Prudential's Escape Room Begins in Your Parents' Basement. Can You Get Out?

You also need to flee debt, and other obstacles

What better way to teach youths about financial planning than by gamifying it?

That's what Droga5 had in mind for bringing Prudential's stakes to the adults of tomorrow. Following its recent docu-series, "The State of US," about the financial struggles of real Americans, the agency and insurance company created the Prudential Escape Room, smack-dab in the middle of Fast Company's Innovation Festival in New York's Grand Central Station.

In this "financial wellness challenge," this space's 1,056 square feet actually walked people through the trials and tribulations of the next 30 years over a mere half-hour (in a fun way!). 

About 200 people participated in what may well have been one of the better pre-Halloween pop-ups of the season: These cryptic riddles—requiring people to dance, hack and whack-a-mole their way to retirement—are the kind that, once solved, yield only more riddles. 

That's because this escape room is a maniacally condensed, light-up version of life. (And there's no getting out alive, as the saying goes with what we imagine to be Bruce Willis's voice circa 1997.)

Witness while the fashionable feet of the as-yet-untrampled masses try dancing their way out of debt. 

It's like Dance Dance Revolution, but with loans and retirement plans!

Never mind debt; who can face the challenge of escaping their parents' basement? (Later, people were also asked to escape "the grind," which we'll probably spend the rest of our lives trying to do, among other trappings and treasures of adulthood. How bad does that basement look now?! No one will judge for embracing that crocheted throw with the abandon of a prodigal lover.) 

Next, face the "Sandwich years"—where you're sandwiched between one aging parent and one angry teenager, all under the roof you rightfully earned by daring to leave the land of your dad's lost La-Z-Boy.

It's probable that there was a lot of crying and "just being tired" in this challenge, so the only photo we got was of the televised prompt and some hip wall ornaments. 

But never mind housebound toil. Spy specs at the ready! Can you decode your employment benefits? Careful, now; contractual language tends to magically rearrange itself when it comes time to summon them for use.

Assuming you've successfully done that, maybe you get a bonus or something. Will you make it rain … or make an investment? 

No need to guess what they did. Hope there's a jet ski, at least, at the end of that rainbow. 

Some 1,376 challenges were successfully solved in the Prudential Escape Room, which required a whopping 21 carpenters for installation, and less than 21 hours to install and load. Watching people endure what awaited them may well have been the funnest game of all. 

People weren't timed, setting this escape room apart from the classic variation. But—just like life—the faster they scraped through, the younger they retired. 

It remains unclear whether one of the challenges was "Make an app that's bigger than Facebook." We're thinking everyone under 40 is still trying to unpick that yarn ball, followed closely by "Win the lottery."

Prudential: Escape Room Activation
Client: Prudential
Agency: Droga5 NY
Creative Chairman: David Droga
Chief Creative Officer: Neil Heymann
Executive Creative Director: Ray Del Savio
Creative Director: Jono Paull
Creative Director: Dustin Tomes
Sr. Copywriter: Becca Pottinger
Sr. Art Director: Sam McCluskey
Art Director: David Spradlin
Copywriter: Evan Barkoff
Creative Technology Director: Brian Moore
Chief Design Officer: Jason Severs
Executive Design Director: Dino Sanchez
Design Director: Michael Kleinman
Sr. Designer: Jen Lally
Group Experience Design Director: Craig Wong
Sr. Experience Designer: Jenny Clark
Chief Creation Officer: Sally-Ann Dale
Director of Film Production: Jesse Brihn
Director of Business Affairs: Jocelyn Howard
Sr. Business Affairs Manager: Kiki Powell
Co Head of Interactive Production: Tasha Cronin
Executive Producer, Interactive: Jenn Mann
Sr. Producer, Interactive: Kristen Rantuccio
Associate Interactive Producer: Emily Blumhardt
Executive Producer, Print: Alyssa Dolman
Graphics Studio Manager: Virginia Vargas
Global Chief Strategy Officer: Jonny Bauer
Head of Strategy: Harry Roman
Strategy Director: Ned Sonnenschein
Sr. Strategist: Sarah Garman
Head of Communications Strategy: Dean Challis        
Sr. Communications Strategist: Patrick Fahey
Chief Intelligence Officer: Amy Avery
Head of Account Management: Dan Gonda
Sr. Data Strategist: Christina Fieni
Group Account Director: Lindsay Cole
Account Director: Bradley Allen
Account Supervisor: Megan Haggerty
Associate Account Manager: Cameron Yates
Group Project Manager: Audrey Weber
Group Project Manager: Rene Ramirez
Counsel: Sarah Fox

Client Brand/company name
Colin McConnell: Senior VP & Chief Brand Officer
Niharika Shah: VP, Head of Brand Marketing & Advertising
Alison Lazzaro: VP, Brand Marketing & Advertising
Joe Volpicelli: VP, Head of Creative
Anna Papadopoulos: VP, Head of Integrated Media

Production Company: Unit9
Creative Partner: Michelle Craig
Director: Isabella Hyams
Executive Producer: Mindy Lubert
Line Producer: Kaili Capito
Production Manager: Shannon Penney

Production Company: Second Child
Executive Producer: Scott Chinn
Film & Photo Producer: Kim Santella    
Photographer: Paul Mcgeiver

Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad is the European markets editor at Muse by Clio. She also writes about gaming and fashion, and whatever else she's interested in, really. She's based in Paris and North Italy, so if you're local, say hi. She might eat all your food.

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