Obviously, the "new thing" in advertising, just as the "new thing" in virtual worlds and video games ten and even fifteen years ago, is interactive story-telling and cross-media performances.
About seven years ago during the public relations boom in Second Life, we saw a burst of these "cross-media" ad attempts. The movie "The Nines" made a set inside the virtual world and had scavenger hunts and even the author's appearance, and then other activities online. Coca Cola even made a Second Life ad, one of the old "big six" metaversal development companies Rivers Run Red produced it.
Second Life has sure evolved technically and visually since then! (I think this machinima of a year ago is actually an amateur video unrelated to Coke.)
And even ten or twelve years or more before that, I remember in The Sims Online, I made Living Soap Opera at Flamingo Court, Motel of Last Resort, where some of us would appear as the living characters of a story created before that, in the offline Sims, and would improvise the parts of people living in a motel, with anyone who happened to come to the lot that evening. I always thought Second Life would have great potential for this type of improvisation as well, but griefing if not lag always made it nearly impossible, although I think there are some who have tried it.
And of course the MUDs and all that had interactive story telling practically before the Internet was born. The first MUD was in 1975, and not surprisingly the lore includes a group of MIT students in 1975 making something called "Zork". Of course, it would be incredibly uncool if it turned out that MUDs originated not in computer culture, but in the culture of suburban housewives who read R.D. Laing's Knots (1970s). Wouldn't it completely upset the world of all those fanboyz if they discovered their beloved and sacrosanct MUDs came not from computers or their geeky in-groups but from something more mundane in suburban California. Oh, but wait. Before that, there were the narratives of all the cultures of all the world throughout human history LOL. At what point did each one of them jump the synapse and go from the dominant narrator or bard to become interactive with the audience?
I was never at all into MUDS, but the funny thing is, in about 1970, certainly long before computers/the Internet/the officially-recogized MUDs, I remember staying at our family friends' house in suburban Delaware, and our friend telling me a MUD-type story where there were choices, and then different outcomes. "You are in a big field. Ahead of you, you see a wall. On the wall is a ladder. Do you climb the ladder? To the right is a large lake with a boat on the docks." and so on. The story was supposed to reveal some psychological truths about you. This was a suburban parlour game of the time. I remember thinking of it as a kind of game, but also a kind of mystical story, and a special social interaction that involved a respected family friend taking the time to introduce me into the mysterious world of this psychological story.
In any event, now you can see the "interactive story telling" meme play out with the Lincoln ad, just as it played out with the Coke ad.
What I find hilarious is that when I first noticed this ad on the side of my screen among the belly fat clickables, there was a camel's nose, so I almost mistook it for the Coke ad. Then I saw it was a Lincoln ad.
I watched it and discovered about half-way through, the female protagonist on the quintessential road trip not only runs across a herd of alpacas in an "alpacalypse" *snort*, and a herd of giant turtles, but also barges into a director on a movie set in the desert who becomes exasperated because she's ruined his shooting of a film about aliens.
Of course, this meme is borrowed from lots of places, but most notably "Argo," the Ben Affleck flick where a bunch of Canadian hostages in Iran during the ayatollahs' revolution in the 1970s manage to escape from Iran by pretending to be a bunch of film-makers filming a science fiction movie about aliens in the desert. It's a pretty good film with John Goodman who I liked in "Roseanne" and is funny in this part as well as the producer.
When Coke rolled out its inter-active story ad, the Muslim community organizations got mad at "stereotypes" although everybody in the whole ad was stereotyped -- that's what interactive stories *are*, they are wooden, heavily distilled memes capable of being manipulaetd and absorbed by masses in "interactivity".
Coke mollified the Muslims by telling them while they seemed to have been left out of the race and slighted in this first episode for the superbowl, they were going to get an epic part later as the racers would stumble on the Arabs making a movie in the desert.
Whoops, Lincoln has now stolen the "making a movie in the desert" theme.
Except, "Lawrence of Arabaia" did that.
I was predicting the other day that if piracy got worse and worse, and the Kim Dotcoms of the world continued to enjoy flamboyant impunity, the content providers would get less and less and fewer and fewer would bother to go into the business because it's expensive and intensive and time-consuming. Then they would replace content of this sort of the driven narrative with the "crowd sourced" narrative where they would get thousands of people to work for free writing the script and supplying the walk-ons. It's one of the exciting "crowd-sourced business" opportunities where many people get to work for free and a few get to make a fortune for harvesting these sheeple.
There's a problem with all this, however, is that people don't find it that entertaining precisely because it gets memified, dumbed down, and predictable. I mean, how many ads can we see with the road trips, the turtles, the show girls leaving Las Vegas...before it will get very dull? And it's not like the crowd can really participate -- really only ten or twenty people can get their tweets in out of the many who might try to get noticed...
Loren Feldman of 1938 media had a good video the other day in which he made you pay 50 cents at least to explain to you why he was blogging on his own address, i.e. instead of dissipating himself across Facebook or Twitter or G+ -- so that he had a "home" -- and to reiterate that content making is hard and expensive and should be valued. Hello!
I was watching the entire experiment that Will Wright did on Current TV, which was just bought by Arabs, speaking of Arabs (Al Jazeera, owned by the government of Qatar, which is in the oil business, bought it out from green-planet Al Gore, in one of the funnier narratives of our time.)
It ran for about a year. It was called Bar Karma. It was about "interactive webisodes". Who knows, maybe Will Wright remembered that I had Flamingo Court in the Sims Online and before that, the offline Flamingo Court stories with the bar, motel, and pool. That is, he didn't need me to come up with this story line, but it was the sort of thing floating in the environment. The iconic road trip i the American imagination has to have the caravan-serai where you stop to rest, and that's the iconic Flamingo motel. Flamingos were an essential icon of the 1950s tongue-in-cheek kitsch of the Sims Online.
I remember when I first read about Bar Karma, I was all excited, because I thought it would be a better version of the Sims Online, interactive, yet on TV and therefore "more real" and with a bigger audience. But Current TV itself never had more than 20,000 concurrent viewers, it was a bust because of its heavy leftist and didactic tilt, in my view, it was really in a horrible bubble.
Will's show at first seemed promising, but then it turned out that to participate, it was just a little too hard, at least for people like me. You couldn't just easily upload a screenshot from Second Life or Paint or some other easy medium with your story idea. There wasn't an easy Family Album kind of thing the way there was in the Sims Online. The barrier was set just above that -- I went to the site a few times and it was too many steps and a tad too complicated to justify having to spend hours to study, and I gave up. So when you lose people like me, you lose your 10% and get only 2% of viewers in the interactive space. Surely there were geeks who had no trouble with "The Story-Maker Engine" and they would only snort at anyone who snagged or lagged on it. Too bad. You failed. The show died. Because you were too elitist. If you are too elitist, don't pretend you're doing massively multiple-player story-telling but just in fact reiterating Hollywood.
Salon kind of panned it: "So far, the sales pitch is more intriguing than the product. Semi-philosophical and quasi-mystical, Bar Karma has a premise like a Tom Waits song adapted into a British sci-fi series." I remember that I just couldn't sit still when I watched it because it felt like it was cliches from somebody else's shared science fiction meme sharing cult in Silicon Valley and I grew bored.
Not so Wired, which gushed about "the thousands of ways it could go right" even conceding the hundreds of ways it could go wrong. Sigh. It did go wrong; it failed. It was cancelled even by this heavily subsidized hipster TV.
So Will Wright, who is on the board of Linden Lab now, is back with making a new product for the Lab, which now styles itself as making "shared creative spaces" by rolling out several other products besides the legacy (the term of art to mean "failing") virtual world product (as we were taught by Ginsu Yoon to see "your world, your imagination" eventually.
This new thing is called Dio (and I couldn't help thinking of a long ago abandoned campaign of the Lindens' called Dia de Liberacion which was supposed to enable the ability to play different versions of Second Life on the servers so you didn't have to constantly patch).
Dio seems nice and all, but bored me to teeth-gritting pain in about 20 minutes. There seems to be a MUD-like software for this platform to enable you to upload photos and write captions quickly and make layers of them in "rooms". So I should love it, right? Except, it didn't spread out like a comic book strip, and that's maybe what would be better, really like the Sims Family Album which was a wonderful narrative tool.
The pages seem to take some time to load, maybe just due to the beta. And I was trying to figure out how to upload a video clip to it and then gave up somewhere. Maybe I will come back to it but it just seemed so flat to me. What, they were trying to attract aging MUDsters or live out their MUD youths themselves?! When they have an interactive dynamically-updating 3D virtual world?! Why didn't they want to get that right, and instead retreated to this 2d space? I don't get it.
Forbes is gushing that Dio will let you "gamify" your social media. I don't see where you make it a game. But apparently as Forbes says, it is -- although this wasn't instantly visible:
And in case your visitors become confused in the maze of twisty little passages all alike, they can inspect the menus on the left-hand side of the page for their next options. It also supports objects you can pick up and take with you and use elsewhere.
No, I didn't watch the videos. I hate videos with instructions. I hate the thought of clicking on a Linden Lab and hearing the awful "Friendly Greetings!" of Torley. Cringe.
I went crazy with boredom on something like Colossal Cave which I'm supposed to worship as the first MUD. Too many clicks. Too many slow-loading pages. Too much text. Too -- something. How unsatisfying after Second Life, where the click/action is instantaneous. You don't click "go south" and then click on "go south" *again* -- you just go south.
I backed out of there after about 10 boring screens where I couldn't pick up or do anything because it was just so friggin' boring and stupid. Myst-like. I went over to try the "Wasp" one mentioned in the Forbes review. But this was flat and unsatisfying too, after a real virtual world, so to speak, because you didn't really have any satisfying sense of "picking up inventory," instead, you just clicked -- doubly, each time, which really seems uber annoying -- to get more text, and often of the snarky insulting kind, like this: "What are you, a neanderthal? You can't turn on a TV without a remote." When you finally get out of the room by clicking almost randomly on a lot of texts, none of which animates, you don't feel any sense of virtual satisfaction.
Eventually, I will find the time to go back and try to build out my own story idea there -- it feels a little like Google's failed virtual world experiment where you could link some of the rooms to other things. Naturally, I love the idea that you can sell your rooms, the Lindens are hooking this up to the LindEx and to Lindens, and you can monetarize it all although they will take a cut.
And maybe it will catch on and big PR companies will buy little segments from amateurs, or more likely, the Rivers Red Run sort of "big six metaversals" will appear and suck all the revenue out of the rooms by scooping up the best builders as they did in Second Life -- before they sell out to old media and then they all die. Cue up c3 with some words of wisdom here from the 1990s, and then the 2000s...
But...it was just a little too hard and confusing with way too many clicks. The "object" to "pick up" is merely a picture, that you click on to go to another picture...How flat!
BTW, LL will alienate their fan base by having Facebook sign-up with real names, but there may be a way around this.