Ubisoft Canada released a video Thursday showing its latest promotional stunt of the upcoming video game Watch Dogs.
The video starts with an ominous, computer-generated voice, who announces “Dedsec,” a fictive secret society of hackers. It then pans to “security” footage of an ATM at the Sheridan Center in Mississauga that Dedsec “hacked” on July 6, causing $3,000 worth of cash (and some promotional flyers) to spray out of the ATM towards dozens of bewildered consumers who started to rapidly collect the “liberated” $5 bills.
The ATM “hack” was, in fact, not the act of a modern Robin Hood, but the end result of a challenge to consumers using Watch Dogs Live, an app and microsite created by Publicis Montreal to promote Watch Dogs, a blockbuster game created by Ubisoft Montreal, set to be released this November.
Consumers playing the game online or in the app were challenged to hack the bank account of Watch Dogs’ virtual villain, prompting the real life ATM to spurt out cash. The stunt was one of four monthly challenges consumers can participate in for the chance to win Playstations, EB Games gift cards and other prizes, and to trigger real world actions like the ATM liberation.
The consumers who are the most successful at the four challenges will be invited to the game’s launch party in Toronto.
In a release, Lucille Bousquet, marketing director for Ubisoft Canada, said Watch Dogs Live is meant to get consumers to interact with the game, drawing anticipation from fans and enticing consumers who haven’t heard of the game to check it out prior to its release.
“It’s also an innovative and engaging way to invite new players to experience Watch Dogs for the first time,” she said.
Publicis Montreal vice president and creative director Nicolas Massey said the agency aimed to tie its promo activities to the game’s storyline, which focuses on hacking. He said the team that created the app and orchestrated the stunts were inspired by famous hackers like Anonymous, but also by innovative marketing stunts like the “add drama” button TNT placed in public places around Belgium last year, prompting real life action scenes played by actors to descend on the space.
Massey explained orchestrating the stunt required logistic planning like extra security and required Ubisoft to be willing to take some risk. He said he was impressed that Ubisoft Canada was willing to gamble on this kind of marketing initiative. “Ubisoft is one of the clients that has the most balls and the most courage,” he said. “They want to innovate. They’re doing it in their games and they want to innovate in marketing.”
“It’s a different ball game with this client, which is very motivating for young creatives.”
Since its release three weeks ago, the Watch Dogs Live app has been downloaded more than 27,000 times, making it one of the top 30 free apps in the Canadian Apple App Store. The app is exclusive to Canada and part of an ongoing campaign aimed at building anticipation for the game’s release.
The campaign also includes mobile and online banner ads and social media initiatives. Massey said elements from the stunts will later be incorporated into a TV campaign, with media by Zenith Optimedia. He said it’s too early to comment on the planned spots, but promised they will be very different from the typical 30-second television ad.