Choosing Your Own Adventure

Earlier this year, Australian long-running show Neighbours welcomed back Detective Mark Brennan who, as far as the audience was concerned, had been killed off. It turned out that his death had been faked and he had entered witness protection to escape the malicious intent of a criminal network. But the real genius is how he was re-introduced to the show.

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Much loved characters come and go from Neighbours. Often, if they are a high profile actor, their return can be used in a series of promos to re-engage with old audiences who will jump at the opportunity to reminisce about the Neighbours which they grew up with, while others return without much of a fuss. However, this is not always the case.

When Detective Mark Brennan returned to the show this year after audiences had seen evidence of his death in 2011, a new strategy was employed. A strategy which not only brought back the old audiences from his first stint but also involved new audiences looking to learn a bit more about his backstory. And, best of all, added extra value to the brand for all the fans who got involved.

Remember those Choose Your Own Adventure books? Books where the end of a chapter would signal the reader to make a choice between two options which would lead them to a different section of the book. Some routes would lead to a happy ending, but most would end in certain death whether the protagonist drove off a hill, was poisoned or stabbed by the shady character behind the whole mystery.

The digital era has allowed a great development in the Choose Your Own Adventure concept. Through YouTube, each of these chapters can now be turned into a video providing the viewer with the option of creating their own episode by making a decision at each of the crucial plot points.

And that is exactly what they did!

In a short series called Brennan on the Run, fans are introduced to the real story behind Mark Brennan’s death before taking his destiny in their hands and making a series of crucial decisions. Should he intervene in a drug deal? Should he go on a date with this new girl? Should he stay inside the house when he has just seen his hit man at the window? Each with a yes or no decision which either causes Mark Brennan to live or be killed by the hit man.

(I won’t give you any spoilers because the link will be at the end of this post for you to give it a go!)

So what does this do for the audience?

Participating in this alternate Neighbours material provides the opportunity for viewers to engage with the Mark Brennan character, learn a bit more about him and gain some extra knowledge which will enhance their viewings of later episodes. Crucially, this extra knowledge doesn’t compromise the ability of an audience member who hasn’t played Brennan on the Run to enjoy these episodes, it just provides extra value for the participants. This is a key component of successfully pulling off an extra story such as this one. It must provide extra value for those who choose to participate, but not ruin the experience for those who haven’t joined in. And Neighbours has done it expertly.

More and more viewers may be dividing their attention between their smart phones and television screens at the same time, but it is through strategies like this one that attention will be pulled back to the show. Even if they are still focussing on two screens, the multiple platforms will be providing extra show-centred value to the audience.

If you haven’t played Brennan on the Run, give it a go below!

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