Narrative at Nip/Tuck: lessons for marketers?

Nip_tuckNip/Tuck, the TV show, has opened a page for one of its characters.  And not just any character.  The page belongs to The Carver, the show’s serial rapist. 

The page represent an original stream of content, one which allows Nip/Tuck writers to "explore elements of the character that we could not explore on the show."

This experiment in transmedia has been explosively successful.

"The Carver page is everything you think about when you hear the word ‘viral.’  On the first night we had it up, there were close to 10,000 people that were trying to make friends with him."  (FX senior VP, marketing and promotions, Stephanie Gibbons in Crupi, below)

According to MediaWeek, The Carver’s "friends list" now stands at 60,496 MySpace members, all of them registered users who have link The Carver’s page on their own pages.

Speculation on the identity of The Carver is intense.  Fans are now 

building up hypotheses like seasoned litigators, deconstructing pertinent bits of dialogue, examining clips from the show and, in one case, using voice recognition software in an attempt to identify the man–or woman–behind the mask.  (Crupi in MediaWeek, below)

This is "weak form" transmedia, perhaps.  Nip/Tuck has opened up a second stream of narrative, only.  It would be "strong form" Transmedia if it were turning this second stream over to developers outside the show.  It would be "really strong form" transmedia, if we could not understand the the TV show without knowledge of the MySpace narrative

But even as "weak form" transmedia, there is a powerful viral effect.  It looks as though some fan  speculation is being driven by the fact the fact that they are "making contact" with the show by means of this relatively obscure, insider, channel.  It may be true that this kind of transmedia transmission has a community or "cosa nostra" effect.  I think fans might be less speculative, less engaged if all they had to go on was the "big pipe" information supply made available by the TV show.   (Small pipes make good neighbors?) 

Plus, there might be something more than transmedia going on here.  After all, this second channel is not an ordinary narrative one (a comic book or novel, say).  The MySpace play pretends that the fictional character is an actual one, as if The Carver has escaped the narrative and found his way into the real world.  This makes for several differences, one of which is that the fan can entertain the notion that he/she is observing a less scripted, less predictable, and more dangerous creature.  Suddenly the narrative signal is less predictable,  less scrutable, and less controllable.  This, in turn, may increase the character’s ,and the show’s, powers of engagement. 

It’s weird.  I just learned about Henry Jenkins’ notion of transmedia last week, and already it is proving indispensable.  It looks like one of the futures of Hollywood.  It is also, especially here in its viral mode, perhaps also a future of branding.  How can we make brands less scripted, less scrutable, less predictable, and, in this way, more exciting?  Isn’t this single most compelling on the desk of every Chief Marketing Officer?  What if the answer is transmedia?

A last point: There is something odd and interesting about social networks that include fictional characters.  There is something odder still about networks that form (swarm?) around fictional characters.  The MySpace network seems to have responded to the Nip/Tuck fictional character with special intensity, and that’s interesting.  Is there an anthropology of networks to help us understand why this should be so?

The marketing question here is how brands can create fictional characters that enter and help intensify networks, ignite buzz and build the brand?  Sophie promised to have this effect (see link below).  In the Nip/Tuck case the fictional character is welcome and interesting because it is driven by the TV narrative, so in this case the efficiacy of the fictional link in the network depends upon the transmedia at work.   This is another reason why brands might want to engage in transmedia work.


Crupi, Anthony.  2005.  Nip/Tuck Goes Viral With New Content on MySpace Page.  December 12, 2005.  here.

Jenkins, Henry. forthcoming.  Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Intersect.  New York: New York University Press.

McCracken, Grant. 2005.  Transmedia: Branding’s next new thing?  This Blog Sits At …  here.

McCracken, Grant. 2oo5.  Sophie: marketing goddess.  This Blog Sits At … here.

For more on Nip/Tuck, here.

For The Carver’s homepage on, here.

2 thoughts on “Narrative at Nip/Tuck: lessons for marketers?

  1. Sean Woodward

    Drat, here I am, after many hours of thought coming up with the phrase “Transmedia”, thinking it was such a good, original name for artists whose works crosses traditional and digital genres. Here’s hoping you didn’t (TM) the phrase! 😉


    Transmedia Alchemist

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