Sometimes in the wonderful world of marketing and PR you can let your mind run away with you…

It happens to me mostly when I’m watching TV adverts and I find myself thinking ‘that would be great if they built a website for X’ or ‘what an excellent Facebook campaign that ad would make’. So I love it when a TV show builds a microsite for a particular storyline or character – great big engaging content that not only attracts views and attention, but also gets you even more hooked to the show.

Romance novel publishers Mills & Boon have used this principle, and some interactive web design, to ensure that their visitors not only have a hard time leaving the site, but that they also feel compelled to visit again and again.

Enter The Chatsfield, an interactive luxury hotel which launched in May this year, and you’ll see how amazing truly engaging content can be.

The Chatsfield

Mixing ‘reality with fantasy’, The Chatsfield houses more than 800 pieces of content which the visitor has to explore in order to find. On the home screen you are given the option of having a drink with Daniel the bartender, visiting a bedroom that Ally the chambermaid is cleaning, partying in the presidential suite with playboy Adam, or exploring the reception with Jessie the executive assistant.

Each room you visit is full of content – for example clicking on an iPhone in the suite takes you to the twitter page of Adam, clicking on the computer in reception takes you to the inbox of Jessie, and a towel in a hotel room sends to you the blog of a high class hotel escort. You can email the barman to give him cocktail tips – or even phone him for a chat…. If you email Jessie she’ll send you a mission which you’ll receive a reward for completing. The idea behind all of this content is to find out more about the characters – will Jessie be tempted by the ‘‘mysterious bar manager with a secret to hide’, and is it really Ally the chambermaid who is sidelining as the escort?

Jessie InboxJessie’s Inbox

The characters on social media interact with users, and the ones with the most interaction will be given more development and juicier storylines in the future. I’ve never read a Mills & Boon novel (yet being a ‘young working women, aged between 20 and 29’ I’m exactly their target market) but I’ve been intrigued by this site, and I haven’t even scratched the surface of the Facebook pages, YouTube channels and short stories that are hidden the in rest of the hotel.

It’s kind of like a soap opera played out over a website. The only difference is that this soap opera (once up and running in full) should turn over quite a profit. Mills & Boon have cleverly thought ahead about money making possibilities, not just encouraging people to buy trashy romance novels but also using their site as an affiliate for other brands that twenty-something working women will like. Their shop area is yet to launch but it will feature Glossybox, FigLeaves, Fever and Shaken Cocktails.

They might have fallen out of the spotlight when ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ came along, but Mills & Boon are showing that they’ve identified their target market, thought about how to engage with them, given them a fun experience, and know how to get them to part with their cash. We always talk about providing visitors with engaging content and the old classic ‘content is king’, so I have to take my hat off to Mills & Boon for absolutely smashing both of these.