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PBS Kids Gamification Play: The Electric Company's Prankster Planet

Posted by Sheila Shayon on May 16, 2011 05:00 PM

Jessica and Marcus need your help to turn off Manny’s Wordsuckeruppernator gadget before it sucks up all the words on earth, as seen in the above video.

In a modern rendering of Tinkerbell’s clap-if-you-believe in fairies, the Electric Company’s math-literacy Prankster Planet just went transmedia, thanks to Atlanta-based Primal Screen, which created a digital animated world based on the Electric Company brand and characters that span online, broadcast and print. 

Each Prankster Planet television segment on PBS Kids signs-off with a call-out for the website where gameification rules with 12 multilevel quests, 60 minigames, an avatar-creator, a magazine and a rewards system to encourage repeat play.

The seminal challenge was to develop a platform where kids feel they are part of the show across multiple media landscapes.

“Our goal for the campaign was to create a truly immersive experience and we took great pains to ensure this was an engaging experience versus a passive one. We developed a system where the animated show leads viewers to the online game which directs kids back to the show and the print magazine supports both experiences; basically a very dynamic feedback loop of engagement for the audience,” said Doug Grimmett, Primal Screen's chief creative officer. 

According to the site, the early numbers are prime: “The analytics over the first few days after the site's launch are staggering. The average time on the site is 19 minutes, a 371% rise over the two to three minutes kids spent there before our site launched. The number of visits rose from 20,000 to 120,000. Visitors who found the site through a banner ad (!) registered 13 minutes of engagement.”

While gamification is the big buzzword these days, the jury is still out on transmedia’s future. As Fast Company reports:

“Many stories are told perfectly well within a single medium, and the audience leaves satisfied, ready for something else. Transmedia represents a strategy for telling stories where there is a particularly diverse set of characters, where the world is richly realized, and where there is a strong back-story or mythology that can extend beyond the specific episodes being depicted in the film or television series. Transmedia represents a creative opportunity, but it should never be a mandate for all entertainment.” 

If Prankster Planet realizes its mythological roots, transmedia moves one step closer to game-play that knows no traditional media boundaries.

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