In 38 days, the 2008 Summer Olympics will be underway in Beijing. When competitions between the world's best athletes kick off, the world's leading brands will simultaneously compete for the attention of consumers via marketing campaigns tailored to Olympic messaging.
One of the biggest official sponsors, McDonald's, has already launched an Olympic sponsorship program via a digital game. The biggest differences between this game and others: you don't need a console and everyone can join the game at any point.
How is this possible? Well, McDonald's created an alternate reality game (ARG). Basically, ARGs challenge players to move the game from their televisions, consoles, and computers to their real-life environment.
The game started in March when a select group of gamers received a mysterious package that included a ball of yarn, a poster, and postcards from the 1920 Olympics. Each item contained cryptic messages that hinted at the ARG's story and drove the recipient to the game's Web site.
In the game, the characters wake up with amnesia in various locations throughout the world with a tattoo on their arm that reads, in the global Esperanto language, "Find the lost ring." Players try to help uncover the mystery by partnering with other players around the globe. All characters speak in their native language, which requires global collaboration for the story. More than 2 million players registered at the site within the first few weeks, according to USA Today.
While this may be one of the largest ARGs to date, and will undoubtedly raise awareness of the genre, the following paved the way for the success of The Lost Ring:
The community of ARG enthusiasts has grown significantly as more companies look to interactive storytelling to engage their consumers. Sites such as AGRNet and unfiction.com allow these fans to come together and share information on their favorite ARGs or learn about the latest ARG. These two sites have even joined forces to host ARGFest-O-Con, a conference dedicated to ARGs and gamers who love them.
Based on these and many other examples in the past year, ARGs seem like a great way to engage consumers with your brand assets. However, advertisers should heed the following warnings when exploring these types of activations:
With all this in mind, I look forward to the next ARG that allows me to play the game in my world. Will your brand help build my adventure?
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Matt Story is director of Play, a division of Denuo. He oversees the West Coast operation, maintaining key publishing and gaming industry contacts for the agency. With expertise and perspective from both the client and the agency side, he brings to bear dual strengths: interactive and videogame advertising and how they can transcend and evolve a client brand.
Matt and his team develop unique gaming integration programs on behalf of General Motors, Procter & Gamble, Miller, and others. In March 2007, he played an integral role in the 2007 Pontiac Virtual NCAA Final 4 tournament, powered by videogame "College Hoops 2K7."
Before joining Play, Matt was interactive marketing manager across P&G's antiperspirants/deodorants category. During his four-year tenure, he managed the creation of the first P&G blog, which supported the launch of Secret Sparkle Body Spray. He also led innovative development with the Old Spice brand's in-game integrations in multiple key videogame titles. To hear more from Matt and the various creative minds at Denuo, visit Denuology for their unfiltered perspective on the world at large.
December 12, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT