Ford's reality TV show-transmedia show Escape Routes at the Social Media Club NYC

Is Ford becoming a Transmedia Production Company?

by deanmeistr on April 17, 2012

Ford Motor Company has been quietly stepping into the transmedia arena as a producer, beginning in 2009 with the “Fiesta Moment” social media campaign, where 100 Ford Fiesta vehicles were given to non-professional spokespeople or marketers to use, drive and then comment on via Twitter and other social media outlets. The great success of that campaign apparently spawned a deeper dive into the use of not just social media, but a fully-concieved reality TV show, airing now on NBC on Saturday evenings, with a strong online transmedia component, using YouTube and Twitter to weave multiple stories. Committing deeply to engaging their audience apart from the mainstream media, Ford has brought in YouTube star ijustine to host a unique “spin off” series that runs in conjunction with the TV show.

Ford’s self-branded TV reality show, “Escape Routes” airs on Saturday nights on NBC, offering teams of contestants a chance to win a 2013 Ford Escape. It doesn’t sound very novel for a network TV show, until you throw into the mix a regular post show off-air online after the network broadcast, and the active participation of viewers helping to mold and create the experience  through social media interaction. Viewer participants can also win prizes, in separate competitions online.

This is more than voting on American Idol: viewers communicate with the on-air teams via social media and play a strong part in developing the story (or, multiple stories), qualifying this to be a true transmedia experience. Through tweets, solicited video and routine online interaction with the teams, viewers have a constant voice in the process, offering their opinions and support, while often asked for suggestions for challenges and content they want to see on air or online. There is a gaming component just for the online viewer/participants, using a point system and awarding badges and real prizes. And, as with any good transmedia property, while there are multiple non-linear stories (the challenges, for instance) the characters making up the teams have very clearly defined personalities—in this case, their own.

On April 3rd, Social Media Club NYC held a live panel discussion  with the reality show team members, iJustine, network broadcast show host Rossi Moreale, Ford’s U.S. Social Media Manager Craig Daitch, moderated by Howard Greenstein, President of the NYC chapter of the Social Media Club. Although the typical meeting would have been a round-robin discussion covering various aspects of social media, this was more like a game show where the 12 team panelists put their  competitive energy on display.  In between short commentary about the interactive aspects of constant communication with fans and viewers keeping it “real”, most of them expressed their excitement about playing this game not just for themselves but for the virtual teammates that had signed on and were keeping up with them. As if to prove the point, the twitter stream using the hash tag #EscapeRoutes was actively filled with commentary on the event both from participants in the room (comprised mostly of older teens and millennials) and virtual followers during the entire 2 hour meeting. Unlike typical marketing, branding or PR-focused meetings where agency account executives and a smattering of creatives will talk about ROI, privacy issues or how old values or methods translate to new technology, the conversation stayed centered around activity, participation and “what happens when…” Digital natives or the older early adopters in the room seemed comfortable with the seamless integration of a lean-forward and lean-back experience taking place simultaneously.

Ford’s destiny might be like Apple, moving from manufacturing physical products to becoming primarily a lifestyle and experience producer — if they find that creating transmedia properties does more for car sales than traditional advertising and marketing formulae. They already have a web series in the works, called “Plugged In,” to be broadcast on Yahoo’s streaming video site starting in May, to promote their first electric car, the Focus Electric. This will dovetail with the finale  episode of Escape Routes, scheduled to end just as the new series begins.

Ford reported that “Escape Routes” gained a million followers on Twitter when the show debuted. Whatever one’s taste is for Reality TV or online gaming, there may be a new hybrid in the works worth watching.


Social Media Club NYC panel with Ford's Escape Routes Cast

Social Media Club NYC panel with Ford's Escape Routes Cast


Graphic Recording creates better memory retention

Crayons for the Boardroom

by deanmeistr on October 28, 2011

At a facilitation session for an international banking group, one of the executives spotted my package of colored markers, and said to me, “Oh, coloring! My kids love to color—are we going to do that?” I answered quickly, “We certainly are! And I won’t even ask you to stay in the lines.”

In truth, I thought he was trying to make light of the huge sheets of paper on the walls with instructions and simple images. He might have been intimidated, faced with the task the group was assigned to do. The meeting was to be about managing reorganization, exposing roadblocks and finding missing connections between staff and departments. It didn’t seem to look like a pleasant prospect, and many in the room were apprehensive about spending two days exposing their problems.

But intimidation was not my goal. As a visual facilitator, my job was to give these leaders some tools beyond their words to expose missing connections in a way that they could see where the ball gets dropped and to put their individual processes in front of the entire group. Finding common ground by making visual sense out of a situation is, so often, the starting place for streamlining bottlenecks and achieving consensus.

Graphic Facilitation using Mind Mapping

Graphic Facilitation using Mind Mapping

Asking “how” and “why” frequently gave me the ability to draw individual processes, using lines, arrows, and symbols, or sum up attitudes and reactions with visual metaphors. Here’s a mind map I drew quickly that summarized common obstacles in getting approvals to move from department to department. (Please note that the grainy picture quality comes from the client’s permission only to use a low-res version of the image).

Did I ask them to draw anything? Not specifically—there was enough for them to think about without asking them to test those skills. But what did happen was the use of more visual metaphors as they spoke, more clarity as I would draw a visual description and ask, “does it look like this?…does this lead to that?”, and more comfort as each participant felt they could get their individual point expressed and heard more distinctly.

At the lunch break at the beginning of the first day, I asked that same executive if what he now saw on the walls was useful…and why. His answer?

“You surprised me, when I first saw the coloring stuff. But, actually, it’s very useful, I can see everything we spoke about so far right in front of me, and it’s not only helping me remember, but it’s making me think about new ideas.”

I just responded visually, nodding my head and smiling from ear to ear.



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Dreaming at the World Business Forum

by deanmeistr on October 10, 2011

Bill Clinton at the World Business Forum

Bill Clinton at the World Business Forum

Bill Clinton put it in a framework. Jack Welch said  it was embodied as “cool” by the late Steve Jobs. The CEOs of Burberry (Angela Ahrendts) and of Cirque du Soleil (Daniel Lamarre) described how they pay teams to do it. These leaders called it DREAMING, but based on the descriptions I heard at the World Business Forum last week, I don’t think they meant the random thoughts and pictures that float through our minds at night or daydreaming during a particularly boring presentation.

The longer definition I would use is creating a vision, rather than having a vision or being visionary, as both of these cases imply some kind of passive or innate ability.  All the dreams (or visions) mentioned described scenes, products or results which could be depicted in a photo or picture without the need for words. Think of the reactions of happy customers, satisfied employees, and excitement generated by new discoveries or products that generate good feelings. Increased percentages of market share, dollars or numbers of customers are important, but were defined as natural outcomes from seeing dreams realized. The vision must come first.

World Business Forum — Daniel LamarreIn presenting their messages, the most effective speakers (whether using slides or not) tended to create pictures with their words, using great storytelling and powerful metaphors to deliver their messages.

Malcolm Gladwell connected dreaming to risk taking. Takashi Hatchijo, Chairman of the Board of Hitachi, said, “We need to rededicate ourselves to inspire the world.”

Ben Zander - World Business Forum

Ben Zander at the World Business Forum

Ben Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic and co-author of The Art of Possibility used not only music but visual clues as well, such as drawing outside of perceived boundaries on a flipchart, and asking us to “look for the shining eyes!” to inspire us to think about possibilities.

It was an event rich with vision, providing great material to create the graphic recordings you can see in full  here.

Bill Clinton summarized his message by saying, “we need to get into the future business.” To do that, facilitating visions of things to come starts with dreaming.

Photo of Bill Clinton by Dov Friedmann —

Graphic Recording of the World Business Forum

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The floor of the New York Stock Exchange publi...

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I am watching, as many others apparently are, to see how the LinkedIn IPO will fare this week. This is the first of the Social Media platform giants to hit the stock exchange, now to be offered on the NYSE, rather than on NASDAQ, as originally proposed.

I’m not only interested in the value of shares (Mashable has been covering this intently), but the whole question of whether social media will now have a new kind of legitimacy for the typical business leader, particularly over 35 or even 45 years old. This has happened at least twice before in the past 30 years: specifically, when Apple (back then “Apple Computer”) released their Apple II desktop computer with a spreadsheet application (Visicalc), the desktop computer for business use was made legitimate by IBM’s PC (crushing the field with Lotus 1-2-3 sitting on Microsoft’s plain-Jane operating system). The World Wide Web became legitimate for business first in the early 90’s with the Netscape browser, again to be superseded by Microsoft with Internet Explorer.

Colleagues and I joke about the “facebookification” of LinkedIn, or the Twitterizing of LinkedIn, but I would say there are two ‘killer apps’ hidden in the bowels of the LinkedIn world:

  1. Job Listings/Resumes
  2. Group discussions (with moderation)

These are not new application— was a leader for a long time in the job hunter’s world. Craig’s list, the de facto Web classifieds (at least for the US) has been around for a while. But the combination of the online resume right up front in the business/working ethos of LinkedIn makes it easier to manage than both of these older stalwarts.

However, I have really taken to the Groups and discussions, even though I am trying to give Quora a fair shake. What’s the difference? In my case, ease of use. LinkedIn is just easier to follow the Groups, topics and discusssions I want to follow. It’s easier to make a connection when I want to connect privately with someone about something under discussion. I trust the moderation, and even with Quora’s voting system, I still find the jumble of questions and answers harder to sort through.

And let me be bluntly clear about the interface: it does the job adequately and quite directly. As my fellow UX friends will say, that’s smart and that’s good, because as Google has clearly taught us, fancy graphics and an intrusive interface that slows down GETTING IN AND GETTING OUT will not improve the user experience. And what does the average business user want?

They want something that’s tested and works. They want it easy to use and relatively painless. They want it to be unobtrusive. They want privacy a la carte. And they want something that’s proven to be profitable as a business, to insure that it will last—this already happened, as opposed to some of the other (major) social media entities.

Visually, the unprettified LinkedIn may be low on pictures, but it puts connectivity right up front and center, with personal/professional background info and group interactivity just a layer or two below. Not glamorous, but it does the job. And, unlike Facebook, there are no great controversies over privacy issues and the ownership of content.

So, Thursday, I’m watching the New York Stock Exchange to see how it goes…and I might have to disclose that I own shares in LinkedIn by Friday, if the path to legitimacy for social media roars open.

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Thumbnail image for 5 Tips to Social Media Service with a(n emoticon) Smile

5 Tips to Social Media Service with a(n emoticon) Smile

May 5, 2011

If success in Social Media is to be understood as ubiquitous, simple and easy, here’s an example of a great use of a commonly available tool that can work for business requiring no special app or interface design. In a recent trip to Mexico City I was advised to not hire a taxi by walking […]

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4 Lessons Learned from Transmedia Spammers

March 10, 2011

Transmedia has gone beyond simply infiltrating the social media channels: last year I participated in a transmedia storytelling property called “Crushing it! A Social Media Love Story” which used Twitter, YouTube and a collection of blogs to create a story and engage an audience over the course of one week. Getting audience participation in creating […]

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Thumbnail image for Facebook says: “Like it or not, bye-bye FBML and your Page will change”

Facebook says: “Like it or not, bye-bye FBML and your Page will change”

February 16, 2011

Facebook once again has made a unilateral decision to completely reorganize your pages. Besides the visual changes, behind the scenes FBML (Facebook Markup Language) has been dropped officially on tabs for iFrames. Whether or not you chose preview and [sic] UPGRADE your page, it will change on March 10, 2011. What does this mean for […]

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Did Twitter eat my visual branding?

January 12, 2011
Thumbnail image for Did Twitter eat my visual branding?

The new web interface for Twitter has been sitting as “beta” for a few months now (as of this writing), and I’m quite sure my visual branding has suffered. If you think that’s not important, and that it’s only the 140 characters that count, please think again. If you have added a pictures with your […]

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Storytelling Improves your Influence

September 16, 2010

This is a snarky view of the truth about who really influences clients about their decision-making process. In particular, I often hear from clients of smaller businesses new to the web, “My son took a look at the site and said…,” or “Let me see what so-and-so thinks” about the navigation of a site. the […]

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A review of 3 iPad styluses

August 29, 2010

Perhaps I have fat fingertips. I haven’t measured them, but as deftly as I can wield an xacto knife  or carve a turkey, I have better control when using an opposable thumb. After loading Sketchbook on my iPhone and a handful of other sketching programs, I found that none of them were both fun and […]

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