On March 29th at Cult Studios in New York City, marketing agency Story Worldwide will attempt to put the nail in the coffin of traditional advertising with the Post-Advertising Summit, an immersive, hands-on conference to explore the future of marketing designed for strategists and storytellers keen on producing branded content in a new age. With a focus on how audiences control and consume brand messages, the Summit promises a full day of exciting discussions about a future beyond advertising.
“In today’s post-advertising world, brands can only communicate with audiences by producing content that people actually want and can share,” said Keith Blanchard, Executive Creative Director of Story Worldwide. “We’re looking forward to exploring how any brand can create useful, entertaining media that tells a compelling story, resonates with audiences, and serves a brand’s objectives.”
There is no doubt that the relationship between audiences and brands have changed over time, trending toward more engagement and even invitations for audiences to collaborate. At the Summit, The Wharton School’s Future of Advertising Program will unveil its study of “What Makes Ads Go Viral?”, providing groundbreaking insight into how brands can capture audiences and buzz in the highly competitive realm of online video marketing.
Panels and keynotes will discuss the complex emerging landscape of social, mobile, and digital solutions while providing the experience and expertise of industry leaders producing entertaining content in the post-advertising age. But true to this new emphasis on audience engagement, participants in the Post-Advertising Summit will be treated to two workshop sessions where together they will create entertaining content, a hands-on way to see firsthand the power of engagement and internalize techniques, strategies, and methodologies to navigate brands through the post-advertising world.
Check out the Post-Advertising Summit’s schedule for more information and to register for this full-day event in New York City. Early bird registration ends on February 29, but whether you register before or after that date, remember to take advantage of ARGNet’s media sponsorship of the event by using the discount code ARG for an additional 30% off registration.
Sandy Rai, an Indian exchange student, comes to the journalism program at Toronto’s Ryerson University and teams up with fellow student Trevor Shale for an assignment. However, what starts off as a college photojournalism assignment quickly plunges Sandy and Trevor into a deep mystery revolving around the suspicious death of a scientist, the enigmatic Georgia Guidestones, and a shadowy conspiracy still to be discovered.
While not necessarily the first interactive web series, Guidestones, created by iThentic and 3 o’clock TV, promises to raise the bar for the web series genre, experimenting with different methods of presentation. With a very polished look, including on-location filming in India, the independent series is presented in two versions: a 50-episode “push” version with built-in interactive elements, and a “linear” version that will debut in the spring. The “push” version went live this week, and viewers can sign up at Guidestones.org to keep up with the episodes as they are released. Offering different levels of engagement, the casual viewer can watch the web series as it unfolds, while those hungry for more can follow clues embedded in the videos which lead on to further online assets, hidden storylines, and other in-game/in-story extras.
The series blurs the line between fiction and reality by bringing in the very real mystery of the Georgia Guidestones, a megalith that suddenly appeared in 1979 in rural Elbert County, Georgia. Dubbed the “American Stonehenge,” the Georgia Guidestones stand nearly 20 feet high, are inscribed with four ancient languages, and feature a rather perilously balanced capstone on top. It’s the stuff conspiracy theorists, millenarians, and idle gawkers like me just eat up.
Next week, from Thursday, August 18, to Sunday, August 21, alternate reality gamers and transmedia producers will descend on Bloomington, Indiana, for ARGFest-o-Con 2011. Led by this year’s Grand Inquisitor Andrea Phillips, the schedule taps into the local game development talent as well as the strong academic presence at Indiana University, which features such names as Professor of Telecommunications Edward Castronova.
Thursday night’s Kick-Off party will start the conference, now celebrating its 10th anniversary, with a special interactive event hosted by Awkward Hug, creators of the highly acclaimed ARG Must Love Robots and the pervasive kid-friendly community, Socks, Inc. I caught up with Awkward Hug’s own Jim Babb to ask about A Wisconsin Hustle. their first foray into the smartphone app space:
We are really excited to bring A Wisconsin Hustle to ARGFest! Wisconsin Hustle is something new for Awkward Hug and will be our first venture into Android apps. While the app is not ready to launch until the end of the year, we have turned the excitement of the app into a real-world pants-off dance-off. A Wisconsin Hustle is, an American tradition clothed in mystery and from unknown origins (we are doing intensive research ourselves into the legend). Men, and recently women, challenge each other in pantsless dance-offs for truth, money, and above all honor.
On a rare occasion Hustlers, as they are known, will pants-off dance-off to the death! Players at ARGFest need not worry, we are more interested in the ethnographic, ethnochoreographic, and pantsnographic study of A Wisconsin Hustle than running a “two man enter, one man leaves” sort of affair.
For the next few weeks, Los Angeles residents have a chance to do something many of us can only dream about: a little time traveling, courtesy of Superfreako Productions. Participants in time/trip LA are tasked with finding strategically placed QR codes located in 8 shops and stores around the Hollywood area, starting at Meltdown Comics on West Sunset Boulevard. The QR codes unlock a series of videos revolving around time travel. The time/trip LAexperience follows Katie and Kelly as they travels through time and space that guides participants through short films keyed to each location.
As part of the experience, time/trippers can submit five pictures of themselves with the QR codes for a chance to win swag from some of the participating retailers. Spoiler-ridden details about the sweepstakes explain the rules and prizes, but players in the LA area are advised to get moving: the contest ends at 11:59pm on August 31.
It’s worth noting that time/trip LA is not Superfreako’s first foray into the crossmedia storytelling space. One of its earliest attempts is the Last Days Journal, a social media storytelling site for survivors of a zombie apocalypse that launched in 2007. While Last Days Journal was created to support a project that was never developed, the survivor site still “lives” on.
Between 2008-2009, Superfreako worked with Benji Schneider to create The Society for Linian Studies, an art project with alternate reality gaming elements including a live lecture event at the Velaslavasay Panorama and an exhibition of related artifacts at San Diego State University. Having followed along with The Society for Linian Studies, I was impressed with the high production value of the artifacts, acting, and other assets for the project. According to Chad Kukahiko, Creative Director of the superfreakos, “it was fun as hell working on a piece of art so ridiculously original.” The idea of dueling institutes that permeated the narrative, along with the characters and story elements surrounding the Linian Society, was the brainchild of his friend and former coworker Benji Schneider. For the The Society for Linian Studies, “the plan was to was continue to do mini-ARG installments perhaps 2 to 3 times a year,” but Schneider’s growing commitments to his band Lord Huron forced the team to modify the game’s plans.
The planning process for The Society for Linian Studies provided the inspiration for time/trip LA: not in terms of story world or plot, but in terms of techniques and technology. As Kukahiko explained to me: “The initial concept from which time/trip grew was a vague QR code wild posting dystopian-themed ARG off-shoot I was tooling around with in my head — something I was actually hoping to bring into the Linian Society fold.”
As previously reported on ARGNet, in the last year, location-based gaming start-up SCVNGR has been taking the smartphone app world by storm, partnering with giant entertainment companies as well as local businesses, nonprofits, and cultural institutions to build “a game layer on top of the world.” Very much a driving force in the overall gamification movement, SCVNGR has just launched a new venture, LevelUp, and is moving into the realm of “local deals” ventures like Groupon and Living Social.
At a press conference in Philadelphia, SCVNGR Chief Rockstar Michael Hagan kicked off the first LevelUp deals at the “inspired” Boloco burrito chain in Boston and PYT, home of the “craziest burgers” in Philadelphia. (They probably earned that moniker because of their Krispy Kreme burger.) LevelUp brings together the check-in, the challenge, and the reward all “in one bite,” according to Hagan, and benefits local merchants in the long term by “scripting a reason to return.”
Finally, a chance to pursue my lifelong dream of becoming a masked villain! At least, that’s what I thought when I received a personal invitation from the mysterious T.S. to join the Villain Training Program. Some clever sleuthing from the online community discovered the game’s website. The site features a villain’s silhouette artfully framing a YouTube video teaser for the project, indicating the experience will launch March 12th.
As villainy knows no borders, this grassroots alternate reality game promises an immersive global adventure involving both online and offline game elements. The story will also unfold through a digital graphic novel that will unlock over the course of the campaign. Players will have the opportunity to join T.S. in masked villainy or oppose him . . . which side will you be on?
Alternate reality gamers are used to helping out the hero-protagonist, but why not support the villain? According to the game’s creator, “[m]ost of us grew up reading super hero comics. But, in my opinion, the villains are the most interesting characters . . . [t]his experience will introduce participants to a villain they will actually be able to interact with.” How will players respond to this grassroots game’s villain? Will participants be “pawns in a worldwide game of chess” between the forces of good and the army of evil-doers? What is this mysterious Thanatos Project, and how will it play into the story?
The lines are already being drawn at the Unfiction forums. Join them, and stake your claim in the perennial battle between super-heroes and super-villains.