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Sea Hero Quest

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Deutsche Telekom’s fundamental belief is that “Life is for sharing.” That means helping people all around the world share events, experiences and the moments that matter. 

But what happens if we lose the ability to remember those special moments? Dementia is the single biggest threat to a shared life. It not only restricts or reduces the ability to access existing memories but it also disrupts the formation of new memories often leaving those affected isolated and disorientated.  

It is also the next global health crisis; currently affecting 47.5m people worldwide and by 2050, it will affect 135m worldwide, according to The Global Impact of Dementia (2013–2050) report.  

However, despite the size of the problem, for every six research scientists looking into cancer there is just one researching dementia. Right now, scientists have no understanding of where dementia comes from, how to stop it, or even how to detect its earliest signs.   

Traditional dementia research is still limited by access to participants. Even the biggest studies can attract only a couple of hundred participants, leading to an incomplete understanding of how the brain works.  

What they need is data at scale. Data that will help them understand more about this condition and help develop benchmarks that will help detect it much earlier.  

Deutsche Telekom had the power and the scale to give dementia research a radical shake up, harnessing the power of its network to do good.  


An average of three billion hours a week is now spent playing games, increasingly on mobile platforms. Navigation skills and orientation are a key element of many mobile game formats.  

By contrast, many people living with dementia find that an early symptom is the loss of spatial awareness. As the disease develops they lose the ability to navigate their way through even well-known places and environments.  

This contrast inspired MediaCom's solution: as a mobile network provider, Deutsche Telekom created a game based on navigation skills.  

The ambition was simple yet revolutionary: to seamlessly integrate science into gaming, so that helping researchers fight dementia would become something addictive and entertaining.  

It brought thousands of new participants into the research process. All they had to do was volunteer their time and data.  

The campaign had two key audiences: Emotional Philanthropists, who look for ways to get involved in the issues they care about. In order to get them to participate it had to demonstrate that even a small contribution of time could make a real impact on research into dementia. The second audience were Casual Gamers, those looking for entertainment, something they can play for two minutes while waiting for the train. To get them involved the agency had to create a great mobile game. 

The mobile game challenged and recorded navigational skills of players around the world. Anonymous data from all the players was used to create the world’s first benchmark for spatial navigation and made available to scientists at respected research institutions. 

To make the mobile game relevant, MediaCom developed a simple but powerful tale of a son on a quest to recover his father’s sea exploring memories, a metaphor for what people would be doing by playing this game. 

Sea Hero Quest would let everyone play a part in the fight against dementia. 


Making Sea Hero Quest a reality has been a team effort. Central to the success, however, has been the need to drive downloads – one of the toughest tasks in the media handbook. 

The agency launched the game in 16 languages, promoting the game via a perfect blend of international and local media partners. 

It had two key principles: a heavy skew to mobile to ensure consumers were always one click from download, and an emphasis on social, allowing it to tell the story behind the game. 

Internationally, it worked closely with PewDiePie, an iconic gamer with more than 43 million followers on YouTube and 7 million on Facebook, to create content – a strategy replicated in many markets using local influencers. 

It appealed to Emotional Philanthropists via an animated film telling the story of an ageing explorer who slowly loses his memories of past sea voyages to dementia. The animation was seeded across the mobile landscape, reaching the targets via in-apps and games platforms. 

In multiple markets, the agency accessed forgotten password pages and page not found messages, a unique environment to highlight the impact of a lost memory. 

It also created a mini-game of Sea Hero Quest, giving consumers the chance to road-test, which linked directly to app-stores. 

Local innovations included:  
 Giving 100mb of free data to anyone to enable free downloading of Sea Hero Quest in Slovakia  
 Partnering with Stern magazine in Germany for six issues promoting across all media with celebrity support (e.g. Klitschko), raising awareness of the disease and highlighting the need for data.  


In one day, the game delivered 108,000 downloads. In two weeks it hit 1 million. Player ratings averaged 4.8 (out of five) with more than 51,000 Five Star ratings at the Google Play Store. 

The story was picked up by 1,400 media outlets globally. Total media value is estimated at more than €18.5m ($20.7m) 

The game has entered the top 10 in over 50 markets and was featured as “Top New Game” globally on Google Play. On launch day it was the top trending search on the App Store. 

Three-and-a-half weeks in and the game had been played for a total of 24 years, with each two-minutes of gameplay equal to five hours of traditional research.  

That means it provided data that would have taken more than 3,600 years previously. 

The largest previous study into dementia involved 599 participants. Sea Hero Quest has already encouraged more than 1.4 million people to participate.  

Scientists are preparing to analyse the data and create the first-ever global benchmark for dementia. 

Brands “doing good” isn’t new – but, brands doing good on this scale and with this level of commitment is. This campaign turned Deutsche Telekom’s belief that “Life is for sharing.” into a force for good.

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Deutsche Telekom
May - May 2016
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