multiple screens

We love to be entertained when we go online, so it’s no surprise that marketing campaigns combining games with brand promotions are smash hits. One branch of this new trend is a focus on alternate reality games, or ARGs. These interactive, dynamic experiences involve the use of multiple platforms to unite players with characters controlled by the game’s creators.

When coupled with social media networks, ARGs offer brands new levels of engagement and community building. A campaign that makes smart decisions in content and platforms can create experiences that will promote a brand name, generate interest, and attract new customers or clients. Here are three examples of brands that got fans excited with successful ARGs through their combinations of interaction, play, and entertainment.

1. Why So Serious

Why So Serious

The Why So Serious campaign in support of the Batman movie The Dark Knight remains one of the best examples of an ARG to drive engagement. In terms of scope and success, it helped to generate significant buzz in advance of the blockbuster movie, and involved more than 11 million people across 75 countries.

The project was created by 42 Entertainment for the Warner Brothers movie. For fifteen months ahead of the movie’s release, the players acted as residents of the fictional Gotham City. The participants acted out the key events of the movie with the help of elaborately planned clues and directions. Through the campaign, the players received merchandise related to the movie. Other rewards included exclusive looks at the movie trailer at the beginning of the project, and free tickets to screenings at the end of the campaign.

Why So Serious forged a community with its fans both in-person and online. By going big from the start, the campaign reached a huge audience that not only promoted a blockbuster movie, but created a unique experience for all the participants as well.

2. No Hope Left

No Hope Left

The video game series Resident Evil marked the launch of its sixth installment with a long-term transmedia project and ARG called No Hope Left. The campaign had several components that leveraged social media and other digital tools to generate excitement for the game; across all platforms, its imagery consistently portrayed what it might look like at the start of an apocalyptic zombie attack.

The interesting take of this campaign was that it focused on people and relationships. One component of No Hope Left was a “C-Virus World Map” that participants could share with each other and use to warn friends on Twitter about the spread of the zombies. Another step used Facebook. Resident Evil Shared Nightmare accessed profile information to create a personalized video of your character searching for a friend in the wasteland. The video shows “missing posters” with real friends’ faces and names. At the end of the clip, you can send a farewell message to a dying friend that gets shared on that person’s Wall.

The final phase of the project was a game called Project Eleos, where participants could apply to be one of 10 people selected for a chance to survive the zombie attack through a genetic cure. Candidates could submit their reasons why they deserved to be one of the survivors, then all members of the game voted on the people they wanted to win.

No Hope Left is noteworthy for its scope, covering Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Much like Why So Serious, it brought a fictional world into reality and got people excited about the game’s plot.

3. Other


Alternate reality games shouldn’t be limited to screen-based entertainment. A stage adaptation by the National Theater of Scotland of the novel Let the Right One In got a boost from a unique partnership with game developer Quartic Llama. The two parties created an iPhone app called “Other” that used very specific sounds and locations in the city of Dundee. The project was intended to not only tie in with the theatrical production, but also to specifically engage community groups and students to make creative works based on the city.

The app’s release coincided with a week of live street theater between May 31 and June 2 that related to the gothic and horror tone of the Let the Right One In. The project also had #NTSother as its associated hashtag, and the creators used it to gauge audience response and spread awareness of the game.

The first takeaway of the Other game is that with a little inventive thinking, any industry can leverage an ARG. The second is that these campaigns don’t need to be solely about generating more sales. Other also helped build community and encourage creativity among local students by making the app highly specific to one locale. A hyperlocal approach can be a smart way to generate real interest among your desired audience rather than a casual interest from people who are unlikely to become customers. Targeting carefully can improve your audience response and your return on investment.

Have you seen any other brands launching great ARGs? Let us know in the comments!

[Image credits: David Joyce, ThisParticularGreg, Pop Culture Geek]