Ubisoft shows the sinister side of connected living

A new campaign for Watch Dogs 2 enlists Canadians to team up and sabotage a privacy-invading home of the future.

Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs 2 will be available for gamers to buy in November, but the company is giving would-be hackers the chance to come together and make sure the game’s antagonist doesn’t get a chance to set up shop in Canada.

By going to the HAUM Canada website, consumers can sign up to take a tour of a concept version of HAUM, a fully connected home created by Blume, the fictional evil corporation from the games that is using the home to expand its business into Canada.

That tour likely isn’t going to go as planned, as DedSec, the hacker activist group from the Watch Dogs games, has planned to resist the launch of HAUM, which they believe is actually an attempt to invade the privacy of Canadians and keep tabs on their activities. What’s more, players can join DedSec’s resistance by going to their hacked version of the HAUM site, learn the “truth” about HAUM and complete weekly tasks and challenges to help take it down.

A digital campaign will show off both the features HAUM and Dedsec’s mission to take it down. Ubisoft also had an activation at Fan Expo in Toronto earlier this month, with one side of the booth promoting HAUM and the other giving visitors the chance to hack it. Much like it did for the release of its game The Division earlier this year, Ubisoft will also partner with Vice Canada on a series of branded documentaries touching on some of the issues of privacy and connectivity that are explored in the game.

Bleublancrouge is the lead creative agency on the campaign, with support from North Strategic on PR, 4C4 on web development, Czar on events and production house 1One Production.

Ubisoft famously brought the hacking elements of the Watch Dogs games into the real world in the “Watch Dogs Live” campaign promoting the first game of the series, which saw users complete tasks through a free app to “hack” things like public ATMs or an episode of TSN’s show Off The Record.

Lucile Bousquet, senior director of marketing and communications for Ubisoft Canada, says that campaign is a benchmark for the company, and some elements have been kept the same, like the fact that it is local to Canada and gives people the opportunity to influence the environment around them. But she also says the company didn’t want to just “do a sequel” of the campaign, and there were some key learnings that took “DedSec Resistance” in a different direction.

“For Watch Dogs Live, most of the experiences were very individual,” Bousquet says. “You had your phone and app and you interacted with your environment, but you were doing that alone. We wanted to make sure people would come together as a community to have an impact on the story. Having a very strong narrative so they feel like they’re immersed was also very important, but we wanted them to feel in control of it by engaging as a community.”

The first task last week was to create a visual identity for DedSec Canada, and the second (which began yesterday) encouraged them to “troll” the executives and board members of Blume by creating memes out of their photos.

Future tasks include finding ways to get the word out about HAUM to the public, and being present at the concept to make sure the live demo doesn’t go as planned. Fans can create their own fan art from scratch or download assets from the site to help get them started, with a new kit being released for each task. They can then share them to the DedSec site, where they can also view things others have created and share notes on the best plan of action for the current task.

Getting user-submitted fan art was a tactic Ubisoft used ahead of the release of The Division, with renditions of scenes showing the events that preceded the story of the game compiled into a single video. Bousquet says one of the things Ubisoft learned from that campaign was how important it was for fans to feel like they are not just being a told a story, but having an impact on how it plays out.

Bousquet says roughly 75% of Ubisoft’s marketing budget goes to digital, but events – like the live HAUM demo, or a real-life “fight club” it created for Assassin’s Creed Syndicate – are also an important part of the mix.

“We’re in a digital world and our fans are digital natives, but there is still a need for them to live memorable experiences,” she says. “This is only possible if it’s live. We’ve seen before that our fans will share content when it’s from their own lived experiences. We always try to have this component so that they can be engaged online, but also at some point have a gathering together in the real world.”