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The McDonald’s A.R.G?

April 1, 2008

An A.R.G is an Alternate Reality Game, something becoming more and more popular for brands. Nine Inch Nails did a truly awesome job with an A.R.G. when launching their new concept album.

Now, as we approach the summer Olympics, McDonald’s, maker of the Big Mac, has launched a game called The Lost Ring. The New York Times gives a background on the whole game. A fan of the game gives a description of A.R.G.’s from a Wiki he set up for this game.

“An Alternate Reality Game is what brought you here right now. It’s a relatively new genre of game that allows players (like you) to interact with a fictitious world using real world elements.

Say what?

If you have ever played Final Fantasy, Zelda, Myst, D&D or any other adventure type game, where you go around solving mysteries and puzzles in a fantasy world, you already understand the fictitious world part. Normally you follow the linear computer program story or a dungeon master pre-setup script to the end.

What is different about ARG’s is that the players control what happens and a real live person (Called the Puppet Master or PM) controls how the story goes based on the interactions that happen. You use real life things like real phone numbers, responses to characters real email address and locations where you may have to go and pick something up in your home town in order to help solve the puzzles of the game.

Best of all? There is no cost to play!”

This game is vast. There are blogs, Twitter updates, YouTube videos, discussion groups. Real world clues found in various places all over the world. The game is currently in 7 languages and is set to end on the closing ceremonies of the Summer Olympics.

If the goal of new media is to get conversations going, then this is the granddaddy of all new media. And clearly, marketers are still working out the kinks. From the NY times article:

“McDonald’s would not disclose the cost of the campaign, though Ms. Dillon said that “in the context of the total Olympics, it’s just a fraction of what we’re doing.” As for measuring the return on the company’s investment, Ms. Dillon said she saw it as more of a learning experience. “You can’t put an R.O.I. on this,” she said.”

Ms. Dillon is Mary Dillon, McDonald’s global chief marketing officer. New ideas are popping up faster than the metrics. We wonder about the ROI of people on Twitter, in Facebook, watching a YouTube video. It’s somewhat comforting to know that the Chief Marketing Officer at one of the biggest brands in the world is also wondering.

For now though, forget ROI. I’m gonna engage.


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