The story of a man living both the life of an unusual serial killer as well as a forensic expert at the Miami Police Department originated in the book “Darkly Dreaming Dexter”. The book by Jeff Lindsay was the primary medium which created the content for the first season. Subsequently, other transmedia extensions were used through diverse platforms to build a ‘world beyond the page’ (Cheshire & Burton, 2010) of Dexter Morgan. The other platforms used were print (Dexter newsstands), TV, spoofed magazines, webisodes (Dexter: Early Cuts), DexterWiki, user-generated-content such as YouTube videos and spin offs, street marketing, real online investigations, mobile and online videogames, social networks, online shop etc. (Vasile & Godest, 2011).
The previously mentioned platforms each are part of transmedia marketing which support and serve as a manner for an individual to become acquainted with (Jenkins, 2007) Dexter. For instance, in twelve American cities they staged a crime scene by enclosing bloody public fountains with yellow Dexter crime-scene tape (Vasile et al, 2011). This publicity stunt contributed to the overall narrative, for people who did or did not know about Dexter received DVDs and items. Furthermore, the platforms unveil additional layers of context and complexity. For example, the animated web series “Dexter: Early Cuts”, was a spin-off directed to those fans wishing to better comprehend Dexter’s sociopath manners and intricate thought process (Vasile et al, 2011).
Each of the many transmedia campaigns built around Dexter was launched right before the start of a new season. By doing so, Dexter’s marketers smartly attracted a lot of attention to the new season of the popular series. In today’s media landscape, getting the audience to pay attention is more valuable than actually selling the product (Kapoor, 2012). By offering the public a fun and interactive transmedia experience built around Dexter at the beginning of each new season, people got interested and were attracted to watch the show. The marketing strategies around Dexter have proven to be very successful; Dexter belongs to the most viewed series on Showtime (Vasile et al, 2011).
In particular the eight week long transmedia campaign launched right before the launch of season five of the Dexter TV-series, in which an alternate reality game was created, is a good example of how transmedia campaigns can be used successfully. The game – perfectly fitting people’s wish to be a part of the media in today’s participatory culture, as Jenkins (2006) argues – imitated an investigation of a killing by Dexter, and included an especially built up crime scène that could actually be visited. These platforms such as twitter, (location-based) mobile applications and Facebook, allow the public to not be ‘confined to the living room’ (Cheshire et al., 2010) but indulge themselves into the world of Dexter. Moreover, seeing that the transmedia campaigns make use of several media at the same time, the Portmandeau model is applicable to this case (Kapoor, 2012). Many people took part in the hunt, as is showed by the many uploaded fan-creations (see video). The campaign contributed majorly to the popularity of the show; the first episode of season five was the highest rated première ever (Modernista, 2010).
To conclude, the promotions of each new season of Dexter are excellent examples of transmedia marketing, as they make use of many different media-platforms in each campaign. The platforms other than TV form an extension of the series, contributing to the experience of Dexter. The campaigns have created a context around Dexter and thereby triggered many people to participate in this experience, making the TV-show immensely popular. In view of that, you may have come across one of the platforms, and if you haven’t you are about to get taken into the world of Dexter…
By Evelien de Smedt and Vivian Toemen
Cheshire, T. & Burton, T. (2010). Transmedia: Entertainment reimagined. Wired. Retrieved from: http://www.wired.co.uk/magazine/archive/2010/
Jenkins, H. (2006). Searching for the origami unicorn: the matrix and transmedia storytelling. Convergence culture: where old and new media collide (pp. 95-134). New York: New York University Press.
Jenkins, H. (2007) [class handout] Transmedia storytelling 101. Society for Cinema and Media Studies, University of Oklahoma, Norman
Kapoor, R. (2012, September). Seminar week 1. Transmedia Entertainment and Marketing. Lecture conducted from Erasmus University, Rotterdam.
Modernista. (2010, December) Dexter Transmedia Case Study by Modernista! & Showtime… via JawboneTV. Retrieved September 2012, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pp1_69jfbs8&feature=player_embedded
Pratten, R. (2010) Transmedia storytelling: getting started. Workbook project. Retrieved from: http://workbookproject.com/culturehacker/2010/07/07/transmedia-storytelling-getting-started/
Vasile, A., & Godest, O. (2011). Dexter in transmedia. Transmedia Lab. Retrieved from: http://www.transmedialab.org/en/