Agency Producers: Myke Gerstein

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Uploading your mug to a website to be placed on another body—like a puppet's or an elf's—is now a common device when it comes to interactive campaigns, but this online Burger King effort promoting The Simpsons Movie, out of Equity Marketing and Crispin Porter + Bogusky, takes the conceit to a new level by transmogrifying visitors' portraits into Matt Groening-style characters. Crispin integrated producer Myke Gerstein talks about the significant, very technical obstacles the agency tackled to make "The Simpsonizer" sing. (AD)

What was the brief for "Simpsonize Me" like, and from that, what sort of production challenges did you foresee?
CP+B was to re-skin the existing alpha-site for The brief was deceptively straightforward but the production hurdles came out in force after we started getting our hands dirty. We needed to manage partnerships with nine separate entities, deal with site architecture issues that became apparent during development and others that we only saw post-launch. Other major challenges included managing an extreme volume of traffic, juggling design issues with an iconic entertainment property, and handling the localization of six languages.

What were the steps you took in order to make this happen?
After Equity Marketing, Burger King's Promotions AOR, and BK came to us with this idea, we covered the walls of a room
with printouts of every page of the site. We got a feel for the site flow and determined how we might change things to make it better and if this was even doable given the timeline, the status of the existing site architecture and back-end. At the same time we started to brief our creative teams on what we were looking to do and what we could change. While we familiarized ourselves with the source code and the status with all of the development partners, three designers, an AD and 2 CDs worked out the designs, animation and additional creative with our interaction director. Internally on the development side, we had two animators, an asset creator, and our tech lead to combine it all. We moved into production with a schedule for deliverables and integration and had twice daily calls with Cortona, our main development partner in Germany and Equity Marketing. Once we locked the design, it was essentially an eight-week sprint of rebuilding the front end of the site and adding the respective animations until we launched. Key development happened during a two-week joint work session in Germany.

What were the biggest challenges of the project?
The biggest challenges were definitely the issues that became apparent post-launch. Being the most searched site on Google and getting over 2000 Diggs can crash a site. Our job was to figure out why it was happening on our site and what we could do to fix it. We added 10 more servers. Then we throttled traffic to ensure that everyone had the optimal site experience. We then worked with all of our partners to study the server logs and discern where any bottlenecks were occurring and scale up in the smartest way possible.

In general how does the production process for interactive differ from broadcast?
That's a big question. On a very elemental level, production is production. Video and interactive have similar issues with rights, intellectual property, media creation, etc. However, the user-experience in the digital sphere is unique. Things like planning for load strategy and interaction design are clearly specific to interactive and occupy an important place in our process. One relates to the limits of technology on a mass scale and the other is about the web's vernacular. These are both things that change quickly and must be accounted for and addressed specifically to each project.


What did it take to get the King right in the Simpsonizer?
The Simpsonized King was actually created specifically and not from a Simpsonized photo. If you note, the King is looking at us head on, unlike all the Simpsonized characters who appear in a 3/4 view.

Whose likeness at your agency was best captured by the Simpsonizer?
I think mine was actually pretty spot on.

What happens if you put a Simpsons character into the Simpsonizer?
It will return a message that there isn't anything to scan. The information that a picture returns about facial contour, shadow, etc is not present here. It's the same as if you uploaded a picture of a VW.

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