Feuten: Retrospect and Case Study - Record Breaking Dutch Transmedia Campaign

written by: Richard Kastelein

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freshersSpektor and Elastique proudly present the Freshers Transmedia Project, the Netherlands' largest, most immersive transmedia campaign ever executed. The project is nominated for a Dutch TV-Beeld for best Second Screen Concept. 

In August 2013, the launch of the newest season of Freshers was accompanied by an intricate transmedia project about the series' fraternity.

The fictional fraternity H.S.C. Mercurius became a participatory entity with the release of a mobile app, social media pages, an Alternate Reality Game and multiple live events.

Fully one-third of television viewers downloaded the app, totalling in 86.000 downloads.

Over 48.000 users made it through the hazing process and are now a member of the largest virtual and real fraternity in the Netherlands: H.S.C. Mercurius.

To put this into context, the population of the Netherlands is 17 million. FreshersTV viewership reached 260,000 and the feature film sold 110,000 tickets at the box office.

Freshers 1Active members

App users logged a total of over 1.3 million videos views for both the next week's episodes and additional video content. Users took advantage of their ability to chat inside the app's virtual bar. Over 300.000 in app messages were sent and received. Some 15.000 subsections, which are clubs within the fraternity, were created, of which Ithaka was the biggest with 3905 members. In total the users spent an average of five hours in app. The 100 most active members were invited to join the premiere of the feature film Freshers the Party.

True friends

H.S.C. Mercurius may be virtual, but the friendships are real. Despite the fact that the app closed last October, members of H.S.C. Mercurius are still in touch with each other through social media channels and in real life. People truly bonded as they experienced the benefits of being a real fraternity member.


The application, social media stories and offline immersive experiences were written and brought to life by Spektor Storytelling, Elastique, BNN and Pupkin Film, with the support of the Dutch Cultural Media Fund and Netherlands Public Broadcasting.

The transmedia project Freshers is centered on a fraternity called H.S.C. Mercurius.

The project is comprised of the television series Freshers, the feature film Freshers the Party, the Freshers app, a social media strategy, an alternate reality game, and live events.


The app, for both iOS and Android, launched a few days before the third season of Freshers aired. Users who downloaded the app watched next week's episodes and exclusive videos including the characters’ recap of the first seasons, video-interviews with the frat members, V-blogs of two main characters, a cooking show and tips for hangover cures.

The user had to become a member of the fraternity to take full advantage of all the app's functions. Becoming a member wasn't a matter of simply signing up as you would with most apps. The process mirrored joining a real fraternity by bringing the hazing experience seen in the show to life. Initiates went through a digital hazing process consisting of four tasks, including opening bottles of beer and answering questions about the fraternity's rules of conduct.


Within 24 hours new members heard whether they are in or out. Once they were accepted all the features of the app were unlocked, allowing them a whole suite of engagement abilities. Frat members could talk to each other in the virtual bar, read the blogs of the characters, create their own clubs, invite friends, and watch additional, exclusive content. The users need to explore the app to earn achievements and gain more clout and status. As the player climbs the social ladder the perks become larger and more tangible.


Two characters with supporting roles in the series, played leading roles in the app. Freshmen Jeroen Beeksma and Renée de Wit have their own storyline people follow in the app and through their own social media channels


The project makes use of multiple social media channels, allowing users to engage with characters on the show, blurring the lines between fiction and reality, each mode of interaction mutually benefiting the other. The deeper users engaged with our transmedia campaign, the more the fraternity materialized into a real-world entity


Most of the social media engagement took place on Twitter and Facebook, but we also used YouTube and Instagram. Leveraging multiple channels means an entire ecosystem rapidly formed around users posting original content and spreading it out across their favorite platforms. Spektor kept the suspense high by introducing novel dramatic elements from the H.S.C. Mercurius universe into the mix.


Spektor developed an additional storyline leading to an Alternate Reality Game for the most active users who engaged with our content across multiple platforms. Users keen enough to find the clues, jumped into our "rabbit hole," finding Filius Septimus, a secret society that rules H.S.C. Mercurius. The truth about this society was revealed during a live finale.


H.S.C. Mercurius was brought to life on several platforms. It may be a fictional fraternity, but everything about its members is genuine and sincere. What started as a familiar, passive consumer relationship with people watching videos and a movie, sprouted into people's real lives.


Giving users a chance to experience what the characters went through in the story line and allowing them to engage with the actors and become part of the story arch directly, lead to a large, vibrant community where real friendships were established. These are no longer simply fans of a show or people looking for short-form entertainment. Participants are now, quite literally, H.S.C. Mercurius members for life.


About the Author

Richard Kastelein
Founder of The Hackfest, publisher of TV App Market and global expert on Media & TV innovation, Kastelein is an award winning publisher and futurist. He has guest lectured at MIT Media Lab, University of Cologne, sat on media convergence panel at 2nd EU Digital Assembly in Brussels, and worked with broadcasters such as the BBC, NPO, RTL (DE and NL), Eurosport, NBCU, C4, ITV, Seven Network and others on media convergence strategy - Social TV, OTT, DLNA and 2nd Screen etc.

He is a Fellow of the UK Royal Society of Arts (RSA) and UK Royal Television Society (RTS) member.

Kastelein has spoken (& speaking) on the future of media & TV in Amsterdam, Belfast, Berlin, Brussels, Brighton, Copenhagen, Cannes, Cologne, Curacao, Frankfurt, Hollywood, Hilversum, Geneva, Groningen (TEDx), Kuala Lumpur, London, Las Vegas, Leipzig, Madrid, Melbourne, NYC, Rio, Sheffield, San Francisco, San Jose, Sydney, Tallinn, Vienna, Zurich...

He's been on advisory boards of TEDx Istanbul, SMWF UK, Apps World, and judged & AIB awards, Social TV Awards Hollywood, TV Connect & IPTV Awards.

A versatilist & autodidact, his leadership ability, divergent and synthetic thinking skills evolved from sailing the world 24000 miles+ offshore in his 20′s on sailboats under 12m.

He spent 10 years in the Caribbean media & boating industry as a professional sailor before returning to Europe, to Holland.

A Creative Technologist and Canadian (Dutch/Irish/English/Metis) his career began in the Canadian Native Press and is now a columnist for The Association for International Broadcasting and writes for Wired, The Guardian & Virgin. His writings have been translated into Polish, German and French. 

One of Kastelein's TV formats was optioned by Sony Pictures Television in 2012. 

Currently involved in a number of startups including publishing TV App Market online, The Hackfest and Tripsearch TV. As CSO for Worldticketshop he helped build a $100m company.

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