Bespoke alternate reality

Posted: July 25, 2011 in Uncategorized

Alternate reality games/experiences are normally marketing campaigns built around some traditional media, such as a film or TV series. However, these are continuing to evolve and this latest one – theinsideexperience.com – is notable because it’s not augmented to an existing film release, but rather is a purpose-made film for the alternate reality experience.

The experience began today with a short clip laying out the puzzle of a girl (Christina Perasso) who wakes up in a room, with no memory of how she got there. Sounds like a familiar plot so far, but there’s a laptop sitting on the table in the room which has a wireless connection, and her first thought, of course, is to send an email, and start Facebook posting. Enter the viewer.

A series of cryptic clues are exposed to the viewer (or should e call them a participant) and they are invited to comment and post on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, which the captors have conveniently supplied access to, although all other communication methods appear to be blocked.

This form of media opens up some new ways of interacting with the media. One possible outcome is that the story line can evolve in a user-generated, or influenced, way. What users can come up with could potentially be woven into the fabric of the story, if the writers and Director are fast enough to pick up on it. Think Old Spice’s ‘The Man Your Man Could Smell Like’ performed in social-media video serial format.

First reaction to this is that a user-community is forming and there are immediately dozens and dozens of posts on the social pages, within minutes. It’s impossible to follow this much social noise, and now that this noise exists, the personal experience has disappeared. Sure, as a user I can participate, but can I actually make any difference? I could start a better organized BBS system to collate information, but then I don’t really have the time, or care enough about this girl to bother with that just yet…

The business model behind this experience is branding, and brand marketing. The principal sponsor is Toshiba who have pride of product placement with the laptop in the story, with Intel being the second sponsor, “powering” the computer in the story. It’s not yet obvious if the “power” of their processor is actually going to factor in the story line, since all the poor girl can do is social-networking, which she could really be doing on a 10-year-old PC. She has used the webcam to take a couple of images, but this technology isn’t exactly ground breaking either… Why do I want to buy Tobhiba/Intel products? Not clear yet. Perhaps because I appreciate their “forward thinking” support of interesting new media offerings…

The question that lingers, for me, is why am I going to keep following this story? I assume I’ll get bombarded with updates now that I ‘like’ it on Facebook, but why am I going to care about the story? What’s my personal stickiness? Judgment suspended for the moment.

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