What people are buying and participating in has pretty much nothing to do with a TV show, and to look at it as just a “viral marketing” campaign is a complete misunderstanding of what’s going on here. This is a full-on Alternate Reality Game:
“An interactive narrative that uses the real world as a platform, often involving multiple media and game elements, to tell a story that may be affected by participants’ ideas or actions.”
Notable prior forays into the ARG world have included promotions for A.I., HALO 2, and Nine Inch Nails’ latest album, Year Zero. But why stop at a campaign, when you can create a culture? In a sense, this kind of “narrative” that takes place in the “real world,” and involves various media to tell a story–which the actions of “participants” certainly do affect–is probably an effective way to think about the contemporary fate of any brand. Every brand. This just happens to be an opportunity to turn the brand itself, and its narrative, into a new form of 21st Century-compliant entertainment.