advertising, engaging, IPA|ED:three

Joining up the Dots

it’s in the second episode of ‘Alias’ that JJ Abrams first penned a reference to a random drink called Slusho.  the mention – which was to be followed later by cameo in Heroes – was the first of a sustained, ingenious and elaborate viral campaign to promote his next project, the movie Cloverfield.

in doing so, Abrams created more hype than could ever have been generated by broadcast comms.  but the approach has been more specific than that…  at no point was everything held together in one place…  to make sense of the clues, the dots had to be joined together; with seemingly random and stand-alone pieces of communication joining up; not in a script or on a schedule, but in the minds of consumers.  thats the kind of headspace that broadcast money can’t buy.

Abrams talked about his approach to all his projects – from Alias to Lost and now Cloverfield – at the always amazing TED last March (click here to watch it).  he talked about the idea of a ‘Mystery Box’, a $15 box he bought as a boy with the promise of $50 worth of magic inside.  it remains unopened.

to Abrams his unopened box “represents infinite possibility, hope and potential”, he notes that “I find myself drawn to infinite possibility and that sense of potential and I realise that mystery is the catalyst for the imagination … what are stories but mystery boxes?”  he describes how in TV the first act is called the teaser, it asks a fundamental question.  but as soon as it’s answered there’s another question; another Mystery Box, and another after that…

his point is that the intentional withholding of information is much more engaging than giving someone the whole story…  a lesson from which advertising could in many instances learn…

intrigue and the witholding of information in order to engage should more often be at the heart of a comms brief.  we more often need to let product intrinsics or resolution within the context of a TV script take a back seat.  we need to be creating more mystery boxes.  then using media to join the mystery boxes together…  a broadcast TV ad with a random link to a website.  which has a list of postcodes, each of which has a series of posters.  we shouldn’t be afraid of challenging our consumers…  what a individual can’t piece together a networked community of individuals can…

in comunications planning we’re too obsessed with giving consumers information, we need to start giving them some questions, some intrigue.  as Abrams says, “sometimes mystery is more important than knowledge”.


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