An Offline M&Ms Comic Gets an Online Treatment

An integrated online and offline campaign for M&Ms Minis takes a print comic book, drawn by Marvel Comics artists, and creates an interactive online experience.

The campaign, developed by Masterfoods USA’s agency of record, BBDO New York, combines online, offline, and on-package promotions to encourage users to spend more time with the M&Ms brand. A print comic book, “The Swarm,” was commissioned by BBDO New York from Marvel Comics artists.

When it came time to duplicate the offline comic book experience online, BBDO New York turned to boutique interactive agency 15letters, which has drawn acclaim for more than a dozen online games it developed for an Orbitz promotion earlier this year.

“BBDO came to us with a brief asking for ‘something never seen before online,'” Mark Rattin, president and creative director at 15letters, told ClickZ News. “It was a massive project that we’ve been working on since the beginning of the summer, but we’ve come up with something clearly unique that allows visitors to interact with the brand and connect with the candy characters.”

The storyline, which begins with a takeover of the Minis Zone section of the M&Ms site, follows a swarm of M&Ms Minis wreaking havoc after they escape from their tube. Their antics lead to disaster at a top secret “experimental spokescandy generation lab” that turns a potential spokescandy and one of the Minis into a two-headed M&M monster, “Master M.”

Rattin said it was a challenge to create a realistic, interactive world out of the “flat” art created by Marvel for the print comic book. Another challenge was how to guide visitors’ progress through the storyline while respecting the way people would likely interact with the story.

“Since the Web is non-linear, and the stories are inherently linear, we had to develop something with structure that could lead people through a path without requiring them to view all the episodes in one sitting,” Rattin said.

The solution was to start with the required introduction, and then allow users to pick any of the other six stories chronicling Master M’s attempts to destroy each color of Minis that ruined his spokescandy career and turned him into a monster. Once visitors have watched the first episode, they can leave and come back later to view any episode after that.

In addition to the episodes, there’s also the “Swarm-o-matic” drawing tool, which lets users draw a picture and then “swarmafy” it by replacing the lines with like-colored M&Ms Minis. And there’s the Pict-o-master, a custom desktop creator that’s only made available when people use codes printed on M&Ms Minis packaging.

One of the keys to success, according to Rattin, is to respect the audience — in this case, 7 to 14-year-old boys and girls.

“When you’re marketing toward a younger audience, the way to connect with them is to be generous with what you’re doing,” he said. “You’ve got to give them something to justify the time they spend with you, and give them a reason to come back.”

M&Ms have been involved in several branded entertainment efforts before. The animated candies appear as Star Wars characters in TV spots, online, on packaging, and even as action figures, in a campaign around the theatrical release of Star Wars Episode III in May.

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