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Thursday, 28 July 2011

Magnum. Concealed Weapon?

I recently stumbled across this very interesting ad. After experiencing the thrill of the "Pleasure Hunt", I thought I'd write a few words about the trend of games and marketing.

While listening to an episode of CBC Radio's Spark, I learned that it is becoming increasingly more popular for people in the promotion industry to lead up to the release of games and movies with intense puzzles and adventures. What's truly fascinating is that they generally tend to get more and more realistic and more and more involving, often to the point where contestants are getting into trouble in order to win a contest or find some key information.

A good case is Dr. Pepper's 2007 stunt in Boston, a story which I am borrowing from Terry O'Reilly's Age of Persuasion. A treasure hunt was launched with a grand prize of a gold coin worth $10 000. Unfortunately, the planners chose an ancient burial ground as the hiding place, causing much controversy and leading eventually to the event being cancelled.

This is a good example of what has been called "guerrilla marketing". O'Reilly identifies this phenomenon as having four key components:

1) garners attention
2) doesn't involve traditional media
3) isn't an ad
4) would be considered unconventional

Although we should be careful when talking about this, because we can take other stunts, like the original Terry Fox Marathon of Hope and say it conforms to this model. A good question to ask is whether or not there are key differences between campaigns that are for raising money for charity, advertising a product, or performing a public service announcement.

Obviously this isn't entirely new. It is also obvious that this is something that is going to continue to evolve as the media it uses changes. One of my favourite authors, Naomi Klein, writes that guerrilla marketing is part of an intensifying trend of brands to push the envelope ever further.

So let's get back to the Magnum advert to find out exactly makes it so powerful?

The first element that I will point to is the notion of challenge and high score. This instantaneously adds a new dimension. Rather than watching, you are engaging with, the media. Moreover, you are evaluated at the end and given the choice to try again or invite your friends. Not only will the average person who completes the task likely opt to better their score, they are more than likely to challenge a someone they know, thus exposing the advertisement to new eyes.

Another interesting component is that by interacting with the ad, the audience is experiencing something called synaesthesia - a condition where one sense elicits others. Play generally makes people remember and learn better than by watching and listening. This kinaesthetic experience means that the audience has a deeper and potentially longer lasting bond with the content, most likely far higher than through watching a commercial.

Finally, since we are living in a society awash in ads, this game allows for a seed to be planted that can be reaped later. After playing the "Pleasure Hunt", I have been much more aware of ads I see elsewhere for Magnum, meaning that I have now attached an experience, however trivial, with that product. And that is something invaluable for the producers of the product and marketing I've consumed.

Ultimately, we have to remember that the great Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan remarked that "advertising is the greatest art form of the twentieth century".

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