Where’s Waldo Meets the Real World

August 23, 2009 at 11:20 pm (advertising, marketing, News, social media) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )


We’ve all heard about people going off the grid, or disappearing for a while. People do it all the time for reasons as varied as witness protection or to just getting away from it all, but what about for a contest? That’s right, in a Where’s Waldo type of hide-and-seek game Evan Ratliff, a writer for Wired Magazine, has gone on the lam. Best of all, if you find this elusive writer, and capture an image of him, you could win $5,000 and an interview in the magazine.

In this era of connectivity it’s harder than ever to truly disappear. In the past, separating yourself by a few thousand miles and grabbing a new name along the way was all it took, but today we are hard pressed not to be connected into the virtual social fabric that weaves around us. Investigators can search your social media pages and find your friends, location, and even personal information, like your bank account records and frequent flyer miles.

To aid in the hunt for Evan he has given the world a glimpse into his life – a much more intimate glance than most would allow. The magazine has put out his name, age, medical conditions, likes, and dislikes. He has even allowed Wired Magazine full access to his debit card for tracking – if he actually uses it over the next month. During his time on the run he will be staying connected through social media, to a degree, and will be monitoring the information about his whereabouts.

This contest is genius on the part of both the magazine and the author. They have created a real-world, multi-user experience that crosses geographic and media boundaries. Anyone can play, choose their level of involvement, and there is no guaranteed winner – it’s all up to the players. And did I mention the publicity? So far AOL has picked it up, and it’s moving through social media communities with blogs and twitter posts covering the action.

Wired Magazine may be onto a new version of sleuth game. Geographic hide-and-seek. The concept could involve cross-platform collaboration between social media sites and utilize new technologies and competitions like geo-caching and Microsoft Tags to enable players clues, maybe even live action role-playing 2.0. We’ll have to see how many news outlets actually pick up the story, but regardless, what better way to involve your target audience than bringing them into this game?

To keep tabs on the competition you can check out twitter with the hashtag #vanish or Wired’s website.

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