January on the upside-down part of the world ushers in the annual Sydney Festival – an amazing program of over 100 events and over 1000 artists across dance, theater, music, visual arts, talks, film and more.
A bright yellow balloon is the Festival’s watermark, and it’s well-chosen – Sydney Festival is there to be shared, to be enjoyed with a bunch of friends, or tens of thousands of people in a public park. It’s art at its most playful. As such, Festival audiences have a truly warm and generous (and very loyal) feeling towards it. They love to talk about it, write about it, tweet about it and shout about it. It’s no surprise that social media sells tickets. It’s also no surprise that the newly introduced Sydney Festival gamified event guide had over 25,000 downloads. People love to play.
When considering the mobile strategy for 2012, it was clear that the Festival app could be something more than a ‘what’s on’ guide. After much brainstorming, white-boarding and paper cutting, and a visit to one of Gabe Zichermann’s Australian workshops, an interactive Treasure Hunt was born.
Festival-goers are invited to complete a series of real-time challenges, specifically designed to both personalise and (vitally) share their Festival experience. This was one of the most enjoyable parts of the process – dreaming up the right kinds of challenges that were easy enough to complete on the run, but not so easy as to make it a pushover. And of course they all had to include the personality and ‘essence‘ of the Festival.
The final list of challenges included: sharing an insider’s tip to summer in the city; taking a picture of the person next to you at one of the outdoor events; checking-in to the Festival Bar, not once but twice; creating a special Festival menu for one of its stars; uploading a photo taken with a yellow balloon and more.
As challenges are completed, badges are unlocked, a progress bar inches along, and the best entries are shared on the Festival blog or in the app itself. Completing five challenges unlocks the final in-person ‘Ultimate Challenge’ (a la The Amazing Race!), with an Ultrabook from sponsor Intel up for grabs. Midway through the Festival and everyone is thrilled at the uptake of the app and the number of people taking part in the challenges – although there’s much to consider and finesse for the 2013 edition. It has certainly proven one thing conclusively – that the audience have not only come out to play, but that they want to keep on playing.