I love a good mystery. Before I was asked to review this campaign, I came across it as most consumers would -- quite by accident -- and found myself intrigued. GM was making reference to the Benjamin Stove site on their website, and while it smelled like an ARG viral to me, I followed the rabbit down the hole. It's a little like going to see PT Barnum's mummified Mermaid: the adult in you sees the wink-wink, but the kid in you wants to believe it.
Campaigns like this are hard to find. They don't meet the regular convention -- three creative executions and a website -- that all of us are guilty of cranking out like factories. They don't dazzle with flash animation, or high production video-- they rely on a good story well told. I love the use of elements in specific cities, taking an online campaign into the real world. The only drawback is for the attention-deficit crowd, like me -- to really appreciate the depth of the story, a consumer has to spend time with it -- but that's the point. Not every campaign has to reach millions for 30 seconds. Often it's better to engage fewer, more targeted people more deeply.
It worked for me. The blogs sounded believable-- not cranked out copy like most "viral blogs" are. I didn't engage very far into the puzzles -- as a consumer I often am guilty of enjoying more instantly gratifying entertainment -- but even so, I walked away more educated about ethanol and GM's role in making the world cleaner.
-- Sean MacPhedran, director of creative strategy, Fuel Industries
"Who Is Benjamin Stove?" is an Alternate Reality Game (ARG) developed for GM by Campbell-Ewald and GMD Studios to create buzz for GM's E85/Live Green, Go Yellow campaign.
GMD studios was the ones behind the famous ARG by Audi called "The Art of the Heist." The campaign that set the standard and made ARG's popular.
This time the storyline is about an Iowa farmer by the name of Benjamin Stove and a mysterious painting he left behind when leaving his family without a trace. It's a storyline that developed during a 12-week period both online and offline.
The game was launched with the release of a website using the structure of a blog with forums to initiate the mystery.
I imagine that if I would have come across the website without knowing that it was a campaign for GM's E85, I would have thought that it was for real for quite some time. It is intelligently executed, and the design and the content really make it feel like a real blog with a real forum.
I really enjoy the details that the storytellers have planted on the site, but also at other URLs mentioned in the news and the archives. It really makes it feel authentic. You can browse around for quite some time and discover new puzzles and clues.
From my point of view where I only see the online campaign, I never really got the connection with GM's E85, but I imagine that the campaign was much more effective for those who could experience the offline activities as well.
The scope of the campaign with online and offline activities makes it really convincing, and I believe that this form of integrated marketing is the way to get an impact with the audience. My only concern is that the connection with the actual product could have been more clear.
-- David Eriksson, creative director, North Kingdom