Do you remember last year’s online driving game, The GTI Project? Perhaps you competed in our own spin-off of the game, Drivers Republic League, in which we offered the prize of a day out at Millbrook Proving Ground testing the new Mk6 GTI at its UK press launch.

You may not have realised just how innovative this campaign was for the launch of the Mk6 GTI – created by the award-winning agency Tribal DDB London it was one of the first all-digital campaigns used to launch a car. It was also a great success for Volkswagen, drawing in over 167,000 players and generating almost 280,000 links from external websites, forums and blogs.

Click above to view a short film about the GTI Project

We built our own microsite within Drivers Republic using our social community to establish rivalries, share tips and provide moral support during the many (many) hours it took to whittle our lap times down. Eventually we had a winner, DR member Darren Mitchell (aka DarrenST3), who achieved a time only a few tenths shy of the UK’s fastest gamer.

Stunt-driver Russ Swift was on hand to demonstrate how to outmanoeuvre rival shoppers into a supermarket parking space

The Webby Awards

For over 13 years, the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences has given out Webby Awards to blogs, web TV shows and other new media that has set a standard of excellence in web content. It’s the web equivalent of the Oscar or BAFTA awards.

Academy members include musicians David Bowie and Beck, Martha Stewart, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, Google Chief Internet Evangelist Vinton Cerf, Twitter founder Biz Stone, “Simpsons” creator Matt Groening, Real Networks CEO Rob Glaser and Huffington Post Founder Arianna Huffington.

While the Academy judges determine the Webby winners, we have the unique responsibility of voting for the Webby People’s Voice winners. The Webby People’s Voice honours excellence in categories including Websites, Interactive Advertising, Online Film & Video and Mobile and The GTI Project has been nominated for both its website and for the example it sets in the field of interactive advertising.

Why should you care?

Like it or not, digital marketing is an intrinsic part of the web experience, however up until recently it has been most evident in the form of banner and text advertising – you know, those annoying distractions that litter most websites and which most of us rarely ever click on. In fact around 95% of us [1] on average completely ignore website advertising, and yet billions of dollars each year (around $60 billion [2] ) are spent in the hope that you might notice them.

So, if we are to be targeted by marketing campaigns then they might as well be engaging, fun and add to our online entertainment. That’s where campaigns such as The GTI Project come in – Drivers Republic was involved rather more closely than most publisher sites and it was one of the most enjoyable campaigns we’ve run. More than 4,000 DR members took part during an 8 week period, making it our most effective reader competition by far and complimenting the interactive experience we strive to provide.

Make your vote count

Simply put we’d like to see more car makers spending their advertising budgets on campaigns that we find fun – and the more clearly we communicate this message the more chance we stand of persuading them to treat us intelligently rather than clubbing us into submission with an endless barrage of banner ads.

Campaigns which are fun, have been proven to engage users far better than other forms of marketing, enhance our respect for the promoting brand and encourage us to buy a product or service [2] – which makes you wonder why there aren’t more like this…

For an enthusiast-driven product such as the Golf GTI the holy grail for a campaign such as this is winning the share of conversation, and you’d have to agree that it did just that.

The GTI Project is nominated in two categories; Best Automotive Website and Best use of a Game or Application in Interactive Advertising. It’s up against some talented rivals including BMW’s Z4 Augmented Reality game, the Porsche Panamera Website and a whole host of Toyota Prius websites, so this is your chance to make a difference. Voting is open until April 29th.

If you missed out on playing the game, then you can still try your hand over at the official microsite – but beware, it can be addictive…

You can still play The GTI Project game although the official competition is now closed - click to enter

[1] Source: ZenithOptimedia
[2] Source: Survey of 2500 internet users performed by Drivers Republic