For a company like 42entertainment, adjusting a creative campaign to meet a client’s needs requires an intimate knowledge of the specific audience and environment. Where does the audience spend their time? What do they participate in? Where to they spend their energy when they’re not online? The goal is to discover what energizes and excites them. 42 is not stingy with ideas on how to exploit that landscape either. Everyone is considered part of the creative team and brainstorms ideas, even the executives, producers and technicians. And any ideas that don’t fit the landscape, no matter how cool or creative, are dropped.
Each campaign 42 creates has a specific objective beyond pure awareness, though. The Hex168 campaign for Microsoft’s Xbox 360 invited people who were already Xbox fans to create their own content. It was a small-scale campaign designed to show off the creativity and excitement present in the Xbox fan community. In 2005, a campaign for MSN Search involved what was essentially a soap opera inside the search engine. To find out about the characters and watch the story unfold, users had to use all the different functions of MSN Search.
Technology to 42 is a means to an end, and not an end in itself. Many of the campaigns created by the company would not have been possible half a decade ago. The technological infrastructure we don’t see is just as important as the one we do. For the audience-focused 42, ease of use is key. The easier something is to use and interact with it, the more people will interact by it and become immersed in it. But that ease of use usually comes with a technological price on the backend.
For ilovebees, says DiNunzio, “It sounds kind of sexy that you’re going to create this six hour radio drama, and you’re going to break it up into one to one and a half minute bits, and you’re going to broadcast it to tens of thousands of pay phones all over the world. Taking those bits and creating a database of them, and figuring out how to distribute them in a logical way across thousands of nodes of pay phones, tracking those, understanding which of those have been unlocked and which ones haven’t, that’s a very sophisticated technological problem. No one who participated in ilovebees ever saw that technology.”
Campaigns like ilovebees also require that people have a basic understanding of technology to produce a lot of the spontaneous web sites and communities that are part of Jordan Weisman’s “hive mind.”
Just like the mystic ninja clans of old, 42 is spawning disciples like spin-off T-shirt company edoc laundry, co-founded by several people closely related to 42, including Dawne Weisman, wife of Jordan Weisman, and Elan Lee, who is currently 42’s vice president. Each t-shirt design produced by edoc contains hidden codes to an alternate reality game. Enter those codes into the edoclaundry.com website and you reveal video clues a mystery that’s part rock and roll, part scavenger hunt, and all murder.
So while online search marketing, rich media and video advertising get all the publicity, (and most of the ad dollars) keep watching those shadows. You never know when you’ll go tumbling down a rabbit hole.