Where’s Rogan?, a new fashion web series released by NYmag.com this week comes complete with the latest in contextual advertising all built upon Microsoft’s new Silverlight programmable browser-within-a-browser. The highly stylized scripted series features friends and fashion personalities associated with designer Rogan Gregory (the artist behind organic lines Loomstate and Bono’s EDUN), who happens to disappear mysteriously during New York Fashion Week 2008.
The project came about when Microsoft was looking for another way to show off their spiffy new Silverlight platform to the world. Silverlight’s first coming out party was when NBC chose it as their exclusive video platform for the Olympics on NBC.com. (NBC later ditched Silverlight, citing a lack of user adoption and the mass use of Adobe’s Flash.)
But in the fashion world style trumps mainstream accessibility, and Silverlight may have found its high-end image ambassadors. We talked to producer Rob Veksler of Hat Trick Media who pitched Microsoft the idea of doing a fashion-based show. “I brought them NYmag as a channel for distribution,” says Rob Veksler. “Microsoft’s stated goal was to build an advertising case study around Silverlight. We brought NYmag to the table as a partner that had the ear of possible sponsors for the content and a highly coveted reach. Strategically, the partnership made perfect sense to us all.”
Appearances by fashion personalities like Rogan’s real-life friends and fashion industry insiders are littered throughout the 10-episode series. Of course the sponsors’ products also make healthy cameos — TRESemmé, Olay, Continental Airlines — used not only by the show’s characters but also in floating, clickable graphics on the side of the Silverlight player every time a new product appears. While the products are undoubtedly distracting at times, they are integrated in a kitchsy kind of Blade Runner holographic, glowing world of commercialism. According to Veksler this is all on purpose.
“It is ultimately an avant-garde project with blatant sponsorship, which to us served multiple purposes,” said Veksler. “We wanted to incorporate the sponsors as smartly as possible into the storyline but still have fun with it. On set I would be yelling at John Guttierez (the director) to use more TRESemme on the actors. A couple of them definitely finished their work day with immovable, weatherman hair.”
Directed by John Gutierrez (The Last Poets) and written by South African playwright Nadia Davids, the series releases two new episodes each week on the Where’s Rogan? site leading up to the finale on November 19th. A killer score from UK-born composer Jett Craze completes the vogue aesthetic.
While the show may be flashy, the three-minute episodes are a bit thin on storyline. While the search for Rogan is supposedly the main focus, more time is spent interviewing fashion personalities than is spent actually looking for the missing designer, with some interview shots repeated in multiple episodes. For uber fashionistas and industry insiders on the other hand, there are some fun inside jokes. “There is no way Diane Von Furstenberg would have let me do some of the stuff we did on this, but Rogan was game.” Others were game as well. Rogan’s nemesis was played by Terrence Bogan, the head buyer at Barney’s. “We wanted to interweave fiction with real life,” says Veksler, “And hopefully deliver some inside jokes.”
“When the series comes to an end in a few weeks we are going to put this together as one continuous film – it should run approx 20 minutes,” Veksler adds. “So really that’s what this is, a serialized short film with integrated product placement wrapped in an elegant player.”
Hat Trick has some other projects up their sleeves. Veksler said other large online publications have approached the company about product intergrated web series, not to mention, Hat Trick is taking meetings in Hollywood for the development of feature films. In the meantime, maybe someone will finally find Rogan.