Retainers & Call-to-Action Design for Transmedia Stories

Every call-to-action needs to have a retainer. A retainer serves two functions:

  • It provides the user with a “reward” for using the connector
  • It moves the user into the next unit of the narrative

The call-to-action’s motivator and connector made “promises” to the user. The retainer is where those promises – the reward – are kept. If the motivator/connector promised the answer to a puzzle if the user took a specific action, the retainer needs to provide that answer. If access to a game embedding in the narrative was promised, the retainer takes the user to the beginning of the game.

The retainer also serves as the user’s entry point to the next element of the story and should provide a seamless transition. A good model for this transitional structure is a well-written novel in which each chapter has a suspenseful ending (the motivator) (e.g. the hero is hanging from a cliff) and the next chapter begins with a twist that provides a resolution to the problem (the retainer) (e.g. the hero escapes the jaws of death). Only after the retainer has been delivered does the story continue on until the next call-to-action is encountered and the process begins again.

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