Audi3 ads context: the Heist
Friday, April 8th, 2005
A number of bloggers and readers have been asking “what the heck is up with those Virgil Tatum ads?” One reader called him “an obnoxious egomaniac.” A magazine writer inquired about profiling him. An agent asked about representing “Nisha,” the art theft recovery expert linked by another of the ads. Well here’s one gamer’s overview of the context of “Heist,” the Audi A3 advertising narrative that weaves it all together.
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.
Or as another gamer put it, offering a compendium of all the pieces to date
Heist is what we like to call an Alternate Reality Game (ARG). Simply put, it’s an interactive story told using real life events, character interactions, and Internet websites. We know that Heist is sponsored by Audi, but don’t think of it as a marketing campaign. Take it for what it is – a very fun and enjoyable game which you can participate in for free.
This campaign reminds me one of those four page ad fold-outs you get in the New Yorker or Vanity Fair that invite you to imagine yourself within a slightly Daliesque alternate universe inhabited by exotic brunettes, fast cars and melting clocks. Only in this case, the ad can be folded out to hundreds of pages and the reader can actually live a little of the fantasy both online and, even, offline.
But it goes beyond the individual’s experience, the solitary pleasure of reading a magazine. What is amazing about this multi-ad campaign is its synchronization with the blogosphere’s collectivist approach to information gathering, its unique ability to piece together a narrative. This is an ad campaign that is best experienced with others.
An interesting aside for bloggers — this is the biggest single blogad campaign yet, representing as much revenue for bloggers as the entire Q1 of 2004. (Don’t worry, with total US ad spending at $250 billion, there’s still plenty more growth ahead.)
Some broader context: I drank the blog CoolAid nearly four years ago late one Thursday afternoon, but am more convinced every day that something fundamental is happening here that exceeds our current rational understanding of community and social engineering. The point isn’t the individual blogger. It’s the collective, known to friends and enemies as the blogosphere, wired together at the speed of light for the first time in history.
Folks are repeatedly amazed that these “disorganized” “unemployed” “biased” “untrained” bloggers are regularly thrashing corporate media at its own game. (Need more fuel? See Ed Morrissey’s scoop that has set maple leafs aflutter and CampusJ‘s upending of a NYT story.)
The fact is that top-down organizations are vastly overrated and don’t stand a chance about organically evolved multi-party collaborations. The best MIT engineers have never come close to building a structure as elegant and efficient as the hive that 10,000 bees, with an average IQ of 22 and no boss giving directions, can build together in a week. Why doubt the enormity of the hive that 10,000 humans, with an average IQ of 125 and empowered with some new tools, can imagufacture together? What are Google’s 10,000 servers compared with the collaborative mind-power of 10,000 humans, each with at least 100 billion neurons?