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Ed Robinson, co-founder abd executive creative director, The Viral Factory

Having recently returned from the Cannes Cyber Lions judging process, I feel in form to have a look at this month’s Ad Watch offerings. Let’s see how they match up to what were reportedly the world’s best.

Well, the campaign of the month is worth an honourable mention at least. BBH’s huge interactive game for Barclays, 56 Sage Street, is a decent attempt at tackling the thorny subject of banking for a younger, rightly sceptical generation. The premise is brilliant: how to work your way up from being a penniless arrival in the city to being one of the great and good (with advice from Barclays along the way, of course).

It’s like a straight-and-narrow version of Grand Theft Auto. The gameplay is original and simple, the cut sequences nicely realised and the graphics and interface are great.

I can’t help wondering, however, who will play this instead of GTA, and whether a bank’s involvement will mean its slightly sanctimonious tone gets in the way of the entertainment value. But you can’t fault it for ambition. Maybe it will even convince a few youngsters that the banking industry can actually provide a social benefit, rather than being the reason we all have to live on bread and water for a generation.

Next there’s the odd VisitSweden campaign. The Swedish tourist board has been responsible for some of the best digital work in recent years (Dave Goes To Skane, Stockholm the Musical) and when I see one I want to live in the country, not just visit it.

This campaign gives us a chance to spot trolls on five ’live’ webcam’ at picturesque spots in Skane. Flicking through the webcams, you might be lucky and spot one, take its picture with the built-in camera and upload it for the chance to win a holiday.

It’s a good way to show off some sunny vistas, but I don’t get the troll thing. And when he finally does appear, it’s pretty underwhelming (Peter Jackson wasn’t involved by the look of it). It doesn’t deliver enough to warrant the time the audience has to put in. Oh, and the webcams aren’t live as claimed and that irritates me.

Lonely Planet has created a neat little Facebook app that provides a range of tools for travellers to plan trips, as well as the obligatory social functions like picture sharing and tips from the backpacking community. I’m a bit sceptical about brands trying to own user-referral sites, but Lonely Planet has an admirable position among backpackers, and it feels right that it hosts a community app in this way.

The mix of created content, branding and user-generated areas looks good, but at such an early stage it’s quite hard to tell how it will develop. It did make me want to go and twirl fire-sticks on a beach on Koh Samui, though, so fair play.

Finally, there’s the YouTube brand channel for Waitrose. I always find it hard to justify the expense of a brand channel to our clients, preferring to put the cash into decent content for ’normal’ YouTube, and I think that mistakes has been made here. The videos are neatly divided up and categorised. I’m a massive Heston Blumenthal fan, so it’s nice to get his recipe tips in one place, but there’s not a lot new of him here. The other recipe videos are decent, but the lack of views suggests they’re not attractive enough.

All in all, not a bad lot. The sentiments are spot on (provide something useful, entertaining or informative) but I’m not sure if any benefit from the brand association rather than suffer from it. Users don’t care that it’s hard to square this circle, they just want the best experience, no matter who provides it.

Campaign of the month

Agency comment

Johan Baettig, creative director, BBH

We wanted to create something that teenagers would not just be receptive to but would actively seek out. A game was chosen for obvious reasons: we could do it online and make it accessible to a broad range of people.

It was important that it had its own identity and didn’t feel like an educational game. It had to feel natural for teenagers but also get across the financial lessons.
At its simplest, 56 Sage Street is a strategic point-and-click game with four immersive Flash games built in. It’s set in an urban environment with an isometric playing field.

Keeping interest for the two hours-plus it takes to complete the game was a challenge. We tried to solve this by creating hundreds of small but engaging experiences that, added together, made a great game.

Client comment

Mark Brayton, head of innovation and branch marketing, Barclays
Our intention is to improve financial capability among as many 14-19-year-olds as possible. Online gaming is the most relevant and immersive channel choice for this age group. It allows us to talk about money and banking in a fun and engaging way. Various functionalities are built into 56 Sage Street to let gamers share their gaming experience. We’ve had a successful start with over 40,000 players within the first four weeks.

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Published 5 August, 2010 by NMA Staff

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