redaudithumb.jpgWith more and more evidence cropping up around the internet, it seems that the newly discovered ARG “The Art of the Heist” is most likely sponsored by Audi of America. Heist began with a bang on April 1st, with the supposed theft of a 2006 Audi A3 (VIN# WAUZZZ8P65A045963) right out of a New York City showroom, a fact that has created quite a stir on various car afficianado boards across the internet.

Today, Audi posted a special announcement on their US website, stating that “this is an ongoing INTERNAL investigation by Audi of America.” Add to that the fact that they’ve hired one of Heist’s characters to find the car, and the conclusion of who’s behind all this becomes pretty inescapable.

Audi’s doing things up right, that’s for sure. Advertisements for Virgil Tatum (whose website is the game’s main rabbithole) are showing up on too many websites to count, and while the game’s only been public for less than a week, interest in what’s going on seems to be growing at an exponential rate.

To remove any doubt about who’s backing Heist, it seems that the Financial Times let the cat out of the bag last week, with Aline van Duyn’s article about Audi’s foray into what she (mistakenly) refers to as Blog Advertising. From her article:

“If all goes according to plan, more than a million Americans will soon be gripped by the mystery of the missing car. The hunt for a stolen Audi A3 – a sporty hatchback that will hit US showrooms in May – will begin next week with a launch party in New York.

“At the event, the thriller’s first scenes will be shot, with pictures and clues about the theft then distributed on the internet.

“From there, participants in the chase will use interactive tools to choose alternative plot endings. How will the publicity be generated?

“With the latest weapon in the ad man’s arsenal – blog advertising. Blogs, web logs or journals, which cover topics from politics to parenting, have such enormous followings that marketing and advertising executives can no longer resist advertising in them.”

The article goes on to state what a vast, untapped resource blogs are for advertisers to buy space on, and that this whole Audi campaign is about getting bloggers to think of an A3 next time they want to buy a car.

We here at ARGN prefer to see this particular instance of “blog advertising” for what it really is: the tip of the ARG iceberg. Props to Audi for joining the ranks of those who realize the potential of Alternate Reality Gaming. In true automotive spirit (as it is in Alternate Reality Gaming), the ride’s the thing, so get behind the wheel, buckle yourself in, and get ready for a trip you won’t soon forget.

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