- Hollywood auteur Steven Soderbergh's new HBO mini-series, "Mosaic," doesn't air until Jan. 22, but audiences interested in piecing together its mystery can get a head-start with a free app for Android and iOS that puts a modern spin on the storied choose-your-own-adventure format.
- In a lukewarm review of the project by The New York Times, the television critic James Poniewozik details how those who download the app can choose from an array of perspectives and plotlines to follow, which viewers can replay but never skip ahead through. Scenes are also sometimes augmented by additional media like PDFs or shorter video clips that flesh out the story.
- These latter elements are called "discoveries," and the scene must be paused to access them in a gamified element Poniewozik compared to video game cutscenes from the PC CD-ROM era. He said that, while these kept him engaged with the app, they didn't necessarily increase his investment in the story, which he described as "sluggish" and "cold."
"Mosaic," beyond being a fascinating-if-flawed experiment in entertainment, points to an area many marketers are interested in: how to break the traditional mold of linear narrative by leveraging channels such as mobile and apps to create a more holistically interactive experience for users. HBO and Soderbergh aren't alone in eyeing this strategy. Netflix earlier this year introduced choose-your-own-adventure stories for series like "The Adventures of Puss in Boots."
Brands have dabbled as well, including Mar's M&M's candy which, in the weeks leading up to Halloween, ran a multi-part, interactive ghost story on its Twitter and Instagram pages that let users vote on where the next installment would go. These types of campaigns meet a demand for richer content marketing that puts control in the consumer's hands in a way that could build out engagement and loyalty over a longer period. Some platforms are rising to meet this demand, like Amazon's Twitch, which offers certain tools that allow its community to interact and influence video streams as they're watching.
Despite campaigns cropping up here and there, these types of efforts remain largely experimental and not without their pitfalls. In his review, Poniewozik highlighted how "Mosaic" kept him alert and always on the lookout for discoveries but also noted that these aspects don't always pay off in any deep or meaningful way, raising the specter of why it's necessary to break from a straightforward storytelling mode.
For marketers, the ability to dole out literal rewards like discounts or promotions for those that stick with the story until the end might present a more appealing prospect and deliver real value to customers. This will likely become a more intuitive and seamless process as mobile technology continues to evolve and blend with other technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality and voice.