Alternate Reality Games may seem pretty nerdy to some, but the results of these sorts of campaigns leave a huge impact! For example, take the McDonald’s Olympic campaign: The Lost Ring. In order to help better understand how ARG could be utilized as a marketing tool, the international franchise McDonald’s, with the help of digital ad agency AKQA, created their own ARG called ‘The Lost Ring.’ With no explicit branding done in the game itself, the fast food chain was able to seamlessly get a large amount of free attention from media outlets, word of mouth and the press.
The aim of their marketing efforts was to enhance McDonald’s brand image and commemorate the company’s long-standing support of the Olympics. The ARG began on Mar. 3, 2008 and ended at the closing ceremony of the Olympics. Gamer from all around the world received clues both online and offline about ancient Olympic legends. Over 4 million people across 100 countries participated in the game and worked together across the world to solve the legend.
Prior to the start of the game, McDonald’s sent out 50 packages, which contained the first few clues of the game, to the most active game bloggers. The ARG featured six characters who had amnesia and found themselves blindfolded in different places around the world. The players were allowed to communicate with each other through chat, email, social networks and public forums. The players also reached out to the general public, involving them in helping solve clues along the way.
Results: McDonalds and the creators of the game were able to make The Lost Ring so challenging that no one could possibly solve it on their own. Players were forced to develop a global, virtual community. The company was able to traffic millions of players to sites that were subtly branded with the McDonalds logo.