Even when online video consumers are "leaning in" to choose video clips in ways that TV-bound remote control punchers are not, there is still a considerable amount of "lean back" to the streaming media experience. Once a viewer chooses a clip then the only interactivity involved is deciding whether to stay or bail...or maybe fast-forward to the best parts. And so finding ways to make that mode more interactive has been an ongoing theme among video marketers for years. From video hot spots to microsites that surround the full motion with polls, buttons and animated messaging, we keep trying to layer onto the century-old video viewing experience something genuinely user-controlled.
Late last week, Intel and its agencies Tribal DDB and DDB Hong Kong released an elaborate interactive video adventure on YouTube that is aimed at promoting the feature sets of the newest Intel Core processors. You are the hero in this fast-paced first-person thriller. You meet up with a striking young female agent and help her elude two badasses who are in hot pursuit. There are interactive fighting and shooting sequences as well as puzzles that need to be solved to advance the action.
There is an attempt here to blend social networking in with the interactive video. You log in via Facebook so that achievements in the game get posted and you can even pull in friends' profile pictures to put on some of the robots in the fighting scene. There are even QR codes planted in the video.
For a video with so much technical sophistication the product messaging included in the package is remarkably leaden. During the video, small banner messages during contextually relevant content pop up to suggest how the multi-tasking, turbo boost and wireless PC-to-TV display are being used in the scene. It is sort of like product placement with subtitles. It distracts from the drama and undermines the seamlessness branded entertainment should aspire to achieve. And posting achievements on Facebook? Really? Who wants to brag about passing milestones in branded entertainment? Rather than intruding on the pace and plot of the mini-thriller, we think it would have been more effective if the explicit messaging had been left until the end of the experience when it could have been offered up to the viewer in a kind of retrospective "did you notice?" format.Nevertheless, the interactive technology involved in "The Escape" does show how the video experience can be made more engaging. To be sure, they had me for those few minutes when game elements pulled me in to the experience so much more effectively than would a simple branded adventure story. But marketers need to learn themselves to lean back a little more in these experiences, entertain the view honestly and seamlessly, and then engage them in the brand's message.