The Alternate Reality Game promoting the Audi A3 has concluded with the mystery solved at a party in Santa Monica. Followers of the game, called "The Art of the Heist," learned that the architect of the trials undergone by protagonists Nisha Roberts and Ian Yarborough was the business partner of video game designer Virgil Tatum. The concluding party was staged as a release celebration for one of Tatum's games, based upon Roberts' efforts.
The A3 campaign is one of a growing number of ARGs intended to promote products, including Microsoft's OurColony and ILoveBees ARGs for the Xbox 360 and Halo 2
respectively, and the genre is considered somewhat allied to video gaming in its electronic nature and puzzle-based gameplay. A more in-depth look at the ARG phenomenon can be seen in the recent Gamasutra article
'The Rise of ARGs' by Adrian Hon.
The ARG campaign was created by advertising firm McKinney+Silver, who have long worked with Audi on more traditional campaigns. The story, begun on April 1st, followed a "stolen" Audi A3, which was spotted across the country at both scripted and unscripted events. The advertising campaign was itself advertised in TV commercials, banner ads, and print ads, and grew to inspire unofficial promotion in the form of "Art of the Heist" fansites.
The campaign was a success by all accounts, with peaks of over 200,000 people hitting the campaign's website in a single day. "The power of this program comes from our deep understanding of the A3 target audience," said Audi director of marketing Stephen Berkov. "And creating a thriller on the internet involving our new A3 engages our target customer in the Audi brand and our Never Follow philosophy."