Last week Dr. Jenkins' Creative Industries class was visited by Jon Cropper, a friend of the C3 and the man in charge of marketing Sean "Diddy" Coombs' media empire. In his lecture, Jon presented two huge photomontages evoking the 'mood' of a brand, including locations, objects and people that all fit this brand style. Looking at them, it was almost impossible not to start imagining connections between the images and quickly forming some type of brand narrative.
C3's research keeps returning over and over again to the use of storytelling as a marketing and entertainment device. We grapple with the functions that these stories serve in ads, the function that product placement for ads serve in stories, and how video gaming is developing as a narrative form. Aristotle argued that drama was all about the plot characters are nice to have, but you can still have a story with a rousing plot and no characters. Video games, on the other hand, seem to be primarily about the setting, granting the player agency to run around in an authored world.
So why not take this one step further and let gamers slip into the world that these brands attempt to personify in their advertisements? We have racks and racks of lifestyle magazines, so why not lifestyle gaming?
Imagine a MMORPG for the Vanity Fair set that lets you be the heir or heiress to some massive business empire, providing you with nearly inexhaustible resources. In the game, you can then assemble the materialistic life of your dreams, obtaining houses and vacation homes and planes and cars or whatever, taking this life out for a spin. You can connect with your friends online and show off the newest toys that you've found, with the option of actually purchasing one in real life with real money in-game. It would be similar to a James Bond game, but playing up the shaken-not-stirred aspect instead of the Walther PPK. How would such a project succeed or fail?
On the one hand, there's something intensely sexy about the concept of a Ralph Lauren videogame, distributed via free DVD-ROM in every issue of Vanity Fair, or even an Eddie Bauer or Timberland game. Pop in the game, and you're suddenly running around a lodge in Crested Butte wearing the latest fashions, sipping Godiva cocoa, cuddling with ski bunnies and taking your Land Rover out for a spin. On the other, there's the simple solve-all-my-problems psychology trap of big ticket purchases. People tend to buy brands because they believe that their lives will radically change when they obtain that $500 Gucci bag, but their friends stay the same, their waistline stays the same, their house stays the same... Very few big-ticket purchases would offer the same kind of massive life overhaul that such a game could offer unless each game also offered a Buy This Life button that instantly sucked $20M out of your credit account, filed divorce papers, sold your house, and booked you plane tickets.
Regardless, I think there is some interesting and potentially lucrative territory to be mined here. What do you think?