Westworld: The Maze Alexa Skill Wins Grand Prix at Cannes
An Alexa skill based on the HBO’s Westworld television show has won the Grand Prix in Radio and Audio at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Created by Dentsu Aegis Network’s 360i and conversation design studio, Xandra, “Westworld: The Maze” is an Amazon Alexa skill that leads users on an interactive story. The choices the players make determine what happens next, and how the story turns out.
Wild West Story
HBO’s Westworld is the story of a life-size Western-themed amusement park where realistic robot hosts interact with guests. It is not a comedy. The idea of the game was to somewhat recreate what it would be like to explore Westworld, albeit using only audio and the imagination.
Interactive marketing agency 360i in collaboration with Xandra created The Maze as a promotion for the show’s second season finale. An 11,000 line script of more than 60 storylines is read by 36 actors, including stars of the show. There are over two hours worth of gameplay, although players spent an average of 14 minutes exploring the game, according to an award entry by the game’s creators for the Shorty awards. The amount of work that went into the promotion paid off as well, with more than 500 million earned media impressions.
The Cannes Lion is just the latest of more than a dozen awards earned by the Alexa skill, including the Clio Awards and London International Awards. There were 54 Lions awarded in the Radio and Audio category. 360i won the Grand Prix, while of the three Gold Lion winners, two were for radio ad campaigns, while one was for the Broadway musical that was also a Skittles ad, and performed only on Super Bowl Sunday.
Westworld The Maze is not the first smart speaker oriented marketing campaign to win a Cannes Grand Prix award, although it appears to be the first voice app. In 2017, Burger King won the Grand Prix for the “OK, Google” ad which was designed to activate Google Home smart speakers when the commercial played on the television and tell the unsuspecting consumer about the “Whopper Burger.” That was a stunt and was so successful that it clearly justified recognition at Cannes. The Maze was different because it used the voice assistant medium as it was intended — to engage consumers in conversation.
Games, Promotion, and Smart Speakers
Games are popular on smart speakers. Though Westworld probably has the highest production values, trivia and other audio games are frequently cited as the most used skills on smart speakers, with some people willing to pay small fees to play or extend the experience of Jeopardy! and similar games. Whether very high-end audio games will continue to be built without the impetus and money of a major corporate promotion behind it is less clear.
Other entertainment properties have also launched Alexa skills as promotion tools. Movies Dunkirk and Jurassic World both launched Alexa skills as part of their movie launch efforts. More recently, Food Network integrated recipes and voice-overs from Rachael Ray into its Alexa skill and Goosebumps launched a skill for Kids using Amazon Free Time on Alexa. Sponge Bob and Sesame Street also have skills and Disney is promoting its read-along enhanced storytelling with Google Actions.