Bike Hero-gate

21 November 2008

A lot of the content on Infovore is these days is in my links; I try to make sure that I’m not just chucking out URLs, but at least providing some kind of commentary or annotation on them.

You might have seen a Youtube video entitled “Bike Hero” in my links yesterday. I believe I said that “there is nowhere that this is anything less than awesome”.

Unfortunately, I’m going to have to retract that statement, because there is one way it could be somewhat less than awesome. And that’s if it isn’t quite what it purports to be.

Bike Hero, it turns out, is a “viral” ad for Guitar Hero World Tour, filmed by an advertising agency.

I’m disappointed not because it’s fake, but because they felt the need to disguise it as a real piece of footage. Derek Powazek puts it nicely:

Longer answer: It’s not that it’s a commercial, it’s that it’s a hidden commercial. It’s not the art, it’s the ruse.

Why don’t marketers and advertisers understand that, sometimes, the target audience for this kind of thing will like it just as much if it’s honest about being advertising? It’s a lovely piece of footage, and it ties into the garage-band, DIY ethos well; it’s a good fit for the Guitar Hero brand. As it is, I’m disappointed because I now know this wasn’t the product of hard-working fans, wanting to promote a product they love; it was the product of a lot of time/effort from people with money to spend on time/effort.

My other disappointment comes from another thing it pretends to be: it’s not one take. The CG staff that Gamecyte highlights were responsible for compositing the LED-handdlebar rig, and might well also have been involved in stitching together multiple takes. One of the things that had value in this ad was that it was real – why else would the cyclist turn his camera to the window he drove by other than to prove this isn’t some kind of fakery?

In the MTV Multiplayer blogpost linked above, Brad Jakeman, Activision’s Chief Creative Officer comments:

“This was always created and put out there to engage the creativity of our gamers. It didn’t take people very long, as we expected it to, for them to unlock the first of the codes, if you like… We wanted people to first figure out that it was something in the marketing realm and then dig in and have more of the conversation that we’re having about how it was done, have people figure out where all the cutting points were, where there was potentially CGI, and engage with that. It’s not meant to be deceptive. It’s meant to be fun.”

And what about people who aren’t “your gamers”? The point of viral videos is that they become viral; they have a life outside their initial target. Will that secondary audience be as inquisitive as the gamers you describe – and, to be honest, will even all those gamers engage in the manner you describe? I’d linked the thing up before I considered it might be marketing material. I enjoyed the video, and I assumed this was a product of effort rather than trickery simply because I’m not as cynical as Activision would like; if there’s one thing the Internet has taught me, it’s that people have a lot of reserves of creativity within them. Why assume that putting out trickery is OK just because you believe that your audience assume everything is trickery?

Sorry if I misled you. It’s still a great video, but it’s an advert, not a fan-made video, and you should probably know that going into it.

2 comments on this entry to date.

Similar posts to this one

My links and notes for this day