Gorgon box

Campbell-Ewald's first viral campaign (accidentally), ARG, and more than likely its first functioning Code Cipher.

Concept. Design. Direction. Production




Code Cracking in Progress

Home Screen

Video Still

Trailer Sequence

Campbell-Ewald pitched the Navy to develop a simulation/video-game to help sell some of the more mundane features, and help position the Navy with gamers. The launch of the campaign was broken into a split pre-launch phase. The first revolved around the use of the 'gorgonbox' name that was unbranded, and would be pushed at E3 and in-market-store videos. Later the branding for NTE (the name of the actual simulation) would replace the GorgonBox unbranding.

Only one problem, no one knew what GorgonBox was - besides a cool sounding name.

The only requirement of the prelaunch was solely to collect email handraisers, to push information for the game - and use the web address, trailer and accompanying 800 number. Basically, platforms missing an idea. Oh, and only two weeks to execute against.

I looked at the goal of the simulation, to intercept a downed UAV predator underwater, and begin to construct a pre-story around the simulation. Basically: WHY would other countries be looking for a UAV? I'm a bit of a history buff, and naturally I went to the naval tradition of code ciphers, their fame, their retrieval, and more importantly their awesome names: Enigma, Trident, Shark, Ultra - etc. The rest quickly fell into place.

So, I created GRGN-0010, the Naval cipher, and it's accompanying black box that was contained by the UAV. The email gathering campaign quickly turned into an opt-in for a minimal site, that allowed users to send encrypted messages and decrypt them. (trivia fun: I started with 0001, and each improved version of the flash cipher before launch was given a new number)

I didn't want to create a substitution cipher (basically just changing letters for a differnt letter - the kind of thing you'd create in grade school). I wanted to create a real code cipher. I used the parity of the 9-letter-length of 'GORGONBOX' with a 3x3 box, and then looked at how Enigma was created: 5 wheels that would be scrambled by an accompanying key - a date book, that would be virtually unbreakable. I combined this with the Swedish Naval Cipher, and the result was GRGN-001.

The Cipher:
The cipher checks the date, and grabs a generated number key (random in length) that I generated randomly at publish time, and re-orders the wheels. It then runs through the message, and finds the letter on the first wheel, finds it on the next wheel, and moves a given number (from the key) from the corresponding letter of the wheel. This continues until the 9th wheel. Importantly, the key is a different length, and a prime number, so that when subsequent letters are put in, they will get different results.
To decrypt, a user must have the complete message, and the date it was sent to descramble.

The Font:
We partnered with Capacity, a motion graphics firm, friend and avid gamer to develop a trailer and accompanying logotype. We created a pixel-based font system, that I then fleshed out the rest of the fonts, and matched the number to each of the 9 primary boxes. The fonts are recreated as Flash arrays of numbers that determine opacity of the resulting pixels. When the system runs the encryption, you are seeing REAL results, and the fonts are generated dynamically as a result.

The ARG:
I'm an avid gamer, and this is targeted at gamers. One thing I know gamers are trained to do is to look for tiny clues and patterns of things automatically. I built something into the design of the site: the little round nubs around the 3x3 grid. If you click on each box, the nub rotates to the next side. Once you match all angles up, the 800 number is revealed on screen. If you were to call, a voice reads out a string of letters and a date. Descramble both, and it reveals the first line of the prequel story events.

If you were to click on a tiny '?' beneath the dash in the cipher, THEN input the phrase, you're taken to a piece of concept art. Come back the next day, and decipher the next line to get the next line, story and art. All the pieces add up-real-time wise to the events AND launch of the actual game.

Everyone thought I was crazy to push this, NO ONE would ever find it, and really just a TON of extra work. However, within the first couple of days, the URL was seeded. People thought this might be the prelaunch campaign for either the next Nintendo or Sony console. And for fun: people on a series of forums began playing a fake ARG, claiming to be the president and principle designer of Nintendo.

The site was so wildly successful in every metric, that it ended up eclipsing the game itself, and who knows, there may be a sequel...