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Gaming Media Planning and Buying Media

A city-sized mixed reality treasure hunt was impossible. Until we did it


By Lucy Basden-Smith, Managing director

April 3, 2024 | 5 min read

Marketers have to go the extra mile, virtual or otherwise, to win over gamers. Havas Play's Lucy Basden-Smith explains how the agency helped EE do just that.

An elfish cosplayer for EE Treasure Hunt

And breathe...

Many in this industry – both agency and client-side – will know this sensation all too well. It’s a feeling of elation, excitement and eager anticipation, and yes, stress, anxiety and high intensity, all boiled together in the cauldron of exhilaration you get when hard work is pulled off with impact. When you’ve delivered brilliantly entertaining work that has made the impossible, possible.

That’s exactly what we felt when we turned Leeds into a huge mixed-reality experience to kick off a nationwide treasure hunt for EE.

Last year EE underwent one of the biggest brand relaunches telco and perhaps the industry has seen for many years. EE set the ambition to become the UK’s most personal customer-focused brand all centered around four key focus areas: ‘game,’ ‘home,’ ‘learn,’ and ‘work’.

And first up, following the announcement of ‘new EE,’ was ‘game.’

Talk about raising the stakes.

This presented a challenge: could we come up with an idea that captures the imagination of gamers enough to show them that EE Game is the ultimate destination for gamers on any network while also driving them to EE’s new Game Store?

Gamers are discerning people not easily fooled by inauthentic marketing ploys and stunts. We needed to create something that would help EE in its ambition to become the UK’s number one destination for gaming. It simply needed to be authentically entertaining, and relevant and demonstrate that EE means business when it comes to gaming.

Yet, with an abundance of channels, content, and on and offline ways to enjoy yourself, all competing for your attention, being entertaining in marketing has never been tougher to cut through. Good ideas crash, and once-thought poor ideas excel due to the fast-paced change of culture.

Our response was a nationwide mixed reality treasure hunt, EE Game Day, activating across 15 UK locations, brimming with the most passionate players and tapping into the connected social-gaming community. An experience all engineered to ramp up brand affinity for EE’s new one-stop gaming shop: the EE Game Store. I’m proud of our ambition. But my word, did we leave ourselves with a lot to do.

Making it a reality

The experience we designed to achieve this had a lot of different elements – an AR launch stunt, real-life cosplay characters, the hunt itself, a custom-built multiplayer online game (which fused many gaming genres together), live Twitch stream, IRL treasure chests, digital prize drops and gifted Twitch subs. It needed to be truly nationwide and feel like one succinct activation across multiple channels that was exciting.

This is no small feat, especially for a November outdoor experience. However, Game Day had to fall after ‘new EE’ launched in October and to maximize results for the Game Store we needed to harness the power of events like Black Friday. We needed to make absolutely sure that what we were planning would make gamers want to leave their chairs come rain or shine – quite literally.

Despite the challenges, the interest and engagement around Game Day exceeded all our expectations. 95,000 gamers took part in the hunt alone, and we saw a significant uplift in visitors to the EE Game Store during the crucial three-day promotion period. And most importantly of all, we drove a significant uplift in gaming category equity and consideration for EE.

As we look forward if we do more such work, I’d like to explore bringing in some of EE’s amazing partners like GX, BAFTA and the Home Nations Football Associations. We used elements of these in 2023, but if we were to do it again, we would look to go deeper on talent and assets across these partnerships to both promote the day and supercharge the experience.

Going beyond for clients isn’t easy, but often these are the most rewarding moments. For such a seismic moment for our client, if there was ever a moment to go beyond and entertain, this had to be it; a moment to raise the stakes in entertainment.

This ran as part of The Drum’s Entertainment Focus.

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