Media Case Studies

Media Case Study Blogs

  • Harry Potter Notes
  • LOTR Collector Notes
  • Max Headroom Notes

Visual Guide to Media and Marketing

Media Case Study Blogs

Since ministry that is intercultural and missional typically requires a very long “story arc,” epics model the kinds of processes that long-term ministry does. We find epic storylines in very different media, including print, pictures, movies, toys, videogames, and multimedia. I use media studies extensively in the Opal Design Systems, and have several blogs that I might link to in any given curriculum module or section.

Harry Potter Notes ~ Mediating the Stories of the Muggle and Wizarding Worlds. I like multi-episode stories that turn into epics, and the Harry Potter series is one of the best from the past 50 years. These sorts of extended storylines give us a chance to read and see how characters develop over time, and how their strengths and challenges affect the action and interactions as the plotline unfolds. The longer things go on – as long as the people and plot deserve to hold our attention – the more likely we are to find slices of our own lives within their interwoven stories.

I also like to see how creators slant their creation to make it accessible to a variety of people. My Harry Potter Notes blog actually began as a case study in how the developers of the Harry Potter book products and films created both a full range of marketing approaches and concrete media items which happen to appeal to different learning styles. It may not have been the overt intent of those involved to adapt their approaches to different ways people learn best, but I am intrigued that it worked out that way anyway. I was curious to find out what was produced and how. Also – since I am a student of social change and the future – these excursions into Harry Potter’s world led me to be interested in assessing some of the cultural impact that personal and social values demonstrated throughout the Harry Potter series has already had on our societies, and how that may play out in the future.

LOTR Collector Notes ~ Mediating the Stories of Middle-earth. I started my Lord of the Rings (LOTR) blog in 2010, though I’d been collecting marketing materials and memorabilia from Peter Jackson’s LOTR film trilogy since 2001. What intrigued me most about the films was the dedication shown to creating believable Middle-earthian cultures, by using real-world artisans and creative processes instead of just digital wizardry. As a student of cultural analysis and interpretation, I found this fascinating. All the behind-the-scenes and making-of materials gave glimpses into what made the trilogy work on so many levels … which is true of the original book versions by J.R.R. Tolkien as well.

Also, as a student of concrete media (i.e., toys, games, artwork) and multimedia, I found it amazing to see the variety of licensed tie-in products available – something for everyone to enjoy, regardless of their particular learning styles and interests. Action figures, tradeable miniatures, and board games for those who appreciate the cultures of movement. Soundtracks, music inspired by LOTR, audiobooks, and live symphony performances with the film for those who appreciate the cultures of sound. Concept art, DVDs, photography, and multimedia for those who appreciate the cultures of sight. Holistic experiences of many kinds definitely are possible through immersion in Lord of the Rings media, engaging the mind, imagination, emotions, soul/reflection, and will. With all that in mind, this blog explores the cultures and stories of Middle-earth presented in the many products based on Tolkien’s masterworks.

Max Headroom Notes ~ futuristguy is a Max Headroominator. Max Headroom is my muse and illustration for talking about how fads, short-term cultural trends, and long-term “drivers” of social change shape the course of the future. For instance, Max is credited as the first digital star created for television, way back in the mid-1980s. And although he wasn’t exactly computer generated, the production of his character was certainly innovative and a barometer indicating changes in the virtual world. That’s an example of a short-term trend. On long-term trends, we find that Edison Carter, the Channel 23 news reporter who is Max’s real-world counterpart, is now seen as the forerunner of 24/7 news coverage – and that approach has forever changed the ways that news is reported/created. Edison Carter was an early example of “postmodern sensibilities” where objective boundary lines between the observed and the observer became blurred. Specifically, his presence as a reporter who was looking for “news” actually created the news just as much as he reported on the news.

I’ve collected Max Headroom memorabilia since the late 1990s, and am turning it into a virtual museum of promos and products from Max’s Talking Head Show on Cinemax, the Lorimar TV Series, Max as SpokesHead for Coca-Cola , etc.  There’ll be just about everything there from the eau d’Max air fresheners for your MaxMobile, to press kit photos from his many mega-star appearances, to oddities and rarities. Most of these things are mere fads … they don’t significantly impact anyone or anything, at least not for very long. But, as a futurist, I’m kind of like an “archaeologist of the present.” So you can’t always discern something’s important (or lack thereof) at the time it is happening. Check out Max Headroom to see what you think held importance for our futures, or didn’t …

Visual Guide to Media and Marketing

For a “Visual Guide to Media and Marketing,” see my Harry Potter Notes site, especially the Marketing Case Study page.

The Marketing Case Study page there overviews key kinds of media forms (visual, verbal, video, and virtual) and marketing materials (such as press kits and promotional items) that can be used for analyzing various kinds of media. Case studies into media releases and the marketing items used give us useful information on the values and views and goals of the people who produced the media. So, they represent primary sources for us doing “environmental scans” as students of cultural trends and of plausible futures.

Such scans involve observing what kinds of events are taking place in various sectors of our culture, so we can build a dataset from which to discern what directions our culture seems to be going, and what underlying trends are influencing it in those directions. Those patterns give us indicators of what kinds of possibilities may unfold in the future, and as social change-agents, we want to encourage people to move toward the most preferable possibilities, not toward what is merely plausible, given the times and the trends.

Media and their promotional materials also give us insights into how secular community marketing customizes its communication/messages for various kinds of audiences that it seeks to reach. And while our ministries and messages should NOT be based on a consumeristic marketing model, they should be adjusted and customized (i.e., contextualized) for the cultures which act as our hosts. Analyzing media for their underlying values is an important process to learn. In contextualizing our ministries and social change enterprises, we should not syncretize with cultural values that go against the Bible, and should not attempt to control cultures with our values; we are sojourners here to serve people, and to demonstrate with Kingdom culture looks like when everyday disciples live out biblical values, beliefs, and practices.

We can also learn from media products how to customize a message for people with different learning styles. For instance, all sorts of toys and games were spin-offs from the Harry Potter book and film series – everything from books of word puzzles for those who enjoy language and analysis, action figures for the kinesthetic (movement-oriented) lad or lass, to audiobooks and songs and soundtracks for those who learn best through what they hear.

The Opal Design Systems curriculum uses media case studies throughout. The Harry Potter media site serves as a sort of model for an extensive case study. The Marketing Case Study page there serves as a reference and “visual dictionary” with descriptions and pictures for examples of various items that could be found for other media, such as:

  1. Marketing and Franchise Development
  2. Books and Audiobooks
  3. Distributor’s Preview and Pre-Publicity
  4. Theatrical Release Press Kits, Premieres, and Promos
  5. International Theatrical Releases and Products
  6. Promotional Partnerships
  7. Wearable Ads
  8. DVD Release Press Kits and Promos
  9. Soundtrack Release
  10. Toys, Games
  11. Videogame Release, Promos, Strategy Guides
  12. Awards Season
  13. Exhibitions, “Making of” Resources, Documentaries

Other topics in understanding include an introduction to media materials, typical timeline for media promotions, and “corporate design” (the consistent “look” of a franchise or producer that brands their items).

Note: I chose Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets because it was relatively early on in the film franchise. So, the film producers and the related product marketing directors were still finding their footing, and some experimentation was still going on. Also, the release date in 2002 was far enough back that additional kinds of products with historical importance were available then that are more rarely seen now. For instance, VHS tapes, VCDs/Video Compact Discs, and soundtrack “promo flats” that are the size of what vinyl LP albums were.