Historically, tortilla chips had only been frightening to dieters. That is, until Goodby, Silverstein & Partners decided to create the scarefest that was Hotel 626 to bring back a pair of retired Doritos flavors. This year, the agency decided to summon another pair of old flavors back from the dead with a new horror-themed follow-up, Asylum 626.
The agency once again teamed with B-Reel, along with its recently launched counterpart B-Reel films, to create a new experience to promote the Doritos Black Pepper Jack and Smoking Cheddar BBQ flavors. Part Two like its predecessor is only open from 6p.m. to 6 a.m. and was actually inspired by the original Hotel campaign, which was shot inside an abandoned asylum in Sweden. Visitors first find themselves on an operating table at the hands of a creepy doctor wielding a lobotomy saw, who helps to unlock some unpleasant memories before setting his patient loose to encounter other eerie surprises.
The webcam and social media return as key components of the sequel, but this time around Goodby and B-Reel also focused on intensifying the personalization, elevating the cinematic feel and incorporating the product itself into the actual experience.
Goodby CDs Hunter Hindman and Rick Condos and ACD Mark Sobier shared with Creativity what went into creating the new nightmare.
What did the client ask of you for this follow up to Hotel 626?
Rick Condos: Just like last year, Doritos is bringing back two flavors from the dead. Following on the success of Hotel 626, they wanted us to create an even more intense, immersive experience to celebrate the re-release of these crowd favorites. To find a way to get under our consumer's skin in even more surprising ways by pushing the limits of technology to the point where the line between digital and real world experience blurred. Oh yeah, and to scare the crap out of them.
What were you most concerned with in terms of carrying out the legacy you started with the first project? Before you started, did you already have some ideas in terms of stepping up the game?
Hunter Hindman: Sequels are tricky things. When we started to research the new 626, we found something interesting. Most movie sequels are flops. But most video game sequels are considered better than the original. So that's where we took our inspiration. Very few people would debate that Halo 2 was better than the original Halo. The Grand Theft Auto franchise gets better with each release. And a lot of the reason why is that technology allows for a deeper, more immersive experience. Graphics are better. Game play gets more intuitive. Story lines are sharper. A mythology is built upon.
So we did our homework. And we realized we needed to take this franchise to a new level. Find a deeper story. Re-think our approach to production. Use technology in as surprising ways as we did last year. In essence, we needed a new bag of tricks and a more engaging way to draw our consumers into the experience. In the end, we decided to make this year's site a lot more personal.
Not giving too much away, what are some of the new elements/sorts of experiences that you added to keep the fear level high in this next round?
Mark Sobier:We had three major concerns. How to make it look better. Play better. Be more immersive and in turn, scarier.
In terms of it looking better, we shot a whole lot more of the experience with our talented friends from B-Reel Films. There's a lot less 3-D animation this year. With the exception of one part of one scene, everything is real. That helped us evolve from a video game feel to a more cinematic one. The more cinematic the experience, the more real it feels.
We optimized game play this year by thinking of the whole piece as more of an interactive film than a game. We employed head tracking in one scene, so the player literally must move to avoid an attack. We used the webcam in new and innovative ways to actually place the player into the game play itself. We asked people to give us more access and information this year, telling them upfront that the more they gave us, the scarier the experience. We used social networking in ways that hadn't been done before. Specifically, we bring their friends into the experience and the game play itself. All of these changes began to add up to us to a more immersive, more frightening experience.
Can you tell me a little bit about how you came up with the storyline of this effort? Why an asylum this time around?
HH:When we shot Hotel 626, our location was an abandoned asylum in Sweden. During some of the night filming, you could hear some of the old patients returning to the asylum to sleep for the night. Major creepfest. So when we started to think about the next 626, we kept coming back to how creepy that location was, and decided to build a story around it.
What got us excited was the scariest part of being in an asylum, a total loss of control. Being at the whim of a doctor whose best interests aren't necessarily yours. Psychological experiments. Nightmare logic. Forced memories. The inability to determine reality from dream. This drove our thinking and allowed us to weave a story that left plenty of blanks for our consumers to fill in, and therefore led to a much deeper, engaging and immersive experience
In a funny twist of fate, the asylum was actually torn down so we had to find a whole new place to shoot. Our partners at B-reel found a crazy location in Lithuania, and we were off.
What lessons learned from doing Hotel 626 proved especially helpful on Asylum?
RC: Probably the biggest lesson for us was to make sure that we tied the whole experience to the re-release of these two popular flavors in a unique and unexpected way. This year we had the ability to affect the packaging and actually have the bag be a key to a deeper experience. So we made sure to make each bag of the re-released flavors part of the experience itself. We decided to place an AR code on the back of every bag, and a call to action to visit the site. Any player could experience about 85% of the site without the bag, but anyone with a bag with a code on it could unlock the finale and close the loop on the story. The experience up to that point was a nine. Unlock the finale, and we twisted the dial to eleven.
Was incorporating AR a risky decision, in your mind? Do you think it might play out as a deterrent in terms of people following the story until the end?
RC:To be honest, the 626 franchise has always had some built in deterrents. First off being that it is only open at night because that is the best way to experience it. Sure people found ways around this, but the experience is better that way so we decided it was an asset more than a liability.
Secondly, there is a segment of the population that doesn't have a webcam on their computer. While they can still experience the majority of the sight, it's built to be even scarier if you do have one. Again, an asset, not a liability.
And thirdly, the AR marker is just another example of Doritos always wanting to reward consumers with more and more immersive experiences for going through a little more effort. The more you give the brand in terms of information or effort, the more you get back.Overall, what were the biggest challenges--creatively and production-wise when it came to this project?
MS: The biggest challenge we faced was that we had already scared our consumers once. Their guards were going to be up this time. So we had to view every part of the production through their eyes. Furthermore, we had a compressed timeline and a limited budget. We didn't have the luxuries that come with making a scary movie or an immersive video game title. Luckily we had an amazing partner in B-reel and a wildly courageous client. None of us stopped pushing the project until literally the minute it went live. Our collaboration drove the project far further than it would have gotten had we not worked so closely together.
If you were to do again, what, if anything would you do differently?
HH: Nothing. But you will certainly see some of the lessons we learn this year affect the next release of the 626 franchise in 2010.
Looking back--Hotel 626--The Fear Begins