Tech in Action: An ARG for the modern era

A campaign takes an old-school internet promo tactic to engage new and existing fans with an apocalyptic book series.

“Alternate reality games” were all the rage in the early 2000s, with shows like Lost, movies like A.I. Artificial Intelligence and bands like Gorillaz dropping clues across the internet to help satiate fans with bonus content, fill in gaps from the story and, of course, market properties in film, TV, literature and music.

Mayfly is a series of young adult books set 100 years in the future, where a mysterious plague has killed all adults and infects anyone older than the age of 17. To keep young fans engaged before the release of the next book in the series, a campaign updated a staple of the internet’s early days with current online technology.

In a campaign created by San Francsico agency Mister Sweat (which is run by Jeff Sweat, the book’s author and former PR lead at Deutsch LA and 72andSunny) and Kansas City’s Boom Howdy, traditional online scavenger hunts have been updated with VR. By searching through Google Maps, users can find virtual reality versions of landmarks and recognizable locations in the apocalyptic future of Los Angeles, where the book series takes place.

Finding the clues that direct online users through the scavenger hunt can also allow fans to redeem codes online for things like bonus content and free merchandise.

Clues have been appearing on Twitter and Instagram throughout the month of April, engaging people who are already fans of the series. However, “emergency radio broadcasts” telling stories from the series in the style of Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds have also been promoted through a paid Facebook buy, part of a bid to capture the attention of people who have not yet read the book series, but might be intrigued by either the post-apocalyptic setting or online scavenger hunt.