Chattanooga, Tennessee-based Humanaut, a recent Gold winner at Ad Age's Small Agency Conference, has made some pretty interesting connections to deliver its clients' messages. Previously, it brought overly-ripped bros together with organic recovery shakes for Organic Valley, and now, it's somehow found a line between the impending robot armageddon -- and half-popped popcorn.
For snack brand Halfpops' first national campaign, the agency is targeting developers and geeks with the "Halfpocalypse Challenge" in an effort to also prepare against a future A.I. takeover of the world. The campaign includes a funny, sensationalist film plays on all our fears about artificially intelligent beings. It features images of the scary robots of our worst nightmares (yes, that includes you, Boston Dynamics' Big Dog), a clueless Halfpops spokeguy and super-focused tech brainiacs, who hold the key to the survival of the human race.
The online films, which also include this frightening teaser, implore developers: "Dear coders, please help us not die" -- and direct viewers to a Halfpops microsite, where they will need to prove their coding skills to get a sampler box filled with 90 rations of the snack plus a host of survivor tools including a starchart, sundial, measurement tools and more.
But there's another requirement: coders half to make a legally binding "Halfpocalypse Agreement" to protect Halfpop staffers when robots unleash their fury. "You write code, we make snacks! Together, we stay not dead," the site reads.
According to Humanaut Co-Founder and Creative Director David Littlejohn, the agency's brief was to deliver the brand's first nationwide product launch campaign on a limited budget -- and generate as much buzz as possible. Coders weren't part of the original directive.
"Halfpops is a weirdly ingenious, delicious snack," Mr. Littlejohn said. "These guys figured out how to perfectly pop popcorn half way. We thought there was something funny and kind of ridiculous about an innovative snack company trying try to talk to the real geniuses out there: the coders and developers."
The robots, too, represent a move away from the expected. With "all the increasing concerns and fears surrounding A.I., [that] seemed like the perfect way to start the conversation with developers, a way for us to join forces," Mr. Littlejohn said. "But instead of jumping on the A.I. bandwagon, we are definitely jumping off of it. We wanted Halfpops to say what a lot of people, deep down, are really thinking. Maybe this A.I. stuff isn't going to go so well for us humans."
To speak the language of the coders targeted in the ads, Mr. Littlejohn said the agency is home to a "bunch of futurists, so we think and read about A.I. and tech a lot." But the shop had to collaborate with developers to get the language and the coding contest right. "We wanted to create a coding experience that was fun and entertaining from a story perspective, but also really required people to do some actual code writing," he said. "People just need to prove they can code -- it's not meant to be a challenge for the most hardcore of developers. That said, we were basically collaborating with coders to write a story in another language, which wasn't easy.
"It may seem like this is all a joke, but we took this joke very seriously," Mr. Littlejohn said.