Broadcast indies are forging strong links with digital agencies to fully exploit cross-platform opportunities. Adrian Pennington examines what six major players have to offer.

After years of reluctance to share ideas, resources and budgets with their digital counterparts, indies are beginning to form effective partnerships, jointly conceiving, pitching and delivering cross-platform projects.

Not before time, says Holler director James Kirkham. “There has been a growing need for broadcast indies to partner with digital agencies over the past 12 to 18 months,” he says. “Where indies are experts at casting and traditional storytelling, there's an increasing requirement to expand their knowledge in multiplatform.”

According to David Jacklin, executive producer of Little Loud, which produced Bafta-winning interactive drama Bow Street Runner to accompany C4's City of Vice series: “Traditional indies now understand that they need access to a range of new technology and creative techniques to make the most of the internet as a distribution platform.”

Viral campaigns

Andrew Chitty, co-founder of All3Media's digital subsidiary Illumina Digital, says an integrated cross-platform show requires a strong digital footprint, perhaps cultivated by a viral campaign months before the linear TX: “You have to brainstorm together right from the start.”

What makes digital agencies particularly valuable to indies is their expertise in, for example, alternate reality gaming (Six to Start) or mobile interactive services (MIG, Airmotion). Others, such as Holler or Airlock, have emerged from the advertising world with experience in digital marketing. Disciplines such as search engine optimisation, social media networking and information architecture didn't exist five years ago, but there are now individual specialists for hire in each case. Mint, for example, houses software programmers, interaction designers and concept developers. Little Loud is staffed by art directors proficient at character animation and game creation.

“While we understood what the web can do, we recognised that to deliver fully rounded cross-platform work we needed greater under-standing of TV,” says Andy Bell, co-founder of Mint Digital, which hired former Ricochet producer Jeremy Lee last year to embark on a “big push” of pitches direct to broadcasters. One result was Osama Loves, a high-profile online campaign with a documentary spin-off launched with C4's Islamic season.

In broad terms, the digital and TV production processes are not dissimilar. “We both want to create content that tries to tell a story or get a certain amount of knowledge across to an audience,” says Jacklin. There are divergent skill sets that make both parties appealing to one another, even if meshing them together can throw up some cultural clashes.

CogApp managing director Alex Morrison adds: “The respect digital producers accord to computer programmers is a big shock to some in the TV world. I can't replace them with another assistant producer overnight. When your intellectual property is reliant on bespoke software they are a treasured resource.”

Broadcasters are now actively pairing digital specialists with indies for large cross-platform projects. C4 brought together Raw TV and agency Airlock for teen issues project Battlefront. Six to Start and Mint
have been teamed up with Keo Productions by C4 for allotment campaign Landshare.

“As well as building online proper-ties, digital agencies also bring planners and strategists who know how to create and maintain audience and community online,” says Kirkham.