Today in Cannes, Microsoft and Chevrolet announced a pretty spiffy campaign for its electric vehicle, the Volt. Users will be able to take a virtual test drive—something we beat them to in the real world a couple months back—in Kinect Joy Ride, Microsoft's controller-free racing game. The advergame works with Microsoft's forthcoming motion-control gaming hardware, the Kinect. The slight downside is that, rather like film advertising on DVDs, you have to watch a Chevy Volt ad before you can unlock the gaming version and take it for a spin, but hey, one has to suffer for one's controller-free gaming sometimes.
Despite the fact that some people don't rate either Chevrolet or Microsoft's chances of survival too highly in this world, you can just smell the innovation in this campaign. There are a whole host of putative ideas on the table—a Microsoft Surface, which will be used at all of Chevy's promotional events, natch—to flog both car and console (although one can't help feeling that selling Kinect will be a whole lot easier than the Volt).
There will be a "mobile brand experience" which will allow people to have a free test drive of the EV simply by entering a Chevy promotional event into their calendar, voice search on Bing (Aw! Baby Bing's first word: Chevy) and some sort of tie-in with the Windows Phone 7 OS.
It's not Microsoft's first foray into advergaming by a long way: In 2006, it teamed up with Burger King to offer three XBox and XBox 360 games, Pocketbike Racer, Big Bumpin', and Sneak King. Unsurprisingly, given the success of the partnership, there are rumors that burgers will again be on the Kinect menu, later on this year.
Chevrolet Marketing's U.S. VP, Jim Campbell says the campaign is "all about bringing the excitement of the showroom to the living rooms of our customers," while Darren Huston, corporate VP of the Global Consumer and Online group at Microsoft called it a "breakthrough digital campaign we can deliver for marketers when we combine great partnerships with leading-edge software innovation."