Jenkins said social media builds community, and that video sharing through YouTube and other tools helps spread the ideas and tactics certain groups are using.
“If you want to solve a problem, you go to the pool of resources you have, which includes your community base, and get inter-shared wisdom,” Mann said. “If that community shares your interest in a particular topic, you suddenly have exponentially so many more people to help solve that problem.”
Large brands and corporations have also caught wind of transmedia as a valuable resource to engage and build strong affiliations with consumers. Michael Serazio, author of “Your Ad Here: The Cool Sell of Guerilla Marketing” and professor at Fairfield University, will share his knowledge on a panel at the conference regarding these types of new advertising.
“In simple terms, we’ve gone from the traditional couch potato sitting in front of the television to someone who’s actively involved with a variety of platforms online, social media especially,” Serazio said. “That shift has been the inspiration for a lot of revolutionary type strategies in advertising.”
Serazio said Pepsi’s “Refresh” project was an attempt to appeal to these emerging interests of cultural movements for change by investing grass roots energy behind its product. In lieu of traditional advertising, the company financed various social activism projects, such as “Do Good for the Gulf,” which was a $1.3 million investment toward aid for communities affected by the BP oil spill.
“The entire generation that grew up post-9/11 has had a sense of struggle for higher purpose and for political change,” Jenkins said. “I think that’s as true for people inside entrepreneurial sectors and even major brands as it is for activists in the streets.”
TOMS’ “One for One” tagline crosses this territory of purposeful business, which implies that with every pair of purchased shoes, the brand will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. The panel Serazio will speak on will discuss understanding the intersection of cultural movements and brand ambitions.
“This is where the marketing voice of the past that was all about hard sell is now using indirect forms of marketing or advertising, which speak to people’s lifestyles and issue-oriented problems rather than just ‘buy this product,’” Mann said. “We’re starting to see entrepreneurs as the new philanthropists, because they’re seeing that they can be a disciple for change.”