To launch its newest flavour, Doritos commissioned interactive specialists rehabstudio to create an immersive advergame set in London’s underworld.

With some packaged foods, if you’re not told what flavour they’re supposed to be, it can be hard to put your finger on just what it is you’re tasting.

Doritos plays on this for the launch of its new flavour – currently known only as iD3 – inviting those bold enough to try it to win £20,000 by correctly guessing the taste.

Rather than simply inviting guesses from the public, Doritos commissioned an immersive and highly personalized online advergame that’s more like an episode of Spooks than conventional fast-food marketing.

To carry out the project, lead agency Initials Marketing approached AMV/BBDO to act as digital consultancy; AMV/ BBDO in turn hired the London office of interactive practice rehabstudio to mastermind the project.

The brief for the project was to create an interactive experience that combines filmed elements with a narrative that the user helps determine through a series of ‘choose your own adventure’- style options. Players log on to the game using an individual code printed on special packets of Doritos.

Once logged in, the visitor finds himself in a seamy London underworld, where a gang of master identity thieves is engaged in a game of cat-and-mouse with the police; thrust into the centre of the action, the visitor is left with no clues on who to trust.

“The design and feel of the site was Bourne Identity meets 007, with some London grime thrown into the mix,” explains Tim Rodgers, creative director at rehabstudio. On top of this already daunting brief, the team came up with the idea of adding 3D mini-games to the experience.

It also proposed personalizing the whole experience by linking to a user’s Facebook through programming written on the Facebook Connect platform, which allows developers to create content that draws from, and links back to, a user’s Facebook profile.

“For the best iD3 experience, we ask users to log in using Facebook Connect – upon doing so, we pull the user’s personal details and images so that we can place them into the game,” says Rodgers.

“For example, we place your photograph onto ID cards in episode one; later episodes carry even more integration. We also then post information back to the user’s Facebook wall to expand the game beyond the Doritos website.”

In a further bid to help the project spread virally, rehabstudio also created ‘Konami codes’ – cheat codes – that it is seeding across blogs to help users who are frustrated by particular challenges within the advergame.

Choose your own ending

The project is split into three parts, the first two of which are live. Because players can interact with the plot and choose their actions at various points, planning the narrative was challenging – a large number of different outcomes had to be plotted out and then created.

“We created the now-famous decision trees, which were 3-x-4m printouts of the logic of the site, which we referred back to during shooting, design, and production – the site consists of a complex set of variables and choices,” explains Rodgers.

London production company Upset TV was brought in to write the scripts and shoot the video, while rehabstudio got on with building the Flash-based website and creating the interactive 3D games.

Rodgers says that one of the biggest problems with bolting a project this big together was computing power. “We’re really pushing technology to the limit – the Flash engine that we’re using for the video mapping and 3D requires [cutting-edge] hardware to run it. That’s the constant battle with digital production, as the technology is always lagging behind what the creative and production companies want to do with it – it’s our job to find a happy medium.”

With so many alternative elements and storylines, a three-part structure, a separate company creating the video, and a six-month timeframe for creating the project, ensuring that all parts of the project had the same feel and details was a challenge.

“Keeping consistency across a six-month production is fairly tough,” admits Rodgers. “It was also hard to keep ourselves and the client under control – although they were awesome, allowing us to run with the idea and really push the concept.”

In order to play the advergame, users have to enter a code from a packet of iD3-flavoured Doritos. Each pack has a unique code, which the advergame must recognize – adding an extra layer of complexity to rehabstudio’s task.

“We had to create an extensive backend system to manage the 14.2 million pack codes that can be used to access the game,” says Rodgers. Now the project is finished, Rodgers says that it’s these problems and challenges that made it enjoyable to work on.

“The entire project is an achievement,” he says. “We were working with a lot of constraints to create the site, and we’re itching to get into the next project and push the technology even further. Immersive advergames are a lot of fun – especially pulling in personalized data from Facebook to morph the storyline. We want more!”

Gangland shooting

A key part of rehabstudio’s role on the iD3 project involved “extending the game out beyond the video content and submerging the user into the game,” explains creative director Tim Rodgers. To make the experience truly immersive, all video elements (created by Upset TV) are shot from the point of view of the user as he or she is plunged without warning into the game’s complex structures of police and criminal gangs.

Enter the game

The iD3 project’s integration with Facebook means that elements such as the ID cards can feature the user’s face.

Each pack of iD3 Doritos carries a unique code.

Users of the site are thrust into a live-action gangland mystery, where it’s never clear who to trust.

Rodgers shows the decision tree that helped to track all the alternative endings of the project.


Project: iD3
Client: Doritos, via Initials Marketing and AMV/ BBDO London
Studio: rehabstudio, Upset TV