24 June 2008

The Cost of Goods

Over the past few years we have seen everything around us go up in price.

This continues to be the case, from our basic office supplies and contractor rates to our suppliers rates. A number of months ago, we also had a 75% increase in our rent.

Please don't mistake this as just being whiny - there is no complaint here, just a realization. We need to adapt.

Businesses must adapt to change, much the same way coyotes have learned to adapt to their new urban territories. Many species have died off or have been moved away from their natural habitat because of human development and a changing environment - not the coyote, it has learned to roll with the punches, change with the changes and create a new life in a new environment.

Business leaders can learn a lot from the way a coyote conducts his business.

Right from the beginning, our plan was to serve the many companies that could not afford the big ad agencies rates. No compromise in quality or talent meant finding other ways to deliver high quality work without the high prices. One way this was achieved was through the use of industrial office space vs. the traditional and trendy beltline district. Another way to reduce these costs has been the absence of account executives - at our shop you deal directly with the people that make things happen.

Our business is growing and in order to keep up with the demand for our services, we need to adapt. Over the next 60 days we will have to find more space and hire 2 or 3 more people, it's very exciting. In order to do this, we will have to raise our rates, we will still be well below the industry average. For some of our clients, an increase may be too much, and we are at risk of losing these customers. On the other side of things, we have a handful of customers that don't even know what our rates are, nor do they care - the end price is what matters and how we get there is of no consequence.

What we do have going for us are results. And, results are powerful... when you can demonstrate results, the costs typically don't matter. Luckily, we are in the business of delivering results.

It's been 5 years since we had our last price increase, and with the end of our fiscal year we will say goodbye to the old prices and hello to the new.

14 June 2008

ARGH! Update on Game I

Well, our ARG is still picking up momentum and we have several hundred people from all over the world taking part which is really exciting.

We have sent out three missions now - the third was a fun one! We were criticized for making the puzzles too easy on the first two missions, which we had to in order for us to get as many people playing as we could. Our plan was that once we got rolling, we would escalate the challenges and only the dedicated (and smartest) would stick it through to the end.

Our third puzzle included asking people to find a lost agent and make friends with him (we hid him on facebook - an easy find) but, we through in a twist... the agent sent an encrypted message back to the players... which took the entire community about 3 days to figure out (many agents worked together, which was really cool to watch play out). The people that play these ARG's are very cooperative and smart. We used an easy grid type code which we thought would take a few hours to crack, but the players were really over thinking it... it was fun.

So, in one of the forums they have found some cached pages from the start up blog and have figured out what type of company it is behind it all. I hope it doesn't deter people from playing the game, because it's gonna be a lot of fun. I mean, what the hell? It's a free game, it's fun, and there will be prizes at the end.

What's really been interesting is seeing other people build web sites, post blogs, post vlogs and chat about something we've created. It's like creating a reality show, and even though I despise reality shows on TV, I can't stop my self from watching this one play out.

We've completed the next 3 weeks missions - they are tough - the creative is top notch and compelling. So far, the execution has been a bit glitchy with the second mission going out a day or two late, and the third mission being sent out accidentally a day early by the server - would not have been a problem had we posted all our files, but we are on a time-release system. Players are very smart and will find things if they are posted before they are meant to be found.

So, stay tuned for more updates.

08 June 2008


So, we launched an ARG (alternate reality game) this week for one of our clients. If you are looking for a project that will consume your every waking moment, look no further than an ARG.

The basics of an ARG are simple... scratch that. Nothing about an ARG is simple. Simply put, it is the most complex marketing one can take on.

Here's how it works, you write a story and play it out through a series of challenges or missions online (or in real life) using the internet as the primary media to communicate objectives to players. What this entails is database work, multiple web presences, a mix of traditional media and continuous interaction with the players.

Here's what we did: Our client is launching their product in late July, and needed to create a buzz with teens before school ended. The last issue of the teen newspaper hit the streets on June 2, meaning we had to be there - but with not even a logo ready, our challenge was what do we put there that will resonate 6 to 8 weeks later when they finally open their doors for business. We pitched them the idea of a game, with the objective to find the location. This would buy us at least 8 weeks - we could issue challenges each week, with each mission solved, the player gets closer to the location and some prizes. Sounds simple enough, right?

The ARG was launched online June 2 and in just a few short days has gathered unbelievable attention from our target audience in our city and from all over the globe. Apparently, ARG's have a very dedicated following and news of this new game spread quickly.

To date, we have launched two missions - the first was a simple message that required decoding and was quickly figured out by some players in under a minute. When we were developing the first mission I gave up after 10 minutes and said that it was too hard... but, I'm not in the target audience then, am I? The players that got through this were treated with a video on Youtube asking them to recruit more agents.

The second mission was a photograph of the inside of an elevator, with morse code on one of the walls, players had to decipher the code then enter it as a username and password to get the next reward... a pdf of the logo - doesn't sound like much, but it will be required to solve future missions.

The client has gotten very involved in the planning of this ARG and has helped develop the story further than we could have imagined which is great. The mix of creative and story makes the ARG compelling and hard to ignore. It's important to work closely with the client on any marketing endeavour, but this type of integrated partnership will ensure that both parties are key to a successful product launch.

I can't say much about the client, other than they embraced the idea with open arms and are very excited about the project. I can see great things happening for the chaps at ****, oops, I just about said their name!

I will report on the outcome of the ARG in a later blog.