Category Archives: innovation

Return to the real world – the rise in social gaming

Keeping up with what’s going on at the SXSW conference in Texas can be tough, with a myriad of new apps, technologies and god knows what else being talked up across every blog and tech news site imaginable. But, a bit like London Fashion Week, it’s not the catwalk fashions themselves that are going to necessarily appear on the High Street, it’s the overarching themes that are most likely to translate into the mainstream.

So, clumsy fashion analogy aside, what I’m finding most interesting about the reports from SXSW is that a lot of talk seems to be focused on apps and services with a social gaming element, where users score points or are rewarded for a particular action in the ‘real world’.

While social networks like Facebook and Twitter impact on our real world behaviour to some extent, for example how we organise our social lives, seek information and view issues around privacy, in the next few years social gaming apps are set to fundamentally change the way behave and interact with the ‘real world’. And this is next generation social gaming; more than simply checking in at a venue on Foursquare.

Take Scvngr, which is the tip of a potentially enormous digital iceberg. Part social network, part game, Scvngr allows users to check in to a location, just like on Facebook Places or Foursquare, but then goes a step further as users are encouraged to take part in a series of fun, real world ‘challenges’ to earn points, such as turning a fast food joint foil wrapper into an origami bird or performing a dance routine outside a shop and filming it. These acts then earn points which translate into freebies and discounts.

The chief executive (or Chief Ninja, as he calls himself) of Scvngr reckons that over the next 10 years, developers are increasingly going to create a ‘game layer’ on top of real life society, which I guess, could blur the boundaries between computer games, and actual life (for the more confused members of society, anyway).

And, just as Facebook’s Razon Detra is “connect and share”, this new wave of apps are all about “going places”, “having fun” “exploring”, you name it. This is all incredibly positive, as it’s all about encouraging people to have fun and experience life fuller. Maybe we can call it ‘real life 2.0’. It’s certainly an interesting challenge for marketeers in finding new ways for brands to be ‘fun’, and at a push even a challenge for video game producers, who could see gamers flock away from screens to ‘real world’ activities, as everyday life becomes more like a video game.

So, whether real life will become like the film Scott Pilgrim or not, either way it will be fun finding out, and it’s nice to see the return of ‘real life’.


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So I see the old ‘flashmob’ idea has been trotted out again, this time for St Patrick’s Day at Sydney Central Station, courtesy of Tourism Ireland. It featured  the cast of Riverdance – in town at the time – spontaneously launching into one of Michael Flatley’s finest.

But as old-hat as a flashmob is, if it’s well executed and timely like this one, I must admit it’s still hugely entertaining, and has real ‘stop and stare’ value. What’s important here is talkability, and it delivers this in spades, providing it’s about the brand, of course. Here it is in it’s glory:

The real authority on flashmobs is a New York collective called Improv Everywhere. They’re a ‘prank collective’ who aim to cause scenes of “chaos” and “joy” in  public places. Of course, they’ve got the advantage of not always being tethered to a brand, but this is inspiring, creative stuff. Here’s three of my favourites.

Frozen Grand Central Station


No Pants!


The Worst Ice Skater ever

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Filed under innovation, PR stunts, Video and TV

How do you make BORING museums interesting?

How do you make museums interesting? How about by introducing late night openings, booze, screening cult films, staging debates and hosting performance art? That’s what The Art Gallery of NSW and the Australian Museum are doing with Art After Hours and the Jurassic Lounge.



Anything that makes adults reappraise the arts is a great thing.  We need more of this kind of innovation.


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What media does a 15-year-old consume (other than porn?)

I’m a bit late on this one (come on, I’ve been in Belgrade), but, along with everyone else, I loved the story that Morgan Stanley used their summer intern, a 15-year-old boy, to inform them how ‘youths’ consumed media in today’s heady times. Boldly, Morgan Stanley described the report as ‘groundbreaking’ and even went as far as presenting it to their media clients (and charging them for it, I wonder…)

While it’s too easy to take pot shots at this (how much insight can a 15 year-old give us other than how much porn he watches, for example) I think it’s a great piece of PR. For a start, using a 15-year-old to do a piece of work is two fingers up at the plethora of companies charging huge sums for this kind of thing, but it’s also a really strong piece of lateral thinking from someone at MS – I mean, why can’t a 15- year-old give us advice on these kind of issues?

Tim Dowling at the Guardian did a great follow up piece on the story, ‘testing’ the findings on his own ’14 year-old media expert’ (who insisted on anonymity). I’ve listed his comments below – along with (as if you’re interested) the habits of a 27-year-old, male, working in PR (that’s me, ok?).

Television Robson describes teenage viewing as erratic, claiming “they will watch a particular show at a certain time for a number of weeks . . . but then they may watch no television for weeks after the programme has ended.” My expert says: “People don’t go for weeks without watching telly.”

Urghhhh, I don’t ever get home from work in time for TV – though do make time for Mad Men and have a weird obsession with reality TV cop shows like Cops with Cameras, Road Wars, Traffic Cops – I could go on. Maybe this means something?

Gaming With consoles that connect to the internet, says Robson, online chatting between gamers is beginning to impact on mobile use: “One can speak for free over the console and so a teenager would be unwilling to pay to use a phone.” My consultant remains unconvinced: “I don’t know any teenagers who use their Xbox instead of a phone.”

Ha! As if I have time for gaming. But a lot of my friends still do (most of them are ‘between jobs) and they mainly play on the Wi, or Xbox 360. Though I agree with the Guardian, how many people are going to use their consoles instead of phones?

The internet My insider concurs with Robson’s assertion that “many teenagers use YouTube to watch videos” but disagrees with the idea that those videos are “mainly anime”. “It’s mainly people humiliating themselves,” he says.

I’ve got to agree with the Guardian again here, I’m obsessed with Youtube and a quick check on my last search was largely people humiliating themselves, with; “When Swans Fight Men” and “Bears Attacking People”.

Newspapers Robson insists that “No teenager that I know of regularly reads a newspaper.” My own operative has ceased cooperating by this point, but thanks to Robson I feel able to offer my own conclusions safe in the knowledge that no teens will discover them here. Today’s young persons rarely, if ever, pay for anything they can get for free. The big question then, is this: why do we care what they like?

Ok, so along with every other person in PR, I literally read every newspaper, magazine and parish leaflet out there, ON A DAILY BASIS. I fear there is such a thing as too much knowledge and I feel my brain filling up at an alarming rate.

I’m off to sell my report to a large media company now.

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Filed under Industry news, innovation, Social Networks