Interactivity, Transmedia, and the Things You Can Do With HTML5


The Secret Location‘s very own VP and Creative Director, Pietro Gagliano, dropped by our class to talk about interactive digital story telling and transmedia. Pietro showed us extensive and impressive case studies of past projects, including process work, wireframes, mood boards, competitive audits, and reels. I was blown away by the amount of interactive game-related work that his company produced for big clients like The Amazing Race Canada and Big Brother Canada. Next time I watch these shows, I’ll remember the hard work of Pietro and his team.


Pietro studied at Sheridan College and got a Bachelor of Design degree in Graphic Design. He then went to York University to get another BDes degree in Graphic design (he must really love design). His years of school definitely paid off and shows in his stellar work produced at The Secret Location. The company was founded in 2008 and has an intimate team of 35 in-house employees who work on big and complex projects. The talent in this company is something else!

The Secret Location integrates interactive video and gaming to their web experience projects.


The first case study Pietro showed to the class was his team’s work on the Endgame Interactive Facebook Episode for Showcase. It is an interactive online “choose your own adventure” story that integrates your Facebook friends within the fabric of the TV show’s narrative. Filmed in point-of-view, Endgame lets you interact with the show’s characters to make it feel like you’re in the game, trying to crack the mystery and rescue your friend.

Endgame looks interesting and complex. I don’t think I’d be able to crack the codes though…that’s bad news for the virtual friend I’m supposed to rescue (~womp womp).

The project definitely blew away my preconceptions of what “online gaming” entails. When I think of gaming, I usually imagine someone playing MMORPGs while wearing a speaker headset, chanting, “Let’s do this! Leeeerooooooooyyyy Jenkins!!!” (Know Your Meme (version: World of Warcraft). Ahem… excuse the WoW reference. The unique concept of online ‘gaming’ using HTML5 interactivity allowed Showcase to reach their Facebook fans while extending the TV narrative. Pietro and his team had exclusive access to creators, writers, cast and crew from the TV show.  In terms of results, 62 per cent of fans connected via Facebook, and 13.4 per cent stayed for over 20-30 minutes. Endgame won big awards including a digital Emmy, and was nominated for a Gemini Award. Congrats!


Shifting to something completely different, the most amusing project I’ve heard so far in these guest speaker presentations was The Guy At Home In His Underwear campaign to spread awareness about testicular cancer, as well as to promote Stanfield’s underwear business to a younger audience. Mark, a testicular cancer survivor, was filmed by Pietro and his team for 25 days in a house wearing only his underwear (is this a common thing for guys to do?). I can assure you, girls don’t do this. We mostly wear sweats at home (although, I can’t speak for every girl in the world).

Who knew watching a guy at home in his underwear could be so entertaining?…Wow, that came out creepier than I intended. The Secret Location pulled it off quite well.

The goal was to gather 25k likes on Facebook, and for every like, Stanfield’s would donate $1 to the Canadian Cancer Society. The campaign was a huge success, having hit its goal of 25k likes in only seven days. It had over 1.3 million page views and gained over 52k likes in 25 days (that’s $52,000)! So how entertaining can watching a guy in his underwear be? Well, to make things interesting, Mark did various things throughout the week like learn how to belly dance, get a tattoo, and go on an awkward blind date, which was interrupted by George Stroumboulopoulos (now there’s something unexpected). The live stream was picked up by various news outlets, which further helped to promote the campaign.


I was surprised to learn that The Amazing Race Canada came to The Secret Location for help with making their website more interactive. Pietro and his team came up with episodic “gamisodes” for audiences to play online after they’ve watched the TV show. Shot in Point-of-View using HTML 5 (wow), users collect flags in the digital environment and compare their scores with friends.

The Amazing Race Canada

In addition to the gamisodes, The Secret Location also worked on the web design for the show.

The game uses “second-screen technology” that is only effective if it favours or compliments the original story (or in this case, TV show); however, it’s very easy to do it wrong and take away from the show.


Pietro spoke extensively about his team’s work on Big Brother Canada and The Next Step, both of which also used the concept of a social ‘second screen’ game and media engagement platforms for mobile, tablet and desktop. Through the interactive Big Brother site, Canada voted for one of the contestants (Gary) to come back to the show. This form of large scale interactivity wouldn’t have been possible without the work of the TSL team.

Big Brother Canada

Did you know that the Big Brother gameshow borrowed its name from George Orwell’s famous science-fiction novel, 1984?

Similarly, The Next Step was a dance mashup creator and interactive after-show that catered to a younger crowed who watched the Family Channel. Fans got to know their favourite young dancers in person, and even got to learn a few dance moves.

The Next Step

The Secret Location team worked intensively with the TV producers and dancers to create the interactive after-show.

The after-show site received 600k visits in a month and got 1000 dance-along videos created with its unique mashup section. In addition, it had over 100,000 unique visitors in just ten weeks. All of the examples that Pietro showed are ways that transmedia can be used to tell one massive story through multiple devices.

• Plow through your work and get as much of it done as possible
• See where your idea breaks, then fix it
• Fail fast and often, but learn from your mistakes

Stay Social! Follow Pietro and his team on his company’s twitter @SecretLocation and like their Faceboook page.



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