The Secret to Real-Time Storytelling Revealed at #SXSW

What’s the secret sauce for real-time storytelling? Telling a story as it unfolds requires significant planning.  At SXSW today, I got a look behind the scenes at the making of the Melbourne Remote Control Tourist campaign, an extraordinary piece of work masterfully produced by Clemenger BBDO Melbourne, Tool and Exit Films for Tourism Victoria. Our guides were:

Dustin Callif, managing partner of digital, Tool North America

Jason Nickel, interactive director & technologist, Tool North America

Jason Zada, director, Tool North America

Together, the three told the story of creating the Remote Control Tourist (“RCT”) an example of what they call real-time storytelling, which they describe as the merging of social media and live action, and having the audience impact what’s happening with a narrative.

The project started with the task of “curating the city,” which involved finding the best and most interesting things in Melbourne, but doing so with an eye toward the logistics of filming.

“You have to start from the standpoint that this will be something good that people will want to watch,” noted Zada. “The second you started being boring, people start leaving. When you are doing  a show like this, every single second needs to be as interesting as it can be.”

The user interface also required an extraordinary amount of work. There were a lot of moving parts, starting with an interactive map, into which the team built a lot of functionality including realtime updates on the RTC’s status as well as background  information and context for each location.  All of this was framed around the live video, and overlayed with near real-time social interactions.

The campaign exposed the fun and positive messages about Melbourne to more than 100MM people worldwide, and resulted in the world’s first crowd-sourced city guide.    Thousands of people made requests of the tourists during the live window, and the wide-ranging RTCs garnered some surprising celebrity cameos, too.  Despite the visibility generated, at the end of the session, Callif noted the value of high quality owned media and recognized that even more could have been done.

“There’s a PR hook in this stuff that needs to be capitalized on,” he said, noting that in the next project, he’d want to more emphasis on  leveraging the content to earn more attention.

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of  the ebook  New School Press Release TacticsFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

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