HBO Imagine (Opinion Piece)
We were really intrigued when we recently stumbled upon the new HBOimagine.com website.
Built on a promise of “It’s more than you imagined” and starting with a video entitled “The Affair”, the interactive site allows the user to move around the story in their own way, choosing the story-line they want to follow and in some instances viewing the drama from four angles in order to see the whole scene unfold. Telling the story through newspaper articles, surveillance videos, police calls and mime(!) users can use a organisation chart to check their progress and choose where they want to go next.
Although it takes a fair old while to get round the whole of the site, it’s nice that for once something is not an immediate reward but encourages the luxury of exploration and discovery. Besides as you are able to pick where you left off, should time not be your own, it cleverly creates a legitimate reason to revisit. And each segment does indeed create the desire to explore further and let the story unfold.
A smart example of consumer generated content, once the user has witnessed all the pieces, they are able to upload their own videos which to maintain the integrity are to be one take with no cuts and no editing. Rules insist that a simple turn or move of the camera provides a twist to the original story; that the scene will become “more than you imagined.”
Combining the “active choice” nature of the Internet and the usual passive reception of TV, HBOimagine makes a very interesting move into a new generation format. Demanding your participation in order to tell the story is intriguing when you think that the majority of people watch TV as a way of switching their brains off so they don’t have to “do” anything.
This unique take on an interactive site reflects the authentic dramatic nature of HBO, a network renowned for popular series like The Sopranos and The Wire and for testing new formats in dramas like its newer “In Treatment” and should it (most likely) achieve its objective of connecting its user with the HBO “spirit of telling deeper, more engaging stories in innovative ways” a single click leads through to the HBO site.
At Open we talk about Culture Making. This is the belief that brands are not only be a part of culture but in good cases influence it. The HBO campaign not only gives its users something to talk about (Social Capital) but it allows them to share its ideals and get involved by way of a creative integrative experience (culture capital) changing perceptions of HBO as a mere cable channel and carrier of TV programmes to a forward thinking facilitator of innovative and creative drama.
— Katie McKendrick (Theopenconsultancy.com)
Image @ HBO