Digital – keeping it real

Digital – keeping it real
Digital is the enabler, but it's the experience that counts.

The very best digital campaigns are those that generate real experiences.

A fancy digital website or application, as visionary as some may be, should not be the end point for consumers – it should be a means to a real experience.

The ability to interact with a real-life message not only gives a ‘surprise and delight’ effect for consumers, but it increases time spent with a brand and bolsters positive brand associations.

One of my all-time favourite examples of real digital was done by Hasbro. To celebrate its 70th birthday, the company created a special edition of Monopoly, and to let everyone know, London and ad agency Tribal DDB took the game to the streets – literally. Eighteen London cabs acted as the ‘virtual’ pieces selected by 190,000 people who registered to play online or via an SMS service.

GPS technology enabled a real-life game of Monopoly to be played out in real time on London roads, relayed onto a website. As the branded ‘Monopoly’ cabs moved through London and passed properties featured on the board game, players who didn’t own these sites were made to pay rent, and those who did could claim rent. With the grand prize of having their mortgage or rent paid for a year, this was a campaign participants could get some serious satisfaction from.

Within two weeks, the special edition of Monopoly had become one of the best-selling games in the UK.

We are a world moving online, both in how long we all spend there and how in-depth the experiences online are. But – and I recognise that this is odd for a digital creative director to say – nothing beats the real thing, a real visceral experience, and as we all pour more of our lives online I believe that we increasingly crave more real experiences. So, yes, use digital, and drive a great digital campaign with wonderful digital bells and pixelated whistles but remember: a real experience will only magnify your idea.

A DDB Group New Zealand example of real-world digital activation is the New Zealand Coastguard Live Rescue. In order to gain more support for NZ Coastguard we staged the world’s first-ever live rescue, capsizing a boat that stranded four people in the ocean, challenging New Zealand residents to get involved and find them using an online search tool. The campaign ran a film on national TV and put virtual volunteers in the shoes of the Coastguard when it begins its routine rescue missions. A call broadcast on national radio directed listeners online where they were immersed in a search plan that was racing against the clock in real time to find the ‘boaties’ before it was too late.

Only 1.8 percent of the virtual volunteers were successful, leaving a vast majority of 98.2 percent who failed in their rescue mission. The ‘live’ nature of this digital campaign captured the country’s attention and left those who participated with a sobering reality check. It proved that the Coastguard was in dire need of additional support which it subsequently received as a direct result of the campaign.

Another digitally-charged campaign that saw consumers become actively involved with a brand is Google’s Project Re: Brief that enables viewers to buy a can of Coke for someone in another city. As they watch the mobile ad, users can pick a city to send a Coke to, attach a short message and press a button that dispenses the Coke at a vending machine in that city. The viewer can even watch the recipient’s reaction as the Coke comes out – magic. Digital is the enabler but the experience is what counts.

In order for an idea to be fully contagious, it needs to be an experience that consumers can hear, see, touch or smell. Take away its connection to the real-world, and it won’t be remembered.

Aaron Goldring is digital creative director at rapp tribal. Follow him @aarongoldring.