Jay-Z’s Decoded Book Launch | Client: Jay-Z/Bing | Agency: Droga5

To launch hip hop star Jay-Z’s published memoirs, Decoded, Droga5 devised a treasure hunt to find each page in both the real world and online suing Bing Maps…

Droga5’s campaign to launch US rapper Jay-Z’s new book of memoirs, entitled Decoded, took the notion of a treasure hunt and implemented it simultaneously in both the real and the digital world.

Fans were encouraged, during the month-long duration of the campaign, to find pages of Decoded, each of which had been printed and placed in real world locations relevant to the story/text on each particular page from the book. Traditional advertising sites, such as bus shelters and billboards, were utilised in the campaign, but far more intriguing was the use of some less obvious media.

The lyrics of Jay-Z’s track Big Pimpin’ appeared on the bottom of the pool at Miami’s exclusive Delano Hotel, with the content for pages 120–121 appearing printed on beach towels around the pool. Page 40 was printed on wrappers at Black Shack, a burger joint on Lexington Avenue in New York in which Jay-Z once had a cholesterol-fuelled meeting with hip hop artist Memphis Bleek, and pages 144–145 were located on the stage curtain of the Apollo Theatre in Harlem. Meanwhile, a jukebox in a Lower East Side bar displayed pages 10–11 which deal with Jay-Z’s musical influences.

Clues to help people find these pages were released at a rate of between five to ten per day via Jay-Z’s Facebook and Twitter pages. And the best way to find a book page was to use Bing maps online via the dedicated campaign website at bing.decodejay-z.com. Once users cracked the clues that guide them to a particular street, a helpful onscreen indicator confirms whether they’re getting closer to the page they’re looking for, as they move around a location at street level. However to ‘decode’ the page, players have to find the page in its real world location and record the code printed on it which must then be entered online. Any player who locates a page online or in person is entered into a draw for a prize: the specific page they’ve located, signed by Jay-Z. Furthermore, all participants are also eligible for the grand prize: two tickets to see Jay-Z and Coldplay perform in concert in Las Vegas on New Year’s Eve.

There were over 300 pages to decode before the game finished on November 20, located via 600 real world placements.

Of course, this isn’t just a campaign for Jay-Z’s Decoded book. “Bing is a contributing client to this,” explains creative director at Droga5 Neil Heymann of the campaign’s tie-in with the Microsoft search engine.

“I’m not sure how widely it’s being promoted in the UK, but Bing has had some media push here in the US,” he continues. “We worked closely with the Microsoft engineers to really make the most of their technology, working directly with their product development team to show off features that are actually still in development.”

But why use Bing at all, is there not a risk of confusion? “The idea was always to put pages in locations that were relevant to the content,” says Heymann. “We also wanted to open the game up to people that couldn’t be there in person. Bing is the thing that allows people to engage with the campaign online.”

Heymann also explains that using Bing’s search engine rather than, say, another well-known online search engine, would help players crack clues with a minimum of difficulty. “Ultimately the clues are being put out to help fans find each page,” he says.

“However, there are some clues where Bing will give you a more direct answer than another search engine. While we were writing the clues we were constantly cross referencing information with Bing to make sure that it works but actually, in some cases, we’re using all their tools. For example, if a clue asks you to study a particular lyric of a Jay-Z track, or look up the number on a jersey in a particular video – then Bing will get you those results in a much more straightforward way than using another search engine would.” 

Agency: Droga5, New York; Creative chairman: David Droga; Creative director: Neil Heymann; Copywriters: Adam Noel, Spencer Lavallee; Art director: Jon Kubik;
Designer: Jon Donaghy; Director of photography: Paul McGeiver; Senior digital designer: Piper Darley; Head of integrated production: Sally-Ann Dale; Head of print studio: Rob Lugo; Digital strategic planner: Hashem Bajwa; User experience designer: Consuelo Ruybal; Director of polygons: Colin Lord; Photographers: Dan Welch, Xiao Li Tan, Fernando Sanchez; OOH coordinator: Yael Bloom; Head of digital operations: Mike Janensch; Location services: Mick Breitenstein.


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