Transmedia Entertainment & Marketing

IBCoM: CM2052

Dexter: get the full experience

One of the fake magazines created to promote Dexter

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:
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
Pratten, R. (2010) Transmedia storytelling: getting started. Workbook project. Retrieved from:
Vasile, A., & Godest, O. (2011). Dexter in transmedia. Transmedia Lab. Retrieved from:


6 comments on “Dexter: get the full experience

  1. Isabelle Parqui (356372)
    September 20, 2012

    I am a big fan of Dexter, yet i never realized how many different media platforms and transmedia strategies were used! I was quite suprised to read how twelve American cities staged a crime scene of bloody public fountains with yellow Dexter crime-scene tape on it! I understand how people already knowing about dexter would be excited about the scenes as they know what it’s about, however I would think that young children would get scared by this scene and that parents and adults would also be concerned. Nevertheless it makes people talk and hear about it which further contributes to advertising Dexter!

  2. sandra ingelson wendell
    September 20, 2012

    I really think this case is well written! I have never seen Dexter but I got a glimpse of the story and it is super clear to me that they have created a great transmedia experience! I think it was a good idea to launch transmedia extensions just before new seasons and it sounds like a great adventure people could be involved with. It is also really nice that the audience could participate in so many different ways and that the fans uploaded “fan-creations” as you mention it.

  3. Emmy Bruijstens
    September 21, 2012

    Although I have also never seen an episode of Dexter, but as Isabelle mentioned, the way they spread the Dexter experience accross different platforms really makes people talk and hear about it, because I have heard a lot about Dexter around me without knowing exactly what it was. I think, as you said, this is a very good example of the portmanteau model of transmedia, the makers really knew how to get people excited and launch the different platforms within a short time for the strongest effect.

  4. Mimi Bezooijen
    September 21, 2012

    Like Isabelle, I am also a Dexter fan. However, I only got into during the second season and I think I missed a lot because of this. So maybe these transmedia promotions only work for the already existing fans? I agree that it will cause people to talk about it and thus spread the show to their friends (Like Emmy experienced). Yet, when they decide to watch season 5 at the premiere, I think they will never get into it fully, even with all the transmedia opportunities.
    However, I really liked this post and I think the creators of Dexter did a really great job in enhancing their product through transmedia.

  5. Ellen
    September 21, 2012

    I think that those transmedia promotions merely work for the American fans.. since that’s the main audience they’re targeting. But I do think that it’d indeed help if you started watching the show from the start, that way you’d get the full picture.
    I liked this case.. very nicely written! I didn’t know that Dexter (like True Blood) had so many transmedia additions, so thanks for teaching me;p

  6. Chloe Boekaar
    September 21, 2012

    You did a really nice job if you ask me! As all of you I’ve heard from the Dexter show, and I also was not aware of the event in more than one city in America. I think this is a great example of transmedia storytelling, but even more when considering the context they have created. As Rhythma explained to us in the lecture/tutorial, creating context is perhaps even more important than content. With the events it becomes more real and the audience will probably feel more addressed and drawn into the story than with several other shows. Thus, the context is there to make the show even more popular. However, like Mimi said, it does not attract new audiences who have never seen the show. How can this be improved? What do you think, is more of these events enough or will a re run of the show suffice? Again, nice post!

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This entry was posted on September 18, 2012 by .
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