Operation Unplugged plugs in with website launch

We get the goods on the seemingly ironic strategy behind launching an interactive online hub to promote awareness of technology dependence.

Is it ironic or strategic that in advance of a series promoting going gadget-less Glassbox has launched a gamified digital strategy to engage users in the most plugged-in way possible?

A little bit of both, confirms Jonas Diamond, exec producer at Smiley Guy Studios, which, along with HLP+Partners, the Bell Broadcast and New Media Fund and Parks Canada, has partnered with Travel+Escape to promote the channel’s new series, Operation Unplugged, online.

The doc-adventure series, premiering on Feb. 21 at 9 p.m., follows eight self-proclaimed technology-dependent Canadians who are taken away from their device-heavy environments on an adventure through Canada’s National Parks and historic sites.

The irony is that the psychographic the series targets is heavily plugged in, and as such, digital extensions are the best way to reach them, says Diamond.

“It seems strange that we are promoting interacting online when we’re telling people to unplug, but in fact we’re really using that as an entry point in order to start that conversation with those people who are too plugged in,” he explains.

Each week, the site will feature quizzes, weekly outdoor missions from the show’s host, Alan Bishop, and photo challenges called “Proof of Life,” in which users complete tasks outdoors and then upload video and images to the site as proof.

Completing the challenges earns users points and badges, which are used towards both smaller prizing, which will be dispersed throughout the show’s season, and the grand prize contest, called Choose Your Own Unplugged Canadian Adventure, for which a winner will be announced following the show’s finale. The smaller prizing comes from show sponsors like Via Rail, Atmosphere and Parks Canada.

The Network Dependence (ND) Tracker connects to users’ Facebook and Twitter accounts, monitoring the number of posts and tweets made to give users a pattern of their online activity over time, with the goal of challenging users to reduce it. Users can also gain points for getting friends and family to sign up for the Tracker to compare progress.

“The website is participatory and gamified, but you need to do things outside of the website in order to get points for certain things,” Diamond says. “A lot of the contests and the gamification don’t necessarily happen online, but it’s the hub for where that messaging is pushed out, because that’s where the audience is,” he adds.

Diamond says the goal is to be less heavy-handed, and more tongue-in-cheek and fun, and that the hub provides an opportunity to continue the dialogue beyond the show.

“The messages that the sponsors have – they’re leveraging the show to help get that message out, but beyond that, getting outside, unplugging – these are things that Via Rail, Parks Canada and Atmosphere are obviously reinforcing throughout the year. That’s their brand,” he says, adding, “We’re saying to use technology in moderation and use it to your advantage, but not let it overwhelm your life.”

From Playback Daily