A lot has changed for AT&T now that they straddle the line between telecom and entertainment. In fact, these changes uniquely position AT&T to give consumers access to more of what matters to them.
Consumer perception of the brand hasn't caught up. Many, especially young consumers, still see AT&T as "just a phone company."
Our goal was to change that, and to position AT&T as a brand at the forefront of mobile entertainment. A brand that Millennial and Gen Z consumers would be proud to call their own.
Guilty Party--a mobile-first show that pushes the limits of traditional narrative by utilizing social media and mobile technology to expand the fictional world and invite the audience in. With AT&T branding and products throughout, the series demonstrated AT&T's role in the future of connected entertainment.
Of course, being entertained isn't the only thing that matters to young consumers who increasingly report purchasing brands whose "values" that intersect with their own. (Think acceptance, transparency, and social good, to name a few).
In order to ensure Guilty Party educated as much as it entertained, we centered our story around subjects are audience reported wanting to know more about---truth and media literacy.
In the end, our goal was just as much about the community as it was the show. We wanted Guilty Party to feel like a friend-group, a safe space to connect, share, and learn together.
For young consumers, fandom doesn't stop at celebrating. In fact, a recent study found that 84% of Millennials believe that fans have ownership over whatever it is that they are fans of.
Our strategy was to embrace this version of fandom by inviting fans to truly participate in the fictional world of Guilty Party through multiple touch-points, including:
Episodes: Given that our audience spends on average 21 hours a week watching mobile video, we wanted to ensure that we optimized for mobile viewing. To do this, we created episodes that ranged from 8 to 19 minutes long, and modeled our look after anime, which utilizes color saturation and graphics to ensure that viewers are getting the pertinent information even on a tiny screen.
Vlogs/ Real Time Engagement: Each of the fictional characters had their own "in-world" social media profiles where they posted vlogs. These profiles allowed characters to tell their side of the story, interact with fellow fictional students, but also, real-world fans. This direct access to the narrative, overarching mystery, and the influencer cast allowed viewers to completely immerse themselves into the Guilty Party world and forge meaningful connections with fellow audience members.
Google Classroom: Heightening engagement and educational components of the series, we turned the fictional course into a real, researched, and comprehensive course on Google Classroom moderated by one of the show's characters. Designed to be a mobile-educational experience fans watched lectures, submitted homework, and even received grades all on their phones. Fun fact: The classroom reached capacity in less than an hour—we literally had audience members begging to do homework for a fictional class!
Discord: This mobile platform can best be described as a "Slack for Fandom" and traditionally has been used by gamers to connect. We used this platform to host the gossip blog of one of our characters - the conceit being that the fans there were helping him solve the mystery. Here fans worked on their homework, dissected all of the clues they were finding across social media, grilled suspects, shared fan art, and started a Guilty Party Gay/Straight Alliance.
Podcast: Fans also listened to "Suspect," the first-ever podcast where fictional characters interviewed real experts on everything from the future of crime to FBI protocol to media literacy. Featured in the show episodes, the standalone podcast was available on iTunes and Spotify where it was downloaded more 32,000 times. Designed to be fun for anyone interested in true crime, the podcast also served to amplify the show's fictional universe to bring sleuths closer to solving the show's core mystery.
These community platforms, in addition to the show's presences on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, allowed for a transformative fan experience. We worked with a team of researchers to ensure that every fact given in an episode, vlog or lecture is actually a real fact. While the story is one of total fiction, hopefully its very real data and social science equipped the audience with better tools to engage in the national conversation.
"Guilty Party: History of Lying" created a new template for audience participation in entertainment. In total, the franchise published eight episodes, 21 character vlogs, eight podcast episodes, and 1,700+ pieces of social content, garnering over 89 million views and over 83 million fan engagements. In fact, on YouTube where we had no paid media-our engagement rate averaged 19.94%---far above industry and category norms.
And honestly, those engagements keep on coming. Despite the season being over, fans are still active both on Discord and in the Google Classroom using them as safe spaces to continue to explore tough issues. Additionally, we were able to see brand lift on key metrics such as relevance and innovation for viewers.
But perhaps what made us the most happy were the thousands of comments illustrating the lasting impact the show had on individuals like this one fan: "Thank you for allowing us, the audience, to experience such a great story as if we were there. Can't wait to see what AT&T has planned for the future and how we can get involved and help!!"