Promotional on-line games have been part of the kids marketer arsenal since the late 1990′s. But DreamWorks and partners Mark Burnett Productions and broadband behemoth AOL are breaking new ground in the space. To introduce kids and families to the cast, settings and storyline of upcoming CGI film Flushed Away a full month before it hits U.S. theatres in early November, the triumvirate have produced Flushed Away: Underground Adventure.
The game launches at aol.com/flushedawaygame at the beginning of this month, upping the ante for sponsored games to follow. Borrowing a page from Burnett’s Survivor, the new venture has been constructed like a month-long super contest containing several new mini-challenges issued throughout the week that players must win to advance in the overall competition. (Points and prizes are also awarded just for trying.) At the end of the month, the player who’s advanced through the most rounds of challenges in the least amount of time wins the grand prize. The other twist is that results will be posted in real time, so all players can keep track of where they’re sitting.
‘The idea was to create a piece of standalone entertainment, not just a movie promo or stunt,’ says Roy Bank, head of development and current programming for Burnett. The challenges are largely designed like casual games – quick and relatively simple to play. So not only can a child as young as seven complete the tasks without mom or dad’s help, but parents – especially moms who make up a big part of the on-line casual gaming market right now – might also want to play with their kids or on their own.
Moreover, DreamWorks gave Burnett the kind of access to the film’s digital assets that is often reserved for master interactive game licensees to create custom animation for Underground Adventure. Not only will kids get introduced to the main characters before the film streets, they’ll get to take a trip through settings not seen in the film at all. The plan, says Banks, is to make the audience anticipate the original film’s debut in the same way it does sequels.
Executive VP of AOL Kevin Conroy likens this new marketing tactic to ‘laying out breadcrumbs to draw people into the movie.’ And AOL is making sure it’s a broad trail. Underground Adventure will be promoted across AOL’s network including the paid and free services, and KOL. Conroy estimates it will enjoy approximately 90 million impressions on AOL’s network alone. The company will also use search marketing, advertising on all major search engines and conduct a paid key word search campaign.
Additionally, DreamWorks’ marketing arm is promoting the game, and it will be further cross-marketed with its three major sponsors, yet to be announced at press time.