General Assembly: “It all started with a tiny snowball”

May 8, 2013, 17:00 master class

On May 8th, the Digital October Center hosted a Moscow meeting of the General Assembly with an entirely unique format: for the first time, the event’s keynote speakers were not only present in digital form, but in the completely “analogue” flesh”: at the time, John Wyville and Dave Loewe, Executive Creative Directors at Leo Burnett’s head office, were in the Russian capital for a convention of the company’s finest specialists.

But the event itself was all about digital issues. Before Wyville and Loewe took the stage, Sergey Schukin, the Creative Director of JVision and discussion moderator, introduced the speakers in the following way: “Dave and John, of course, are more visionary types: they come up with the direction, and the flash and other digital elements are added in afterwards. They say it was these two who came up with the ‘Earth Hour’ Initiative.”

John Wyville: “But we ourselves aren’t exactly from a digital background: we’ve worked with Coca-Cola, Norton Internet Security, Procter & Gamble, and others.

But you know, if you’re working in advertising at all, you have to know your way around digital formats, whether you like it or not.”

“The US has the exact same problems as Russia: people are very wary of new ideas. The same is true about using technological ideas. Our company has a subdivision whose responsibilities include explaining to clients why they can and should establish that two-way conversation on using new technologies. But it’s not enough to just use technology; first, you need a good idea.”

“It’s very hard to tell exactly what makes one idea interesting and another – not. But we can say with certainty that there is no such thing as a good idea without good implementation.”

Dave Loewe: “Genuinely good ideas come along very rarely. That’s what we came to Moscow looking for. Here’s the scale of values we use for ideas:

  1. A destructive idea whose consequences will be negative.
  2. Just a fact, not an idea at all.
  3. It’s not obvious that this is an idea.
  4. It’s not clear why you would do this.
  5. Reflects an understanding of the brand’s goals.
  6. A smart idea.
  7. An inspirational idea.
  8. Magic that changes people’s behavior.
  9. Changes people’s lives.
  10. Changes the world.

“You see 10s very rarely. A 10 is Apple.

I don’t think that we’ll see a 10 this week at GPC (a review of the best work produced by Leo Burnett in the previous quarter). For example, ‘Earth Hour’, a project thought up by Leo Burnett, would be a 9.”

Case Study #1

John Wyville: “We’d really like to share with you the story of how Arctic Home, a program designed to save the population of polar bears in the Arctic, came into being. As part of this program, we launched the ‘Snowball Effect’ project in collaboration with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Coca-Cola, and the 7-Eleven chain of convenience stores.”

“We chose the iPhone because of its good graphics. You could download the app for free in the App Store, or you could also get it by scanning the codes on soda cans, paper cups, and signs inside 7-Elevens.”

Dave Loewe: “We discovered a simple truth: people like throwing snowballs. And we transferred that game into the digital space.”

“Registered Facebook users could throw virtual snowballs at their friends on the social network. As users collected points, they would receive information on these endangered kings of the frozen North. This entertaining game directed the attention of millions of people towards Arctic issues and the threat of extinction that faces polar bears.”

“People could feel as though they were in the polar bear’s place. Participants got emotionally involved. When the promotion ended, people were disappointed; they wanted to continue the virtual snowball fight. The winners, who collected the most points, were sent on a trip to the Arctic and given the opportunity to see the polar bear’s habitat with their own eyes.”

“$1.8 million was collected in user donations; Coca-Cola contributed an additional $2 million. During the promotion, the famous beverage’s sales went up 20%. And it all started with a tiny snowball.”

John Wyville: “For 125 years, the soda can had been red; we changed the color on 1.4 million cans to white, and, by doing so, changed the entire way in which the brand was perceived. People were nervous at first. On social networks, people started to say that the taste was different, that the red cans had tastier soda. But then people stopped focusing on the product’s packaging and started thinking about the issue that the Coca-Cola Company was presenting to the consumer court: the disappearance of the population of polar bears.”

Dave Loewe: “With the help of a mobile app, we changed a lot of people’s behavior: they got in the habit of going to the store to buy a drink and reach a new level in the game. People were grateful to the company for giving them the opportunity to learn something new about polar bears and to help them.”

“Judging by the amount of people engaged by the project, this was the biggest Leo Burnett campaign that we’ve ever carried out.”

John Wyville: “You know, it was pretty complicated. But the idea helped us: as soon as one person picked up a snowball, another wanted to answer in kind.”

Case Study #2

Dave Loewe: “Another project we’d like to talk about is ‘The World’s Strongest Girl’”.

“The charity organization Girl Scouts of America came to us for help. It had become uncool to be a Girl Scout in our time. Interest in the organization was cooling down. At the same time, research had shown that Girl Scouts grew into self-confident businesswomen, and that participating in Scouts lessened a child’s risk of becoming a victim of domestic abuse later in life.”

“We were faced with a difficult task: to make scouting more appealing, to make Girl Scouts cool. To address this challenge, we created an online program called ‘The World’s Strongest Girl’”.

John Wyville: “We made a site where girls could create characters and tell stories about female empowerment from those characters’ point of view. We used text-to-speech technology (TTS). The best stories were collected into a book of the same name and published. Without digital technology, little girls couldn’t have felt like big writers; no one would hear their stories.”

Dave Loewe: “It goes without saying that user content underwent the strictest parental review. Every story a child wrote was read by her parents before publication.”

Case Study #3

John Wyville: “In trying to understand various types of audiences, we directed our attention to the fair sex. It was a challenge for us to build an advertising campaign for a product that we didn’t know anything about: tampons, for example. If we had at least a passing understanding of Always, how to use Tampax remained a mystery to us. We conducted research, surveys. And one girl in one of the focus groups said, ‘If only guys knew what we have to go through every month.’ And that’s just the idea we used to build our foundation.”

“Over the course of a year, we maintained a blog and Facebook and Twitter accounts from the point of view of ‘Zack’, who started getting these…girl things.

The simpler the technology, the easier it is to believe that the character is real.

No question, girls realized that this was a fictional character, but we had brought up such a sensitive topic, one that society had wanted to discuss for such a long time, and Zach’s blog became a forum for exchanging opinions and advice.”

“We gained real female support, that’s what made our character realistic. This gag video made it easier for mothers and daughters to talk to one another. By the way, my daughter recently experienced that landmark event…I haven’t shown her the video yet, but I will one day.”

Case Study #4

Dave Loewe: “The last case study we’d like to present to you is Norton Stuff Theatre. Norton specializes in protecting information on social networks. But people don’t see information on Facebook as something that needs protecting. That’s why we launched a popular campaign to explain why that information is worth protecting.”

John Wyville: “We created the Facebook app ‘Stuff Theater’: a free, 24-hour, online theater inspired by user content on the social network. People subscribed, gave us permission to use their last 10 posts on Facebook, and our team of 11 people made a show out of them. We brought photographs to life, turned them into works of art: sculptures, songs, poems, plays, and even short films. We put together 853 performances. People were thrilled. We spent 140 days preparing for that project. It was a success!”

“And we were able to get it across to people that even such insignificant facts about their lives require Internet protection.”

photo gallery

all photos of event


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