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Three Mountain climbs with game

August 31, 2001

BY LEWIS LAZARE SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST

The movie faded fast, but everyone had fun with the Internet game the Three Mountain Group set up for director Steven Spielberg's summer film "A.I.: Artificial Intelligence."

USA Today said Web fans were "buzzing about the campaign," while the New York Times said "the 'A.I.' game would be fascinating even if the movie didn't exist."

Who knew it would turn out that way last winter when Microsoft tapped Three Mountain, a Chicago-based design and consulting company, to execute an idea the software giant sold to "A.I." distributor Warner Bros?

The plan was to create an elaborate interactive online game in total secrecy. The game would involve numerous interconnected Web sites and would heighten interest in and serve as a marketing tool for the Spielberg movie about a robot child and his relationship with a human family.

According to Three Mountain vice president and director of marketing Doug Horlick, the process of creating the game began with a "mound of fiction." The hundreds of pages of fiction came from a writer Microsoft hired to chart out in prose the story line the game would pursue and how it would all play out through a maze of Web sites.

From the beginning, Horlick said, Three Mountain designers conceived of the Web game as appealing specifically to an Internet-savvy universe of Gen Xers who weren't necessarily the core audience for a movie that seemed a better fit with older adults.

The challenging game Three Mountain constructed involved no fewer than 30 Web sites. Players had to successfully unravel hidden riddles, deal with clues from manipulated photos, solve anagrams and, in one instance, grapple with a quote from Chaucer, before they could move on from one site to the next.

"The whole thing was designed to look like a virtual world," said Horlick. The game's complexity and sophistication prompted a number of online discussion groups that hard-core players regularly visited to help each other work their way through the maze of Web sites.

The game went live March 8, and by the time the movie premiered in late June, more than a million unique users had sampled the game, according to Horlick. While the game was popular in its own right, it also served to whet the appetite for a movie that did not prove one of the summer's big hits.

Research revealed that 68 percent of those surveyed said they were more likely to see the movie after having played the online game. Another 13 percent said the game was the sole reason they were going to see the movie.

But the game could only help the movie so much. With mostly tepid reviews and little favorable word-of-mouth in the mass marketplace, "A.I." grossed about $30 million its first weekend in release and then quickly dropped off from there.

"Who knows?" said Horlick. "The numbers might have been more disappointing without the game."

The "A.I" game was among the most high-profile projects to date for a young Chicago company initially set up three years ago by refugees from the banking business. Before launching Three Mountain, CEO Tom Stanley spent two decades working for several financial institutions, most recently ABN Amro.

Both Three Mountain COO Greg Callegari and Horlick had worked with Stanley at ABN Amro before leaving to help establish the new company. Three Mountain's director of design services, Dan Tremonti, came to the fledgling company after stints at several graphic design firms.

Three Mountain is divided into two divisions. The media services unit works on design and Web projects for a diverse list of clients ranging from the rock group Creed to Sony and Mercedes Benz. Drawing from the principals' previous banking experience, a consulting division provides restructuring strategies for financial companies.

On the surface, it's an odd mix of services. But Horlick said the mix works because it uses the talents of all the Three Mountain partners.

E-mail: llazare@suntimes.com

Kmart begins BlueLight spots

Imagine a hip-swinging, jumping and jiving Blue Light come to life, and you'll have a good idea of the central image in a new Kmart ad campaign from Dan Coleman Advertising/Detroit to spotlight the chain's everyday value-pricing strategy.

In the spots, inspired by Motown sounds, animated BlueLight figures are seen dancing around a Kmart store to the tune "Get Down Tonight" and shining their blue beacons on all kinds of products. As soon as the the beam touches a product, it instantly becomes a great value.

With the launch of the television campaign and the introduction of the BlueLight animated character, Kmart now has an instantly recognizable icon that can be used to build the Kmart brand.

The 30- and 15-second spots began airing nationally this week on network and cable channels. Radio and print executions will follow at an unspecified later date.

The reintroduced Blue Light pricing strategy doesn't appear to be going away again any time soon. Since April, the discount chain has marked down prices on more than 30,000 items.

Jeans maker in Turkey launches ad effort in U.S.

Let's talk Turkey. It happens to be the country where Mavi jeans have been manufactured since 1991.

A decade later, Mavi (which means "blue" in Turkish) is looking to make inroads in the United States, where there certainly is no shortage of jeans brands vying for attention.

But Mavi jeans company founder and president Ersin Akarlilar is nothing if not aggressive, and he is turning to television (an infrequent move in the fashion industry) to make Americans more familiar with the Mavi brand. Launched this month, the television campaign from DavidSiriex.com/New York is focused on the concept of finding the perfect fit.

The new Mavi commercial takes place in a giant changing room, where stacks of jeans are piled high against one wall. As a young man and woman jump off their scooters and head into the room, its name is transformed from changing room to fitting room to emphasize that the Mavi brand is known for its fit.

Supporting the television campaign is a Web site contest at www.mavi.com, where visitors will be asked to guess how many pairs of jeans are featured in the commercial.

The Mavi commercial is airing on a range of channels aimed at a younger audience, including MTV, VH1, Style Channel and E!. An outdoor campaign also is slated for major markets, including Chicago, Boston, Dallas, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The jeans themselves are available at Nordstrom and Bloomingdale's, among other retailers.

August 31, 2001


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