If you weren't sitting in front of your computer watching YouTube videos on March 12, you may have missed one of the most ambitious mobile promotions to date. Volvo released an augmented reality driving game for iPhone and Android devices to promote the S60 sports sedan, but it was only available for one day. Even with the limited run time, Volvo hit this one out of the park.
The S60 promotion involved a lot of moving parts. To download the S60 driving game, I needed to scan an online QR code using my iPhone camera (although I later found out that I could just search for the game on iTunes or Android Market). Launching the game was its own mini feat--I needed to match the outline of the car in the app with the picture of the S60 on YouTube's homepage, taken over by Volvo for the promotion. Lining up the two vehicles was like unlocking a secret key that started the game. Once I managed that less-than-obvious procedure, playing the game was the easy part.
A virtual driving course littered with obstacles, such as boulders, cones, and moose, was dropped into whatever background the mobile phone's camera had in its sight. Hit one of the course obstacles and the vehicle's speed was reduced. Hit them all, like I often did, and the S60 crawled toward the finish line at a snail's pace with black clouds sputtering from its exhaust. After a few tries, I was able to bring my time down from 1.06 minutes to just 46 seconds. Players could submit their scores and view the five fastest times from other players. Coming in first didn't win you anything other than bragging rights, and once I figured out that I would probably never beat the first-place record of 8 seconds, I abandoned the game.
Although the promotion is technically over and no one else can download the game, I'm still able to practice cornering the S60 in the app, albeit without the augmented reality portion of the game. This means that the track is now black rather than transparent--a trade-off that is almost an improvement. In retrospect, layering the driving course over whatever background my phone camera sees seems a little unnecessary, which begs the question: could Volvo have run the promotion without the probably very expensive augmented reality twist?
"Absolutely we could have done it without augmented reality, but it adds another dimension to gameplay," said Linda Gangeri, national advertising manager for Volvo.
In addition to creating a technically savvy brand image, it has consumers interacting with a new technology for the first time, Gangeri explained.
Volvo said it didn't have statistics on how many people downloaded the game. If you missed the promotion this time around, you'll get another chance in the future. Volvo plans on retooling the game for another promotion, although it wouldn't say when.
Volvo campaign by the numbers:
- 61 million impressions on homepage takeover on YouTube on March 12. Google promised 47 million.
- 192,319 clicks on the masthead banner ad
- Interactive banner ad had a 9.6 percent interaction rate. Industry standard is 2.1 percent interaction rate
- Site traffic was up 293 percent.