Reveries Magazine
THU OCT 21 04
Cool News of the Day
Across The Squipiverse. "Everyone knows it's marketing, but you're entering this community and meeting these people and getting to submit your own stuff," says Ave Hutcheson, 17 of Needham, Massachusetts, about "a constellation of 14 websites" set up by Miramax to promote a book for teens, reports Lynn Harris in The New York Times. The book is called "Be More Chill," by Ned Vizzini, 23, and the website constellation, anchored at http://www.iwanttobecool.org/, is devoted to the book's central plot device -- "a tiny ingestible supercomputer that gives you social advice on the spot" -- otherwise known as "The Squip." Among the 14 sites, for example, is http://www.squipnews.com/, offering "breaking stories" about Squips, and http://www.celebritysquip.com/, outing stars who use Squips.

Somewhat like the legendary online world created to lend authenticity to mockumentary, The Blair Witch Project, the "Squipiverse" is designed to immerse its followers in its own reality. Ned Vizzini and a web-designer friend named Adam Collett, call the approach "interactive contextual advertising." Whoah. But they say the idea is engage people, not dupe them. So, when readers send in emails suggesting they believe "The Squip" is for real, Ned and Adam let them know it isn't. "When we reply, we don't tell people it's not real in a 'Ha ha, we fooled you kind of way.' We say, 'It's not real, and we're sure you don't need a Squip anyway, but we'd love for you to be a part of this' ... Then it's like, 'Oooh, now I'm on the inside,' That's what gets people interested: flipping from outsider to insider."

So, in a funny kind of way, The Squipiverse delivers "precisely what its fictional product claims to." At least one devotee, 14-year-old Brian Heim of Dudley, North Carolina think so: "I've kind of learned that cool is whatever you make cool to be," he says. Miramax reportedly spent about $13,500 to build the Squipiverse, and Ned and Adam say they've gotten some 2,000 e-mails since the 14 sites launched in June (the various Squip sites have been promoted mostly via links and banner ads). The two guys "send fans Squip stickers and T-Shirts, and invite them to post on the squip discussion board or add content to Squip sites." The promotion has been so successful that Ned and Adam have started their own "interactive contextual advertising" agency, called The Brain Bridge, http://www.thebrainbridge.com/. And they already have their next project in the works -- "promoting a book about the Triangle Shirtwaist fire that will immerse web visitors in 1911 New York."

Tim Manners, editor




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