Katy, over at Kitschbitch, writes about Nokia’s new “transmedia” advertising campaign, and comments on it’s ARG-iness – or rather, its un-ARG-iness – and feels disappointed, saying:
…given that Nokia were the trailblazers of using immersive play to engage with consumers, doesn’t it feel like they’ve missed a bit of a trick here?
I was going to comment, but my comment grew and grew, and it felt like a post in its own right.
I’m not sure I’d agree with some of Katy’s criticisms. What’s emerged as a “traditional ARG” has basically consistently turned out to be very engaging for a tiny number of users, very costly to run, and usually exhausting for all concerned. They’re difficult to sustain and few companies ever go for a second ARG.
So a “campaign you can interact with” is a much more realistic interpretation of an ARG, you could argue: it requires far less involvement to get people in, meaning that your advertising dollar reachers more end users; it doesn’t require too much of a long term committment; it’s not community driven, meaning people can have the experience on their own, without having to invest time in building new relationships; whilst it’s interactive, it’s a constrained form of interaction, meaning it’s easier to control and keep on the rails.
The one thing it does have in common with an ARG is that it’s timeboxed: it runs for six weeks. Want to play it after those six weeks? Tough. That’s actually one of the biggest problems facing ARGs: getting away from that timeboxed nature.
So whilst it’s not the bleeding edge of ARG design, it’s probably a much more practical decision for an advertising division on Nokia: it’s less of a loss-leader than another Beast or ILoveBees; it’s engaging a broader degree of consumers but at a shallower level; it’s an order of magnitude or three less complex than a full-blown ARG.
I’m not necessarily convinced by the implementation, but I don’t think the lack of scope is reason for criticism per se; if anything, the “simple ARG” is perhaps harder to get right than the long, complex narrative that you can fix in retcon later on. The upfront budget – advertising, filming, media costs – here is bigger than most ARGs; the running cost is smaller. That sounds like a sensible way of keeping costs where you’re in control of them.
And so I think I’d argue that it’s actually more innovative than throwing a massive ARG budget at the problem: they’re trying to learn from ARGs to see what an affordable, practical interactive campaign, made by advertising/digital media agencies (rather than ARG agencies) might look like. That’s got to be worth a point or two.