Fantastic Beasts leads the way for innovative multiplatform storytelling
A view from Sir William Sargent

Fantastic Beasts leads the way for innovative multiplatform storytelling

Warner Brothers should be applauded for extending Fantastic Beasts' shelf life and reach by using multiplatform storytelling in original ways, writes Sir William Sargent.

With a brand legacy like Harry Potter’s, it’s no wonder Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has hit the zeitgeist. But the film’s buzz can’t only be attributed to the world’s love of the iconic young wizard.

It’s also down to the fact that Warner Brothers have been pretty smart in amplifying the film through multiplatform storytelling that capitalises on people’s hunger for spending more time with the film and its characters beyond the cinema screen.

Knowing we’d have hi-end assets, like CG characters and photorealistic environments, at our disposal opened up a world of multiplatform storytelling potential

Not only has Warner Brothers turned the film into a "cultural destination" by partnering with Facebook Live, Twitter’s customised emojis and Amazon to use its search bar to launch bespoke Fantastic Beasts content, they have also been one of the first to commission an experience for Google’s new Daydream VR headset.

The headset’s USP is that it includes a hand controller to make experiences a whole lot more interactive. It’s this hand controller that gives the Fantastic Beasts VR experience an edge because it provided the perfect opportunity for us to introduce an interactive, hand-controlled wand into the experience, thus befittingly turning every user into a wizard.

So Warner Brothers should be applauded for extending the film’s awareness, shelf life and reach by using multiplatform storytelling in very original ways. And it’s an approach that marketers can benefit from too.

At a time when storytelling has become the mandatory core of branding, marketers are no strangers to the need for multiplatform content and, arguably, it’s brand world that has shown Hollywood the way forward. But where this trajectory is reversed is in how Fantastic Beasts covered our most ground-breaking new platforms in a highly creative yet cost-effective way.

Because we were privileged enough to work on all the Harry Potter films, there was a lot of trust between us and Warner Brothers. This created an opportunity to widen our traditional film remit by collaborating on projects that go beyond Fantastic Beasts’ visual effects. Knowing we’d have hi-end assets, like CG characters and photorealistic environments, at our disposal opened up a world of multiplatform storytelling potential, meaning we could investigate everything from augmented reality applications through to geocache hunts.

This thoughtful front-end planning of Fantastic Beasts’ asset production created hi-quality flexible elements that provided foundations for the film’s refreshingly original experiential extensions. What’s more, it gave Warner Brothers a way to further leverage their (not insignificant) investment in the film’s visual effects. If marketers can break away from the short-termist and silo thinking that tends to dominate commercials production, they too could benefit from this more cost-efficient and innovative approach to creating multiplatform content.

It’s something that a few savvy brands have already wised up to. R/GA’s campaign for Beats Pill is an early example. The project entailed developing heavyweight CG assets because it takes serious visual effects investment to turn CG speakers into sassy creatures. So rather than limiting the Pill characters to the usual 30-second TV spot, the brand was given a chance to explore new platforms.

Once the assets are in place and built to a flexible hi-end spec, potential applications become near endless. In the case of Beats Pill, the assets were built to such a high spec that it was possible to develop a real-time animation system. This led to the Pills live-streaming their signature irreverent commentary during the MTV Video Music Awards; something that was truly ground-breaking at the time.

So it’s clear that careful front-end and forward-looking planning can leverage investment in asset creation and foster innovation. But the marketing industry isn’t yet used to thinking this way. We’re (understandably) too busy trying to keep budgets down and too focused on the primary platforms.

If we can break away from this mentality to take a more longtermist and multiplatform view, we’ll realise we can tell perfectly integrated brand stories across all the world’s wonderful new platforms.

Sir William Sargent is the chief executive and co-founder of Framestore.