Campaigns that seek to engage viewers through social media in real time are not a new thing. Old Spice introduced the dynamic with its groundbreaking "Responses" campaign in 2010, in which The Man Your Man Could Smell Like Isaiah Mustafa conversed with customers virtually on the fly on YouTube.
Since then, other marketers have sought to interact with consumers in a similar fashion in campaigns featuring everything from accountants to grannies. But HP is now adding the act of creation to that interaction during a YouTube event launching next week starring Clams Casino, aka Mike Volpe, a hip-hop producer known for his quick manipulation of digital tools and who's worked with artists including A$AP Rocky and on videogames like Grand Theft Auto V.
Created by Omnicom's 180 L.A., with production out of Stink Digital and Skunk, the campaign promotes HP's SplitX2, a detachable device that works as both a laptop and a tablet. It will see Casino, along with hip-hop artist Vic Mensa, turning consumers' YouTube comments into sounds for a new track and elements of an accompanying music video. It kicks off with a teaser video on YouTube today promoting the two-day event beginning on Monday at noon Pacific Standard Time.
The Clams event is an example of a "next generation campaign" addressing the next generation of consumer -- a target that includes both Milennials as well as the "pscyhographic" of technophiles, said HP Senior VP-Marketing, Printing and Personal Systems Group Rob Le Bras-Brown. "We wanted to find a way to position HP and our products as innovative. There are certain products we believe are next generation technology that's available today. We're quite selective -- not every product makes the threshold. My call to 180 was, I do not want to build a campaign around a TV commercial."
"This campaign creates a dialog where user comments will not just be heard, but will be acted upon," said 180 L.A. Executive Creative Director and Partner William Gelner. "You need to engage the audience in a way that merges new media with traditional media."
The event will take place on a dedicated YouTube page, and will manifest as a sound and visual experience that evolves over the course of two days. As users comment on YouTube, their words will be transformed into part of the audio track and the visual spectacle that appears on screen. "For example, if you were to post your comment 'That's amazing!" our group will then dimensionalize that in an artful way, whether it be in sound, with gold 3D letters, something that's stenciled," Mr. Gelner explained. After the event, that content will be cut into a two-minute music video.
An Organized Three-Ring Circus
"There are so many things that will be happening behind the scenes to pull this off, to make the user comments the bedrock of the experience," explained Mr. Gelner.
Stink Digital and Skunk director Greg Brunkalla will be on hand to steer the flow of events, along with the tech and production crew at the event space in L.A.
"From a logistical standpoint, this is probably one of the most complex and challenging projects we've ever done," said Stink Digital CEO Mark Pytlik. "One of the first things to implement was a system for managing and sorting all the comments that come in, and then establishing a workflow to assign different comments for visualization to the many artists that we're going to have working on set. Another tricky part has been finding the balance between being able to be nimble, responsive and spontaneous on set but without being too unstructured."
As with other social media campaigns, the nature of the YouTube effort demands a loosening of the strings from the marketer in terms of controlling the message, but "I love the fact that we're relinquishing some control," said Mr. Le Bras-Brown. "The idea of actually letting the audience participate is very exciting. There's some risk, but we actually got support right all the way to the top of the organization. William [Gelner] described this as 'an organized three-ring cirucus.' That's the reality of dealing with this medium, and I think that brings authenticity to the brand."
The Clams effort is just one aspect of "a broader campaign all over the world," said Mr. Le Bras-Brown. This weekend, HP will also be introducing a new "virtual experience" at retail, created out of Omnicom's BBDO N.Y.. At Best Buy stores, HP will bring its Aurasma augmented-reality technology to life in a virtual experience around the SplitX2. When customers hold their mobile phones up to the installation, it will bring Clams Casino to life on the spot.
"I want to think about the shelf edge out," said Mr. Le Bras-Brown "It's about the last three feet and the last three clicks, about making sure our campaign, and every single asset within the campaign, has no dead ends. It all points somewhere, ideally, to the point of transaction."
While the Clams event is an important part of the marketers' seasonal sales push, it also represents a new focus for HP's marketing plans going forward. "This next generation campaign is what we'll be using for quarters to come," said Mr. Le Bras-Brown. "This is not holiday flash. We're already working on next generation content with the Omnicom agencies. Part of our vision is to have something sticky and truly effective."
A previous version of this article misidentified the agency on the in-store installation as Critical Mass.