It looks like you are using Internet Explorer, which unfortunately is not supported. Please use a modern browser like Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Edge.

How SKAM became huge by asking what people need

Written by

Björn Heselius
Principal Designer


June 26, 2017 · 3 min read time

The Norwegian hit show SKAM recently wrapped up after four seasons. This is a brief glimpse into how the production was developed through a user centred approach and how that made an entire world relate to and discuss the series.

At the 2017 YLE Media Digital Summit SKAM producer Marianne Furevold-Boland from the Norwegian broadcasting company NRK and Alex Ayling from BBC's Worldwide Digital Studios spoke about how to get to know your audience and how to use customer insights.

The task given seemed both easy and at the same time as a suicide mission: "Make something that will bring teenagers back to NRK." Easy, peasy.

The Norwegian broadcaster took a very focused approach on how to rise the engagement among members of the dreaded customer groups —the Millennials. Furevold-Boland got green lights to do a four-month pre-production insight gathering process, in which she turned to the NABC Method that originates from Stanford.

Need, Approach, Benefit and Competition

NABC stands for Need, Approach, Benefit and Competition. In a nutshell, the method helps in systematically making value propositions for ideas. Furevold-Boland and her small, but multi-functional team of 8 people conducted surveys, analysed Instagram and Snapchat stories, visited schools and youth clubs to interview and meet with the real customers.

– One girl told me there is no strong Muslim girl for her to look up to in today's media. For us that was the birth of the character Sana on NRK's hit show SKAM. Her persona is not only a Muslim girl in a Nordic society, rather her situation is relatable for many other reasons too. She struggles with forbidden love, parents, religion and science.

– In the end, it is just a series about friendship, love, who are you and who am I, Furevold-Boland concludes.

Jump to the beef

Alex Ayling of the British Broadcasting Company's Worldwide Digital Studios agrees on the value of knowing your target audience. He also speaks passionately about the need to know how one audience may behave differently in different contexts.

We need to always keep in mind that the users are interacting in different ways depending on the touchpoint, this creates a need for us to publish our stories and content in different ways for different channels, he says.

Traditionally the production process has consisted of Setup — Main Message — Reflection. Since the audience is online, they have specifically chosen their medium and the setup stage (getting to know the back story through traditional storytelling) has been replaced by metadata. In other words, the user knows what they have ordered, so you may skip to the Main Message right away.

As an example, Ayling mentions how new audiences find content. They Google it. How do they phrase their search? In less than 30 characters. Take SKAM as an example: it's a series about friendship and love (28 characters). It is all we need to know to begin with, there is no need for an abstract other than a few good tag words.

The future is Metadata — Main Message — Call-to-Action

Also – Ayling continues – when the user has received the Main Message, we need to continue the interaction. This is the place for us to be active and listen to the loyal audience.

Back in the day people used to talk about their interests. Today people are creating around their interests. Just look at all the vloggers reacting to any product or episode of a series.

Building a strong community with your users will guarantee for good reviews and word-of-mouth-marketing.

Four life lessons for success

So, what did we learn from this? Furevold-Boland and Ayling sums it up in four life lessons:

1. Go fully digital
Real time web is the primary platform; traditional media/linear TV is secondary.

2. Know your audience
Why try to make something up, when the real users are happy to tell you their needs?

3. Good and authentic storytelling is relatable
If targeted users' needs are fulfilled, they will spread your message. We have not spent any money on marketing.

4. How would you Google it?
Reduce your concept pitch to the length of a Google search phrase and you will gain both on search engine optimization, and most of all you will keep the focus narrow and relatable.


Yle Media Digital Summit on Areena:


BBC Worldwide Digital Studios:

The NABC method:

Written by

Björn Heselius
Principal Designer