Meet Your Dance Match

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If the blinding lights and blaring beats of a club discourage your romantic mojo, Akestam Holst's new site for Euro ferry line Viking offers a quieter, yet equally voyeuristic way to find someone to bust a move with.

With "Dance Match," the agency has created a social networking destination that connects registered users with similar dance styles based on uploaded videos that capture their best moves. Aimed at adults both young and old who frequent Viking's 24-hour bacchanal on the Baltic Sea, Dance Match isn't just your average dating site according to Akestam Holst's interactive CD Paul Collins. "It's a bit like a dating site but we didn't want to sell it as a dating site," he says. "There's enough of that already. A lot of people get on this boat because it's a party boat. They go there to meet people, everyone gets too drunk and you maybe go to bed with someone. But we didn't want to push too hard on that, so we had to find a bit of a balance and have it connect to the dance concept. There's a lot of flirting and partying going on the boat but we thought it would be better for people to get in contact [this way]."

Collins says the goal of this initiative, as with any other for Viking, is pretty simple. "[Viking travelers] are brand loyalists. They take this boat a couple of times a week, so what we do is always just try to fill the boat. When we fill the boat, the actual product on the boat is the party itself. They make revenue from the drinks and food, as well as the massage and Jacuzzi, etc. So our goal every time we get a brief is just to fill the boat."

To accomplish this, Collins and his team spent three months conceiving the site, which uses an algorithm that matches user profiles not just by the video they share, but by age, sex, location and preferred dance style. The last criteria is set by a series of 6 dials, which each represent a style ranging from salsa to disco to slow dance. After entering personal info and a little "about me" blurb, visitors can configure the dials and rate their taste for each style from 1-10. "In my profile, I'm not good at salsa and I don't like salsa so I'll give lower points to that," Collins says. "I like disco, so I'll give it a 9. You rate yourself on what you like. When you look at the videos, people are dancing to stuff that they like. That's why when I'm matched with somebody, they're dancing against me but we're roughly dancing the same [way]."

While the site's three-step registration process makes it fairly simple to join in on the revelry, Akestam Holst's job on the backend is anything but simple. "It's hard to describe to the client because it's a new service for them. These types of [matching] services are never built in Flash. They're always built in HTML with a big backend. With the amount of work we [put in], people were asking how the hell did you do this? It's a unique matching system based on how you dance and it's pretty smart."

The AH crew had not only the matching algorithm to consider during development, but the uploaded videos, which are presented in full-size and thumbnail form and take approximately 1-2 days to turn up on a user's profile. "After you upload your video, it lands in an FTP server where the production team puts it up. The thumbnails are in slow motion, so we had to create two pieces. One piece is the small thumbnail and we had to go into After Effects and redo the video so it's optimized for this size. Then, we do the full-size video where you actually see the person dancing in regular speed."

Despite the fact that Dance Match has only been live for a few days, Collins claims that the agency has already received a fair share of peculiar video submissions. "We have to have a moderator function in there because we're getting some really strange s**t. (Laughs) But we want to keep it as transparent as possible. When you're a company like Viking and you start to restrict stuff, it starts to get bad. But some of the stuff we have [received] is people uploading videos from YouTube, so we have to have some sort of a moderator. We have to have that anyway because the videos have to be [reformatted] and reedited before they're published."

Of course, once the video makes the cut and attaches to their profile, it's up to the user to hit the red "Match Me" button and create a connection. If a user chooses to take things further and ask their match out, their message will be sent directly to the latter's email and will subsequently earn both parties two free tickets aboard the Viking. "We want to reward people," says Collins. "If you ask somebody out, even if they don't want to go out with you, you're still going to get your free tickets. We're making a little competition out of this. We don't want to have this be campaign-related. We wanted to do this like Nike+ where you can build advertising around it but it's got an organic lifespan."

To aid the users' cause, Akestam Holst also added a "Meet on the Boat" section to the site, which gives users a map of the boat and lets them choose their rendezvous point from several landmarks on the Viking. Using TV, online banners and an upcoming print push to direct visitors to the site, Collins says the Dance Match campaign will remain live for weeks to come.
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