Behind The Voice lies a well organised and tightly orchestrated social media operation.
It is often argued that social media should be authentic and spontaneous and never scripted and orchestrated, but the producers of reality show The Voice would beg to differ.
Behind the scenes of the talent show filmed at Sydney’s Fox Studios is a huge social media operation where every tweet and Facebook update is crafted in advance to fit the story – even the real-time audience tweets.
The man responsible, Shine 360° managing director Nick Love, says crafting “storytelling without boundaries” takes planning and design akin to channel planning for a brand.
“It’s really difficult and it’s not something that happens organically with a few kids on Facebook,” Love says, speaking at a business breakfast organised by digital agency SapientNitro.
However, Love says it is essential given the Australian living room is now filled with screens. The time people spend watching television is flat or has declined slightly, but the time spent online is up massively, indicating parallel consumption. This means that if television producers don’t capture attention on the second screen, the audience will start looking at emails instead.
For the second series of The Voice, the producers built the website using responsive design so it would automatically optimise the display regardless of whether it was a desktop, tablet or smartphone. Love says web access for series one of The Voice was mostly on desktop machines but five weeks into the second series, it stood at more than 53 per cent mobile devices and more than 70 per cent during show time.
“If you’re not thinking mobile first in terms of reaching your consumer with storytelling, you’re kidding yourself,” Love says. “I believed in this future, but it’s here, and from a content creation perspective that blows our mind. What we thought was happening in five years is happening now. TV is still the centrepiece of the lounge room but what we’re not doing is connecting all the screens.”
Even last year, things were tightly scripted but it was mostly experimentation without much budget. This allowed the producers to generate data to convince the C-suite to make a bigger investment this year, with more content such as photo galleries, videos, back stories and live streaming during ad breaks and a technology platform to underpin it all. Shine 360° has created quite a bit of online content that is outside network marketing and exists purely to further the storytelling – such as a video of Keith Urban handing over his chair to Ricky Martin at the start of the second series.
“We think of ourselves not as a television broadcast but as an ongoing multichannel experience with the right story choices for the right channel at the right time,” Love says.
The effort has paid off – the peak of series one was 18,000 people liking a photo on Facebook during the grand final, whereas this year there were 82,000 likes during an ad break in the first week.
The producers plan content seven days a week, 24 hours a day – looking at what the coaches were saying, what is happening in social media, on the website and iTunes, and what network marketing and publicity have planned.
“It’s very early days of what a brand owner would call channel planning,” Love says. “We optimised it for the grand final where social media was scripted like the show, right down to the director’s notes at 7.21pm we’re going to an ad break and we’re posting that photo that someone took on set with their iPhone of Seal to Facebook.”
For example, when folk singer Celia Pavey forgot the words to “Scarborough Fair” in her blind audition, the producers knew about it because the show was pre-recorded. This allowed them to have a tweet and Facebook update ready to go.
Even the live tweets from the audience are not random.
“We had a room full of people in a very salubrious demountable shed at Fox Studios with real-time feeds all preconfigured based on what the story arc was going to be, with the EP saying ‘right we’re going to be looking for a tweet about this and we need to find it at this time because this is what is going to be happening in the story’,” Love explains. “You could hear over the director’s mike, ‘right where’s that tweet, I need it’ and five people would put [candidate tweets] through to a moderator who’d put the final three in front of the EP and she would press publish. So she was storytelling in real time, even in pre-recorded episodes to complement the story.”