If you're not a Westworld fan, it's time to crawl out from the rock you're under and follow the rest of us down the rabbit hole. While the HBO series is compelling on its own, its companion website is a great example of how an immersive digital experience can add a reality-factor to television.
For the uninitiated, Westworld is a show about a Western theme park of the same name, populated by robots who play all kinds of Western archetypes - bandits, saloon keepers, lawmen, prostitutes. (Think of it as Jurassic Park with robot cowboys instead of dinosaurs.) People pay to visit the park and act out their fantasies: gunslinging, drinking, whoring (it is HBO, after all), murdering and bounty-hunting.
HBO has woven a complex and fantastical user-experience maze with a website for the park itself and a companion site for the Westworld parent company, Delos Destination, which includes faux employee memos and detailed outlines of host storylines. If a user signs up for emails, she’ll get PR messages from the park, quelling rumors of park safety concerns and wooing her to continue planning a visit.
A user truly feels that she has the ability to sign up for a trip to the park, dig up the dirt on Delos and unravel the beautifully constructed ball of yarn that HBO has presented in truly cinematographic fashion. Though Westworld doesn't really exist, these websites augment the series’ reality-via-cinematography with reality-via-digital-experience. We can't really visit, sure, but we can experience the park online - which is where we are increasingly defining our own existence.
So what does this mean for advertising? Westworld the show leaves viewers wanting more until the next episode; the Westworld websites allow those same viewers to keep the show in the forefront of their mind and make it part of their reality. Very few clients can match HBO's marketing budget, but the idea is applicable regardless of financial boundaries: the future is not about banner ads and definitely not about print space. It is about seamlessly integrating products and services into the audience’s current existence, making it part of their day-to-day reality.
The digital space can now serve as a 24/7 conduit for product experience. It's up to us as advertisers to satiate consumers' desire for innovative content, to be more creative in our attempts to break through the noise and to help our clients - and their products - integrate with the lives of their audience members in such a way that they become a sought-after element of everyday existence.