Maybe my favorite bit about the NIN Year Zero ARG was that damn concert that I had heard about but never actually saw documented.
The story went that players and fans were made aware of an 'Art is Resistance' meeting...then climbed into vehicles (I had heard buses, but apparently it was vans ok, it WAS buses) and driven to an undisclosed location in the LA factory district for a wild 'experience'. Sounded cool, but though I kept coming across references, I couldn't find documentation. Until now.
It's worth watching to see
- the crowd reactions - they shift [frequently] between willing disbelief, outright disbelief, mild discomfort, wild euphoria and s--t scared. Just try to quantify the 'engagement metric' on that puppy, Holmes.
- watching the intersection of realities between Trent and the actors/assistants with the fans - Trent is firmly embedded in the album's alternate worldview, and for once, the fans don't just imagine it after huffing airplane glue and cranking it up, they get to be there when the SWAT team bursts in. Shooting.
Trent and 42 Entertainment built the Year Zero roller coaster ride that turned music into a game you could play. And kudos to 42 Entertainment, but make no mistake: Trent has spent the better part of the last two decades doing the heavylifting of brand narrative world building. And with the dystopian foundation laid and the narrative arc in motion, you can subcontract/modularize the activation to map to technographic, demographic, and psychographic subsets. And net a solid selling album in the process. Yes, I am a NIN fanboy. Sue me.
For anyone unfamiliar with this year's Cannes Viral Advertising Gran Prix winner, here's the synopsis, from their entry:
"The ambitious Year Zero alternate reality game (ARG), a work of cross-media art involving websites, emails, phone calls, album packaging, tour t-shirts, thumb drives, music videos, murals, interactive games and live concert events with the new music of Nine Inch Nails at its core. Playing out over 10 weeks, the Year Zero ARG engaged over 2.5M participants. It started with a message hidden in the back of a concert t-shirt that lead to online websites, ultimately over 29 websites discovered over several months, 7.5M page views, 7M forum postings, 2M phone calls and thousands of original art submissions."
Are you letting people play YOUR brand communications?