In Connecting With Consumers, I wrote about a terrifically successful viral campaign developed by the rock group Nine Inch Nails to promote the 2007 release of their concept album 'Year Zero,' which involved cryptic, inventive websites and the distribution of USB keys in concert venue bathrooms bearing tracks from the album.  A new viral action by the Canadian group Arcade Fire may not equal NIN's campaign in scope, but it certainly doesn't lack in originality, creativity, and cutting edge online technology.

To promote their new CD Suburbs, Arcade Fire created a new video set to the song "We Used to Wait" (track 13 on the CD), which one can view at http://www.thewildernessdowntown.com.  The video is coded in html5 and was developed for Google Chrome, so it can only be viewed if you have Chrome installed on your computer.  (And why not?  There are many fans of Chrome who claim it is faster and more stable than Mozilla Firefox.)  The video is individually tailored, such that the viewer is first asked to type in their childhood address; once loaded, the video depicts a young, hooded figure jogging through the early morning streets while the song is playing.  Several seconds into the song, other screens start opening up showing Google Maps-generated images from the viewer's childhood streets.  Pretty impressive. 



What's not to like about this concept?  It is an original approach to music marketing, entertaining, and engaging.  It has great spreadable potential.  Maybe seeing one's childhood neighborhood popping up in a contemporary music video won't have the same resonance if you are a young AF fan who is still living in your childhood home.  But for this aging music fan, it's kind of nice to go back to one's old neighborhood--which, I am afraid has all but faded from memory--especially without having to board a plane to do so.  And looking at that image of my childhood home back in the not-quite-suburban Baltimore neighborhood where I grew up, you'll get an even better idea why a virtual trip would beat a real visit any day of the week.


One other key ingredient to the AF video concept that bears pointing out.  The content of the media action has relevance to the focal point of the campaign - the new Arcade Fire CD, on which the group revisits its theme of neighborhoods that was a focus of their breakthrough debut album Funeral.  To quote from amazon.com:

The novelist Thomas Wolfe coined the famous adage 'you can't go home again.'  The members of Arcade Fire know this--because they tried.  But when memories of youth stem from suburbs constructed for convenience, not permanence, those childhood memories become that much harder to trace.

Very true.  Yet the new video makes going home again just that much easier.