100 Days of Pop: Episode 14 You've Been Bandersnatch'd

It’s been a week since I watched it and I still can’t stop saying Bandersnatch.

Today on the Pop100, we all get Bandersnatch’ed as we talk about Netflix’s first interactive movie and what it means to marketers when our choices and interactions as consumers get converted into valuable data for brands.

Released on Dec 28 Netflix made good on months of rumors with a stand-alone episode/movie from Black Mirror called BANDERSNATCH.

It’s a movie about a choose your own adventure book being created into a video game in the mid 80s.  (Boom)

Throughout the movie, you as the viewer are given a choice between 2 ways the movie can go through actions of the main character.  you just use your remote to make these choices. They also add another layer of gamification by adding timing to the interaction by giving you only a brief few moments to make decisions that grow larger and harder to make throughout the movie.

Not a new concept. The whole experience is still very close to that of the Choose Your Own Adventure books of my youth.  What you may not know is that it’s maybe even closer to a series of video games that have been released since 2012. TellTale games had a successful run over the past years with interactive stories that fall a bit more on the game side starting with Walking Dead and after that, we’ve seen stories being told inside of the Batman license, Game of Thrones to name a couple.

These games a VERY close to the experience of Bandersnatch.  The only real differences being that these games are animated and Bandersnatch was a live production.   The weird thing is that Telltale had JUST struck a deal w/ Netflix to create a TellTale game of Stranger Things in 2018 and then Telltale went bankrupt this November.  Feels like a no-brainer for a buy-out- because you have a ton of artists that have been building entertainment in this format since 2012.

Even though the production of these movies is costly the interactive format does offer Netflix a few brainy benefits.  For one, it’s more difficult to pirate than a linear film or TV episode, its interactive nature encourages more active fan engagement than most projects, but the one that perks the ears of this pop-marketer is the greatest advantage that lies in the DATA that Netflix can gather from user’s choices.  

The very first choice you make in Bandersnatch is actually an almost too perfect example of exactly what I’m talking about.  In it, you are asked to choose between 2 kinds of cereal you’d like for breakfast. Sugar Puffs or Frosted Flakes. The choice has no bearing on the story but used as an easy starter to get you used to the functionality.  The second choice is what cassette tape that you’d like to listen to on the bus.

Netflix makes it easy to see where Kelloggs could have paid placement opportunities, but that’s so easy and not all that new, actually that would be extremely annoying so brands let’s not do that.  But there’s so much more right under the skin here.

Remember folks, before Netflix was a titan of a content creator, at its core, it’s always been and always will be a data company.  We’re really already living in a choose your own adventure, we just don’t realize it. Netflix uses user viewing data to decide what content they make and what they search out to create more of. Based on what you’ve watched in the past, you’re already served up different movie covers as you choose.  It’s already a choice powered economy, although Bandersnatch takes these viewer choices to a new level.

You see, data is a dish best served cold.  It’s not just about getting the instant gratification of views and brand impressions, but about what Netflix can learn about their viewers to create better and more valuable content, brand backed or not over time.  You pick a certain kind of music, Netflix has a better idea of your music preferences and in the future can serve you up a live concert from that band. More people decide to kill a character off quickly, it can serve the writers in understanding exactly what their fandom is looking for.  You decide to jump off a building while your character is on acid...well, you got problems dude. I’m not sure anyone can help you there.

Sure man, we can ‘him and haw’  about another company using our data for their own benefit, but this kind of interactivity establishes a direct pipeline between consumers and marketers. The more agency a movie grants its viewers, the more opportunities it has to serve up user-tailored content backed by ad dollars.
Deepening interactivity establishes a powerful new circuit between users, content, platforms, and brands/marketers. This will only become truer as more voice, eye-tracking, and virtual reality enter the picture, with even greater potential for tracking how users react to objects in their created environments.

Living in the future is rad and to the brands that have their pop-marketing glasses on will see that more and more opportunities are opening up to bring more content to people that they want to spend time with and interact with.

I’m Joe Cox, the pop-marketer and I’ll be catching all you Bandersnatchers next week.  If you are wanting to check out more from pop-marketing news, go to pop-marketer.com and signup to my email, the weekly zeitgeist.  

Joe Cox