London as a Game Board: A new layer of engagement in advertising. / by Tim Putnam

When Nike wanted to get young people excited about running, their ad agency, Wieden + Kennedy (of whom I'm a huge fan), approached the challenge by blurring the lines between real and virtual worlds.  By adding a game component on top of simply running, and pitting two teams who have been at odds since the beginning of time (boys vs. girls), they created an experience lived out in the real world and tracked online at www.nikegrid.com. (URL is no longer valid - full article here)

 

The city of London was broken up into 48 sectors by postal code, each with specific traditional phone boxes.  The game consists of running a to one of these phones and calling a specific number, then entering a unique ID code so your data can be tracked.  Players then receive instructions on where to run next, and the cycle continues.  The game currently has 2,971 players on 334 teams.

 

As data is entered, Nike displays it at www.nikegrid.com so users can track their performance and see who's winning.  In the spirit of competition, each daily video ends with a notice to the team in second place: "Get running girls!" is the message in the video below.

 

"GRID is part of a growing category of ideas that sits within, as Tom Coates of Yahoo! describes, the 'real world web,'" Graeme Douglas of Wieden + Kennedy writes, "connected things that blur the physical and virtual spaces--things that thrive primarily because they excite us as humans, rather than being a vehicle for demonstrating technical capability."

 

I believe that is where the next evolution of the web will take us - from social commerce, which is gaining a ton of speed right now, to more engaging forms of advertising...as more of these campaigns are introduced and succeed, intelligent brands will look for authentic ways to introduce an engagement layer on top of mere advertising.  I fully expect there to be some misfires and some poorly matched attempts at this, but I'm excited to see more of these campaigns done well.