Convergence means coming together, merging or meeting. Advancement in technology has allowed bringing together different media to a single platform thus providing more functionality and services to the consumers (Convergence, 2004).
Interactivity is the “degree to which users can make choices within an environment” (Web3D Part5: Glossary, 2006). Interactivity has always existed to a degree in one form or another however with the Internet and advancement in media users have more choice and flexibility and they can also modify content to suit their own requirements.
This paper presents a critical analysis of a website and assesses how convergence has allowed using old media in new ways and affected user interactivity.
Traditionally movies have been advertised through billboards, pamphlets, posters, advertisements on radio, television and in newspapers and also short trailers at cinemas prior to the start of another movie. These advertising methods have been costly, as other than the production cost they also involve high broadcasting costs. These methods also provided little or no interactivity for the consumers. Popularity of the internet, and remarkably lesser production and broadcasting costs have resulted in internet advertising becoming necessary for economic survival in the competitive world of movie distribution. TNS Media Intelligence (Foote, 2007) forecasts increase in US advertisements, with Internet advertising continuing with double digit growth.
Kungfupanda.com is an example of a website which has converged, brought together, images, text, audio and video from the traditional mediums of movie advertisement to a single platform, the Internet, providing consumers with enhanced levels of functionality, services and interactivity.
On visiting the KungfuPanda website the user is presented with an introductory screen which states the release date of the movie in US and also has a link to the worldwide movie release dates. If the user is interested in viewing the webpage in another language, there is a choice of 8 different languages. The user can simply select the country’s flag and a new KungfuPanda window opens in that language. With traditional medium the movie distribution company would be required to produce advertising material separately for each of the 8 languages which would be costly. With the Internet it is relatively easy to translate a webpage in different languages.
If the user is only interested in viewing the trailer for the movie they can click on the link, however, for a user who is interested in finding more about the movie he/she can click on the ‘Enter the Site’ link. In this way KungfuPanda website has provided interactivity and given its customers flexibility and control of how they view the website and how long, or in much detail they view the website.
On clicking the ‘Enter the Site’ link the viewer is presented with an array of humorous and colourful animation. The site has very strong visual and auditory impact. The user can scroll back and forth along the linear window through the animated scenery and can choose a character or a building. Upon clicking on an object the user is sent to an additional page dedicated to the chosen character.
It gives an account of the various strengths and weaknesses and hopes and aspirations of the character. It also gives the viewer the option to download emoticons, wallpapers, screensavers etc. This functionality of each character breaking apart into a separate page gives the advertiser far more scope to sell the character and to brand it. To promote the movie and make it more appealing for the children the site also provides activity sheets and colouring pages.
The site is not fully complete as on number of links it states ‘coming soon’. The site also assumes that the users have high speed internet connection. A website with such strong visuals and animation would take very long to load with a slow dialup connection which could prove to be very frustrating for the users. The users should have been given a choice to select the kind of internet connection they have and the site then presented accordingly.
There are a number of negative social implications that can be associated with this website. The premise of the KungfuPanda website is purely economic gains; it is wrapped up in a colourful product aimed at children. By having a good understanding of the child psychology, the advertisers have used “pester power”, “brand recognition” strategies to target the children. This endeavour of using child psychology for a successful marketing campaign has been deemed unethical by some (How Marketers Target Kids, n.d.).
It should be noted that martial arts can be considered a violent sport. KungfuPanda site however depicts martial arts in a comedic light and encourages teachers, parents and martial arts instructors to bring children in groups. The site has an external link for group sales.
By giving users free downloads they may be tricked into thinking that these are sincere gifts from the movie distributors/advertisers, but in fact they are being used by the advertiser to broaden their campaign. Being an award winning site, KungfuPanda has succeeded in further spreading its advertising tentacles by being listed on the creative website awards (CWA) and favorite website awards page (FWA). The technical and visual prowess of the site helps more people to learn about the product it sells, in turn creating a reciprocal type of advertising to the site that hosts the awards.
Kungfupanda.com is a good example of how movie advertisement has converged from the traditional mediums and has had economic effects on distribution costs. All the previous methods of film advertising have converged into a slick portal with the added layer of interactivity and user choice. However, with convergence, increased flexibility and interactivity there are also many social implications that must be given careful consideration.
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Web3D, Part 5: Glossary, (2006), [Internet], Reality Prime, Available from: < http://www.realityprime.com/articles/web-3d-part-5/> [Accessed 15th March 2008].