All Good Things . . .

Dodge Journey EastWhat started out as being a unique advertising campaign that had those of who love a good road trip and scavenger hunt abuzz with excitement has somehow turned into a giant bitch session with name calling, accusations of cheating, and a budding PR problem for Dodge.

The tide turned within hours of the second Journey being found in Oklahoma by a family who lives in a nearby city.  The husband/father reportedly works in law enforcement and rumors began circulating that he had gotten inside information from the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, which was used for security during the shooting of the commercial.  One subscriber to the Dodge YouTube channel labeled it the “Great Midwest Cheat.”  The same subscriber has been calling for a response from not only Dodge, but also the advertising agency for the campaign, which he identifies as Wieden+Kennedy in Portland.   As an interesting footnote, that same subscriber uncovered clues for the Midwest hunt and apparently offered them for sale.  Unbelievable!

At the same time, folks on the contest’s YouTube discussion board started raising questions about what is being called the “misleading clue” — a message that Dodge sent out to e-mail subscribers during the Midwest search with a picture clue that implied the Journey was somewhere close by the location shown in the photo.  In actuality, the site was about 45 miles away in the opposite direction.

While the cheating and misleading allegations began swirling on both the channel subscriber board and the site’s general discussion board, participants also started to discuss the search for the East Coast Journey this coming weekend.  Excitement started to build as people began sharing clues.  I even posted a clue I had just discovered and referenced this blog.  That day, the number of hits to The Off Ramp increased 350 percent.  While I enjoyed the sudden spurt and participating on the board to share what I had found, I decided not to post anymore, because I didn’t have time to keep up with monitoring and I wanted to start investigating another clue.

Meanwhile, another blogger, Steven Barley, was referenced in post after post on the discussion board.  I admit it – I was jealous.  Why was he getting all the attention when my blog revealed the same information?  Last night around 7:30, however, Barley posted on the discussion board that he thought he had discovered the final location of the Journey.  That’s when things really turned ugly.  The same discussion board that had been exchanging clues and sending people to Barley’s blog, became a combat zone.  These are some of the sample postings (shown as written):

  • “People are diluting the integrity of the game and are so ignorant about it!”
  • “What a bunch of a******s! I was really looking forward to a real adventure with some hope at the end . . . that’s gone due to inconsiderate losers who can’t play the game the right way and do their own research!”
  • “Steven ruins the planned road trip for me and mine for no other reason then to show how “smart” he is . . . no more dodge sweepstakes for me!! very disappointed in that whole journey search. and the outcome of the OK car find!!! “
  • “This is bullcrap i took off work to look and someone had to f&^%$& show everyone the location dodge should cancel the contest”
  • “calling on dodge to change the location of the third Journey”
  •  “I feel a Dodge boycott coming on if things aren’t corrected”

I happened to be reading the discussion forum when Barley posted the link to his “final location.”  He reportedly removed it within a half hour of the board spilling over with comments like above; however, as one forum member pointed out, the remnants of the post remained in the comments section.  The intensity of the comments seemed to die down a bit after his post was no longer available for the world to see.   I actually breathed a sigh of relief that I had stopped posting my blog clues on the discussion board or else I could be under attack, as well (of course, I would never have been able to isolate a final location).  I teach and write about public relations; I don’t want to be in the middle of a crisis myself.  Still, there are a few things bothering me:

Why are all these people upset about the availability of clues?  This is a game.  If you don’t want to know the clues so you can figure them out yourself, don’t read the blogs or go on the discussion boards.  Simple!  There are millions of us across the country who will not be able to physically search for the Journey, so this is our way of participating.  My joy in this contest has been recognizing places I had been before or knew about.  I write about road trips and roadside attractions – that’s what this blog is all about.

Perhaps people are upset because Barley’s blog apparently was set up specifically to uncover site clues.  So what?  It’s his prerogative.  They’re obviously upset that he has tried to pinpoint the final location.  However, even if you have that information, the areas where the Journeys have been hidden so far are vast and there are many places to look.  As the commercial says, “You won’t find any of them online, but it might help you figure out where they might be.”  Some, like this person who wrote on the Dodge discussion board, are upset at Barley because he is giving folks an unfair advantage:

“I’d have no problem if Steve were actually trying to find it . . . But he’s not. He created an unfair amount of competition for all the legitimate players because he has no actual stake in the game.”

OK, I get the competition part.  People who were not considering going on the search because they didn’t have knowledge of the area or motivation to research the clues may now participate because the search area has been narrowed, increasing the number of people involved and decreasing the chances of the self-proclaimed “legitimate players.” Still, it’s freedom of speech, folks.

In the meantime, all of this – the “Great Midwest Cheat,” the “misleading clue,” and the attempt at revealing the final location – is getting dumped in Dodge’s lap.  From what I can find, or more accurately what I can’t find, Dodge has remained quiet on all the controversies.  The company does monitor the discussion boards and posts occasionally, sometimes even referring to something that was said on the board.  It would be a good idea for the company to at least let readers know that it is aware of the controversy about Saturday’s location being revealed and perhaps include a “tease” of whether Saturday’s search will have as neatly wrapped up a conclusion as many have been led to believe.  With clues in the commercial leading searchers north, south, east and west, maybe Dodge has had a Plan B all along.


12 Responses

  1. I personally would not have had a problem with Steven posting the final location if he were actually participating in the search. However, I doubt he would have done so had he actually had any stake in the game. He may have had a slight interest in figuring out the clues and boasting about his self-worth, but he also had an interest in luring people to his blog, and hopefully at least making some money from advertising. The point here is that he created needless competition by supplying the masses with the final location, thus making any time, effort and money put into the hunt by legitimate competitors entirely moot. People weren’t upset because they wanted to figure out the clues for themselves… They were upset because the game no longer relied on any sort of skill, it only relied on any random person’s ability to read Steven’s blog. If Steven’s location is correct, Saturday will be less of a competition, and more of a 500-headed-coin toss. The Journey just doesn’t split that many ways.

  2. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts, David; I recognize your name from reading the Dodge boards. I truly do understand the competition aspect. I didn’t see Steven’s post about the final location before it was removed, so I don’t know what it actually said/showed; of course, I have heard about it. Perhaps I’m naive to think that even if the location was mentioned, it wouldn’t spoil the search (and the goal of advertising never crossed my mind). It just seems to be such a big search area (similar to people speculating about the Black Kettle site and still wandering around for hours). In addition to being naive, I may also be giving Dodge too much credit when I say that I think it planned for something like this and that’s why the clues in the next search head north, south, east and west. They could change at the last minute. In any case, as a public relations practitioner and academic, it’s been an interesting thing to watch unfold — from the “greatest campaign ever” to allegations of conspiracy. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

  3. I have been following the search online from New York, since the 1st car was found and getting more and more into the hunt. As soon as I discovered from the message boards that the east coast location was likely to be in my state based on the bridge and magic forest, I have been eager to go out and participate this coming Saturday. From my point of view, its a scavenger hunt, and regardless of all the clues that people are gathering, the car will only be somewhere the day of the contest, so nothing is for sure regardless of the initial video and unwrapping some locations. With that said, I think anyone has the right to participate in the search, whether they are going out to look for it or not, and I dont believe dodge would have created a discussion board if they didnt want people discussing clues and the contest, which brings them more media, publicity, and even hunters. When a prize is on the line, people are always competitive and that can lead to arguing and bad sportsmanship unfortunately, but I dont hold Dodge or bloggers like you responsible for people complaining about odds in what is essentially a refined lottery. You take your chances, clues in hand, and maybe you win. Whether or not you piece the clues together yourself or with someones help, its naive to think your the only one putting together the full picture in a contest inviting whole regions of the country to join the search. At the end of the day, this is a marketing campaign with a large incentive for more publicity. If that leads you to ranting on message boards because your bitter about someone getting YOUR grandprize in a nationwide contest, then unfortunately you have already lost. Not to be corny, but it really is about the journey, not the destination. Calm down, put your tires to the road, and have some fun.

    P.S. Thanks for the blog, it has been helpful and pretty spot on. Well done.

  4. Thanks so much for stopping by! I appreciate all your comments — well said; you summed up everything better than I. Glad you enjoy the blog (one of these days I’ll get back to the slew of roadside attraction posts I have piling up!). Good luck in your search Saturday — should be VERY exciting; stop back and let us know how you do!

  5. If Steven is correct… The location is not that large and only has one entrance. We’ll see how it goes. I read someone comparing Steve’s blog to being in the live audience of a Jeopardy taping and yelling the answers out before any of the contestants had a chance to answer. I think that’s about right.

  6. Hi David — I like the analogy and understand how some people feel about the clue situation. I spent some time on Steven’s blog last night going through all the comments and was really struck how everyone seemed to be having fun sharing information, even though many of them were going on the hunt. Much different atmosphere from the Dodge site. In any case, I look forward to Saturday. Seems odd to me that Dodge would pick a place that has only one way in and out. Wish I didn’t have a commitment Saturday morning so I could watch how this plays out live. If you’re going on the search, good luck and let us know how it goes!

  7. David and theofframp – It would also seem odd for Dodge to select a location that has a $5 admission fee when the Official Rules state that no purchase is necessary.

  8. Good point — I recall reading somewhere that there was a $5 admission fee to the area being discussed and that seemed a bit off to me for a final location. I strongly believe that Dodge built in the north, south, east and west clues in the original commercial so that there would be some choices for hiding places. I’m sure they anticipated that momentum would build by the East search and planned ahead. Thanks for stopping by!

  9. The ferry is going to cost you $16 round trip as well. Come prepared. :p

  10. Oh, good one, David! Never even thought about that. Safe crossing, if you’re heading out!

  11. Tomorrow is National Park Day, So all Entrance fees are waived. It would be a clever way for Dodge to get around the no purchase necessary you referred to earlier

  12. Hi Dillon — Sorry for the late reply; your comment came in after I went to bed last night. YES! I read about that on the Dodge discussion board last night,, but didn’t have time to verify it. Also, the site that has been mentioned most likely as the location is a state park, not a national park (although it may be within the Green Mountain National Forest, I don’t know), so that could tell us something as well. Thanks for stopping by and if you’re searching today, good luck!

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