Pepsi has teamed up with The X-Factor, Simon Cowell’s new foray into TV singing competitions, to create Pepsi Pulse and Pepsi Sound Off, two gamified social media platforms that allow viewers to compete and communicate while watching the show. There has been some side conversations of the gamification of social TV, but this is the first time that social TV has made a splash. Although getting their start with X-Factor, according to AdAge the Pepsi platforms may be used during other televised events such as the SuperBowl to engage viewers while advertising the brand.
Pepsi Pulse, more akin to an infographic than a gamified community, draws from tweets to visualize the buzz around the X Factor and keep viewers up to date on hot topics. The screen presents a constellation of chat bubbles or hearts, and provide the text of the tweet when moused over. According to Andrea Harrison, director of Pepsi’s digital engagement, this presents more qualitative insight into fans rather than something more quantitative such as a “like” count or Twitter followers.
Pepsi Sound Off is where the game mechanics come into play. Using Gigya’s new gamification platform, Pepsi Sound Off presents a walled space for fans to “nerd-out” about X-Factor without disturbing their less savvy Facebook and Twitter connections. The content space itself is very similar to tweets, with hashtags and mentions, but is completely housed on Pepsi’s servers. Badges, or in this case “caps” are awarded for trying out the platform’s features or mentioning some of the show’s stars, and leaderboards keep track of the most influential fans. No word yet if the gamified platform will provide special access to content or mentions on the show.
Pepsi Sound Off grows from some of the ideas set out in earlier examples, but it still falls short of where a gamified TV experience could be. Harrison stated, “We have a little bit of a different goal in mind than the networks do. Networks are responsible for communicating content about the show. It’s not my job to give out official content.” This may make sense for Pepsi, but it is the wrong take for creating an immersive experience beyond the confines of the television. If you want fans to really engage with a brand, you should provide feedback and communicate directly with them through access or new content. There are still many opportunities for innovation, and maybe FOX will pick up where Pepsi left off.