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Go Ahead and Blink; You Won't Miss the Message in Virgin Mobile Ad

Mother, New York, Creates Interactive Youtube Video Called 'Blinkwashing'

By Published on .

It's not easy for consumers to sit through a dry list of product offerings, but yesterday, Virgin Mobile and Mother , New York, took a stab at making the experience fun with an absurd online video that changes right before your eyes. In fact, your eyes are the trigger: Every time you blink, the film moves on to a different bizarre scene. The result? A completely new experience every time you watch it.

"Blinkwashing" is the final installment of the brand's "Retrain Your Brain" campaign, which asks consumers to question their complacency with their expensive mobile plans and reconsider Virgin Mobile's money-saving, no-contract offerings. The idea of "Blinkwashing" attempts to illustrate the brand's message that consumers can "take control" of their phone experience. The experience, which requires users to opt-in to participate with their computer's webcam, launches this week and will run exclusively on Youtube.

"Virgin Mobile had its talking points it wanted to get out into the world," said Mother, New York, Creative Director Jed Grossman. "The question was, how do we do that in a way that was interesting and captivating?"

"We understand that traditional advertising is limited in how much it can tell viewers about Virgin Mobile," said Doug Vosik, Brand Team, Virgin Mobile USA in a statement. "Why not let viewers create unique, fun experiences while learning more about our brand?"

Mother partnered with digital production lab Rehabstudio, Youtube and production company Greencard Studios on the effort, which runs on Mac or PC desktop computers. It features a total of 25 different films posing a variety of silly scenarios, such as a signing gorilla eating pancakes, a farmer milking a cow, a guy contemplating his facial hair and a high-speed police chase. No matter what the setup, the script, touting Virgin Mobile's $35-a-month plan, remains the same.

Blinking -- Not the Hardest Part
Greencard director Duncan Skiles shot most of the films in various locations in New Jersey and New York City, including the agency's Manhattan basement, while stock footage was pulled for others. For each viewing, an average of 16 different films run, which makes for about 2,042,975 possible versions, according to Stattrek.

Rehabstudio, known for its innovative tech-driven projects like Citi's human snowglobe and Red Bull's online murals, worked closely with Youtube to develop the technology. The team created a Flash-based mechanism that fine-tuned computer cameras' facial recognition to read a specific part of a viewer's face. "It looks for your eyes a quarter in from the top of your head, and when you start blinking, it looks for two colors," explained Rehab Creative Partner Tim Rogers.

The blinking recognition then triggers the software to switch the video, which ultimately posed the trickiest obstacle. Youtube's buffering capabilities are limited, so you can imagine the lag that caching 25 different pieces of content could create. Rehab developed a system that pulls four videos at a time. While one plays, three others track along in the background, ready to play at any moment. As the main film goes on, other videos are swapped in on the backend to eventually become part of the mix.

"The challenge here wasn't just trying to figure out the YouTube experience," said Mother Creative Director Rob Baird. "It was also about making someone pay attention to that long sales pitch. The more diverse and vast the content, the more likely you'll keep playing with it."

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