Sidewalk Showstopper

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Just down the street beyond the tents housing all the glitz, glamour and overall fabulousness of Fashion Week this past September in New York, one of the industry's most notable names—Elle McPherson—was on display for all passersby to see. Only she really wasn't there. Instead, what city strollers saw was an innovative marketing concept promoting Elle's Intimates lingerie line, and one which heralds a new wave of out-of-home advertising. With Mindshare as the lead agency, experiential tech firm Destination Media Group executed an interactive storefront, where video footage of select Elle Intimates spots could be shaded and manipulated in various sections just by walking and waving hands. Shedding light on this relatively new form of interactivity, DMG account director John Mullin explains the creative process of building the storefront, the success of its YouTube promo and how it fared with both the fashionistas and average citizens alike.

How did this project come about?

JM: Elle McPherson was a client of ours. We are a part of Kinetic Worldwide, which actually does all the out-of-home traditional work for Mindshare and GroupM specifically. Our group handles all those kinds of advertising innovations and tactics that fall under that non-traditional moniker. What we were tasked to do is figure out a way to be engaging and compelling to get the Elle McPherson Intimates produced video, which was a series of vignettes, out to the public in a clever, new kind of way.
Their initial goal was to get this on to the web and they were going to use simple outlets like YouTube and other video sites. But they were looking for something more and also at the same time, they wanted to see if there was a way perhaps to merge some of their out-of-home goals for traditional advertising with doing something else that would also spread the word about the viral videos. What came to pass was a combined idea where using in-store, in-window advertising would probably accomplish both of those goals.
We worked with a partner by the name of Inwindow [Outdoor], and the gentleman that we worked with there was Jeff Cohen. Jeff's group was paramount in helping us with getting a venue that would be everything we needed it to be—a place that would be high-traffic, have high visibility and something that was going to be relevant and close to Fashion Week, which was another thing we were working with. We wanted to get the word out about EMI during this time, so you could actually see the Fashion Week tent pretty much from our location. We were located at 1035 Sixth Avenue, so at that point, you could look down the street and see Bryant Park.

Can you explain how the storefront was actually put together?

JM: So, Jeff's group basically came in and helped us find the space. Then, framing our actual activity was vinyl static advertising, and Jeff's group again helped with that. By using what they had in their inventory and working with the EMI creative team, a vinyl wrap was created to frame our activity. Then, implemented into those windowscapes, there are actual spaces where typically a store or a restaurant or a venue would be. Due to the fact that it is now vacant at this point, we used that space for advertising. For approximately 30 days, which was the flight of our program, we dominated the space and used it for our client.

Into those windows, we put a video mechanism and with that we used another partner, Freeset, a Canadian-based digital technologies provider. What they do is specialize in coming up with types of media that can actually be interactive in nature. What you saw on YouTube is a video screen that's really not a screen at all. It's actually a back-projected screen in a window that's combined with an array of cameras and sensors picking up human movement. So when you walk by, something's happening and it's actually going to be affected.

What specifically were the technologies used?

JM: There were two windows and each window has a screen, so we're talking two screens and two very high-powered projectors, upwards of 15,000 lumens each. There were a number of different software applications that were custom-designed in order to map out the dimensions, the height and the positioning of how these screens are oriented. The combination of a number of motion sensors were being angled and positioned to pick up movement, that walking pattern that individuals are going be going through[as the pass]. The cameras were picking up things like duration of how long someone walked, the distance between where someone is versus the window and all those mechanisms combined are essentially aggregating information that is then filtered through the software which maps out the process. This was all a combination of hardware, coding and specifically-designed software.

What was the creative process like in determining the idea and content?

JM: We had an opportunity to scroll through a variety of different options as to what we could truly make happen. We knew that if we were to have consumers walk by this, we wanted them to have some sort of surprise or reveal. So after looking through a number of different scenarios and getting client feedback, it was decided that we would take two elements, layer them on top of each other and then when you interact with the one, it reveals the other. The top layer was very crisp and sharp-looking—essentially static Elle McPherson Intimate branding which would also indicate what the URL was to go and access these videos on YouTube. Then, even though we had about five videos, only two of there were really appropriate enough to have in this kind of forum. The other three were risqué and a little cheeky. We had to be cautious and aware of that, so we selected two of the videos—"Saucer Girl" and "Bubble Girl"—that we thought were going to be appropriate for the public to see without any kind of disclaimer or privacy issues. We essentially took those two vignettes, looped them and had them embedded into our screens so when you wiped over the static branding, what was revealed underneath was actually the video. That's what the whole reveal was that you would see these EMI vignettes.

What was the timeframe from conception to execution?

JM: It's the type of thing where we do a lot of discussions back and forth, there's a lengthy approval process and then basically, this was built and running in 4-5 weeks. It's the type of thing where a bulk of those three months was spent deciding and approving. But once we started to get some mach-ups done and the client started to get more excited about when this thing started coming to life, the ball just kept rolling and rolling.

Do have any stats on the amount of traffic that interacted with Elle?

JM: Essentially, we have estimated 85-95,000 people that were passing in front of these interactive windows. We felt that Fashion Week had a good 25% boost in that kind of traffic. The highest peak times we found were between 7 and 9a.m., where folks were going to work and 5 to 8 p.m. where they were essentially going home. This part of the city is an area where a lot of people work, but certainly don't live. Then, we had been tracking our YouTube video as well and approximately 12,600 people looked at this. It appears there are about 46 separate YouTube personal pages, and we expect those to go beyond that in the next 3 months. They tend to live on the web for quite a long time. We also recorded about a hundred other blogs, a lot of them international as well, so this got some global press.

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