Choose Your Own Ending?

As a child, I was an avid fan of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series where pretty much, I am the protagonist in the story and make decisions to determine the plot and action. While this works pretty great for books and print in general, how about television?

Logistically, this would be mean multiple scenes have to be written, filmed and edited. While this is fairly common already for movies, for television, it is still relatively rare given the tight schedules and budgets. CBS in an effort this week if promoting one such rarity by allowing viewers to choose their own ending in the crime drama, Hawaii Five-0.

On January 14, after the holiday hiatus, the series returns and for the first time in television history, viewers will decide the ending of the episode in real time. That’s right. Real time. For the first time, technology is finally here to allow viewer engagement. Years ago, while at Viacom, I had worked on a little show on The N called Beyond the Break. Instead of real time viewer engagement, we had viewers text’d in their choices ahead and aired their choice later. So this project CBS is embarking on is certainly a first in terms of technology deployment.

For Hawaii Five-0, CBS is asking viewers to choose who they believe to be the culprit on CBS.com or via Twitter. Viewers’ votes are tallied in real time and the most popular ending will be broadcast. Personally, I think this definitely takes viewership from being passive to active and engaged.

Will we see more such viewer engagement from other television programs? Only time will tell, and if we get there, I think the way we view TV will be very different moving forward. Imagine a future where the plot is based according to your preferences. Viewers will actually take partial ownership on how a story progress. Think how different popular shows will differ from the format they are now? I can see fans telling the writers what they want and have a say in plot development.

More importantly brands can participate in the story arc development and this will be an amazing opportunity for brand integration. Imagine a scene where a character has to choose between Brand A and Brand B. Viewers will be asked to help the character pick. A typical scenario would be a character buying a car. Which car would be the perfect vehicle for this character? What is more, I can see viewers discussing online why they think Brand A and not Brand B would be appropriate for the character. Again, this creates buzz for brands because viewers are talking, blogging, tweeting, and sharing their thoughts which is a great way of transforming viewers to consumers to brand evangelists.

Brands should seriously consider such participation moving forward. Talk to us at 3A Media. We are here to help make your brand awesome.

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