Escape The Map: A Matrix-Like Storytelling Experience From… Mercedes Benz?
Yesterday I followed Roger Erik Tinch advise and tried the ‘Escape The Map‘ experience, not knowing what to expect. To my surprise, I ended up ‘waking up’ in a creepy sci-fi city, a mixture of London and Shangai, and walking in a street where everybody was faceless, toward a Mercedes Benz of course.
Following the footsteps of Arcade Fire and other Chrome Experiments, Mercedes Benz has come up with a very cool idea to expand their public. Although brief -less than three minutes- the story is elaborated with a Matrix feel and by the end of it, I wanted to stay longer in the universe.
Of course this is a campaign advertising for a car, and the whole story has been built so by the end of it, you are asked to give your personal information in order to move forward and maybe win a Mercedes.
Watch the ‘trailer’ below:
I enjoy the fact that companies are trying to find new ways, both more subtle and exciting, to transform us into active consumerist. Even though the end goal is not glorious it is at least comforting to see that they try to entertain us with fresh and new storytelling technic.
But here are two points that bugged me:
– It is a fake participatory story: at the beginning of the video you are asked to move your mouse to activate the story, and a little bit further you are asked to chose a tunnel.But whatever you do or don’t do, the story will actually move forward and go where it is supposed to take you; if you chose the ‘wrong’ tunnel, you will simply be brought back to the entrance and ask to chose again. There’s no reason for you to pick a tunnel but to create the illusion that you are part of the story.
I have seen this happened before and I tend to think that the audience isnt’ dupe by this technique. I’ll add that making someone believe that their individuality can impact a story just to let them discover afterwards that they can -and will have to- stay passive can backlash. I personally don’t care about Mercedes and I am pretty far from their average target, but I do care about engaging storytelling. One of the reason I didn’t put my email address is because I had doubt about how the story was going to move forward exactly because of the frustration I felt during the video.
– There’s no way to pause, move backward or forward: I am sure this seems like a detail, but I watched the video many times because I couldn’t pause it and there were some elements I wanted to see again, but grew annoyed of its limitation and gave up. Not allowing the viewer to navigate on the timeline is basically forcing the viewer to be passive in a very obvious way or I also think that people don’t want to be forced or feel manipulated anymore.
Take This Lollilop a short movie that asks you to “like’ it on Facebook before you watch it so you can have a personalized experience is the perfect example of how to obtain information and manipulate people to give them willingly in a seamless way. (And I’m not saying that that was the intention of the team behind it, but that’s clearly one of its consequence.) In few weeks the page got more than 10 million ‘Likes’ and it became viral.
So people do want to feel like they participate or are part of a good story, and for that they are willing to give out their personal information but there is a fine line to find so this exchange of interest is seamless and doesn’t take the neo-spectator out from the experience. Mercedes built an exciting universe but didn’t blend it well with the more down-to-earth aspect of the campaign.
Nonetheless this is becoming a very exciting time for storytellers -and for the audience- and we should see more of these experiments coming our way quickly.
If you want to try the escape the map experience for yourself (and you should), then click here. And let me know what you think of it.