By Dries Heerkens
Media is getting more interactive and customized on the wishes of the users, this is the result of media service providers having more data about their users. Some recognizable examples of media making use the data to be interactive and deliver customized services are ‘Spotify’, which recommends new music to their users and provides personalized radio-stations. ‘Netflix’, which gives the people the opportunity to plan their entire television schedule for the evening and ‘Google’ and ‘Facebook’, which show us commercials based on our interest.
The possibilities in being interactive with users are unlimited. Today we see that interactivity is also been used in promotion campaigns in order to create a ‘buzz’ around new products and services. Creating a ‘buzz’ is what Arcade Fire did in promoting their forth-coming album ‘Reflektor’, which will be the fourth album of the Canadian Indie-Rock band. The Grammy-award winning band pull out all the stops in promoting ‘Reflektor’, which will be released on 28th of October 2013. This article explains the involvement of three media techniques in the promotion campaign. The first technique is ‘hypermediacy’, which acknowledges multiple acts of representation and makes them visible. The second technique is called ‘immediacy’ – which is a transparent interface that erases itself, so that the user is no longer aware of confronting a medium, but instead stands in an immediate relationship to the contents of that medium. The last technique is called ‘remediation’, which is the representation of one medium in another remediation. (Bolter & Grusin, 1998)
The viral promotion campaign started with mysterious street-art in numerous places in the world. The campaign focused on a white circles, within the circles the words ‘Reflektor’ are spelled in nine squares. The number ‘nine’ has more functions in the promotion campaign. Combined with the circle the text ‘9 pm 9/9’ was written in New York. Fans of the band knew that something would happen on this date. This campaign goes further. After the band tweeted that they were responsible for the campaign, the band opened up an Instagram account and asked fans around the world to make photos of the street-art pieces and post them on the account. And if the teasing campaign was not enough, the band also announced that David Bowie would have a guest appearance on the album and they leaked the first single of the album combined with two videos, the cover-art of the album and the track list on ITunes.
The use of social media in this campaign resulted in a viral effect – fans of the indie-genre were all aware of the actions of the band and of the forthcoming album. This guerilla marketing campaign is a form of hypermediacy – the raw ingredients are images, sounds, text and animation, which can be brought together in any combination. In this setting the watcher of the campaign is continually brought back to and made aware of the new album of Arcade Fire. (Bolter & Grusin, 1998)
The 9th of September at exactly 9 pm the band shared their first single of the album. The name of the single is – just like the album – ‘Reflektor’. But the way how the single was shared is interesting and innovative. The band made two different video clips. One of the video clips was directed by Dutch film director Anton Corbijn – who is a big fan of the band. However, the other video clip is even more interesting. The video is an interactive clip – directed by Vincent Morriset, who is a director at the forefront of interactive video – and allows the viewers to influence the content. Morriset used open source Google Chrome technology and viewers can use their phone, tablet, webcam or mouse to include their own faces into the video and manipulate the graphics of the video clip. By synching the device with the computer’s camera, users travel alongside a young woman on her journey to self-actualization. A vague screen links reality with its virtual counterpart, breaking to clarity while creating wavy and geometric dance shadows. At the highlight of the video clip, the viewer’s reflection in a broken mirror is integrated into the film with a message encouraging you to, like the young woman, break free. This is a totally new experience for the watchers of video clips.
This video puts the watcher of the video in different new roles – the watcher becomes the director of the video and an actor in the video clip. This is a form of immediacy; it makes the interface ‘natural’ – the watcher of the audience forget that they are watching a video and instead pay more attention to the interactive options in the video. This music clip succeeded in make the digital technology ‘transparent’, in this sense, a transparent interface is one that erases itself, so that the watcher of the clip is no longer aware of confronting the medium, but instead stands in an immediate relationship to the content of the medium (Bolter & Grusin, 1998).
The interactive video of Arcade Fire is the latest remediated form of the music video, what once started in 1926 in the form of ‘talkies’ – which were short musical films. Later – in 1975 – the video clip of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody was the first clip which was recorded with a video camera and had a big influence in the development of music videos. It is not unrealistic to think that interactive video clips will become the new standard in the upcoming years, looking at the attention the video got and the joy that the audience experienced with playing the video. Wim Butler – singer of the band – described it as, feeling not like promotion, but more like a “weird art project” and “throwing a good party.” He said he likes the excitement of anticipating an album before it is released, and mentioned his experience seeing Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ video as a kid.
In conclusion, Arcade Fire definitely succeeded in getting the audience excited, this unique combination of using hypermediacy, immediacy and remediation in the promotion campaign of the album ensures that the audience is aware of the forth-coming album and makes the expectations of the album extremely high. If Arcade Fire will succeed to meet these high expectations will be known on the 28th of October this year.
(Bolter & Grusin, 1998)
Bolter, Jay David and Richard Grusin. Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998. Pages: 23, 24, 31, 34, 45