Thursday, November 19, 2015

Hendrick’s Gin presents The Great Phantasmagorical Excursion

The craft gin market has grown exponentially over the past few years – more and more niche spirits are riding to fame on the back of their ‘small batches’ and ‘extraordinary botanicals’ all distilled in the middle of nowhere by magical pixies. So even with a highly peculiar brand like Hendrick’s, it’s getting harder to achieve stand out and stay relevant and interesting

Hendrick’s tasked us with creating an audio-based campaign to ignite people’s curiosity. One that wouldn’t just be appreciated as part of an experience, but one that could be enjoyed by those unable to attend Hendrick’s curious events. Something they are famed for in the industry.

Armed with our resident researchers, we went back to the 1800s for inspiration and made a very interesting discovery. You may be familiar with Edgar Allan Poe, but were you aware of his experiments into Hypnagogia?

"Only when I am on the brink of sleep, 
with the consciousness that I am so..."

-Edgar Allan Poe

Hypnagogia is a state of mind between the waking world and the dream world – a state in which one can explore the depths of their imagination.

Inspired by this peculiar finding, we planned a journey into people’s imaginations. And we called it ‘The Great Phantasmagorical Excursion’.

The campaign kicked off with our new fangled invention – the mind reading top hats, or ‘Phantasmagorical cogitative drinking toppers’, designed in collaboration with Ten Hertz.

After taking a quick psychological Rorschach test to determine the most accessible part of our comrades’ imaginations, the hat was placed on their head and they were played one of five stories – harnessing hypnagogic beats and strange dreamlike soundscapes to take them on a journey. Which we designed in collaboration with Sensory Agency Vetyver.

And how do we know it worked? We read their minds. The hats were built with EEG readers designed to pick up on people’s brainwaves – Alpha, gamma, beta, theta and delta.

Depending on what brainwave was being picked up, a different image was displayed in the top of the hats via a pepper’s ghost illusion – making it look like the thoughts were coming out of their heads. 

The next part of our campaign was to get those people unable to attend a topper event to come to our online experience. After signing up, the majority of people were directed to our website to take the psychological test and experience their specially selected journey.

As the excursion rolled out, people saw thoughts emanating from their minds on the screen. Happy movements like smiles would affect the visuals - creating swarms of butterflies and bubbles. Moments of awe-struck widened eyes would draw in elephants or acrobats. To name just a few.

For those who were determined to have even more extraordinary minds, we sent our final invention: Hendrick’s Hypnagoggles. The goggles were inspired by Google Cardboard. But as this is a very self indulgent one way experience, we decided to literally flip the idea on it’s head.

After summoning a drinking partner and creating a Hendrick’s and tonic, our extraordinarily minded person could listen to their track, while their drinking partner watched their thoughts through the eyes of the goggles. Ingenious.

And in doing so we brought the peculiar world of Hendrick’s to those who might not have otherwise had the opportunity. And turned craft gin lovers into Hendrick’s fans, curious for more.

Try the experience for yourself here.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Vox Pop: What do women want in advertising?

By Georgia Zervudachi - planner

Originally published in The Drum 

The empowerment conversation needed to happen, and I am very glad that it has. However, in the social space, where trends rise and fall at an exponential rate, a saturation point may have been reached. I don’t need my razor to tell me that I’m more than just what one person labels me, my sanitary pads have already challenged a phrase that I casually used to use, made me reconsider female stereotypes and fired me up to challenge them. The bar has been set pretty high, and unless you are challenging my perceptions or offering me a new perspective that relates to both me and your brand/ethos/product, it feels like you are jumping on a band wagon. 

The narrative needs to shift. We can hero the many millions of fabulous women who have achieved great things and messages of empowerment, but that has almost become an easy cop out. What about the hub and the hygiene? We need to normalise and reflect the reality of ordinary women and girls. Why should they be targeted as such just because that is how it has always been? GoldieBlox countered this brilliantly  - why shouldn’t a group of girls be playing with tools? It’s not saying "YOU CAN DO IT", it’s shifting to “Why shouldn’t/aren’t you doing this, its totally normal and really not a big deal.” 

Ultimately, the question needs to stop being "What do women want?", and instead be “What do people want?" We have access to much better data than just age and gender, and people expect more and more from advertising. There are plenty of women who don’t want children and plenty of men who just want to feel special. Feminism is essentially about equality and that is what needs to be reflected. 
Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Why Glenfiddich chose emotional storytelling through video

Originally posted in The Drum 4th November 2015

Why Glenfiddich chose emotional storytelling through video

Glenfiddich's global brand manager has revealed he decided to move the brand's 21 year old single malt away from its traditional route of press advertising to video to emphasise the emotional and passionate attitude of whisky drinkers. Talking about its recent foray into video , the whisky brand's Ifan Jenkins, said that he was keen to create something people would want to share. "We wanted something that told the product story about it being raised in Scotland, but roused in the Caribbean," he said. "We wanted this to be done in an interesting way, that didn't feel like traditional advertising. Something that consumers would enjoy watching and want to share with their friends. Glenfiddich has a number of different brands at different price levels and video was a great way to convey the emotion people feel for the brand."
Martyn Gooding, creative director at Gravity Thinking, the agency behind the two minute long film, said that getting standout was its biggest challenge. "There was a very clear product proposition in the brief; a  whisky that has been aged for 21 years and was finished in Caribbean rum casks," he said. "What we needed to do - and what excited us - was the way that we work with Glenfiddich and the way we wanted to challenge ourselves as an agency. Getting standout on the internet in this day and age is not easy. There's a lot out there that people would rather be watching. Connecting with an audience who frankly don't care - even with a passionate brand such as a single malt whisky - was the challenge." 
Jenkins believes that the target market for the 21 year old brand is more suited to video and is considering using the science of cymatics in the retail environment. "For those people who enjoy Glenfiddich 21 year old - which retails at around £115 a bottle - they are constantly on the move, so mobile marketing and its use of digital marketing is inherent in their lives," he said. "Doing a digitally led campaign in this case made sense. To use cymatics in a shop environment would be amazing as different music obviously affects what the video looks like. Everyone we spoke to internally was incredibly enthusiastic about us using such a new technique. Glenfiddich's heritage is about pushing the boundaries and doing things differently so the spirit of that has continued for years." 
The resulting video - which can be seen here - uses science, music and cymatics to dramatise the effect the Caribbean has on the 21 year old Reserva Rum Cask whisky. Featuring music by Scottish band Franz Ferdinand, the video aims to bring whisky to life in the form of a promo.
"When we went into this we knew that doing a music video was really important," said Gooding. "That really informs the edit as a lot of advertising kind of stops once you hit the key communications you package it up and go. We tried to go further and actually make people care." 
At the time of writing, the video on YouTube had been watched over 800,000 times and has received coverage from influential publications such as Mashable and Great Drams. 
Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Defying gravity through levitating whisky

How Gravity Thinking, Glenfiddich and a host of creative mavericks created a stunning piece of film to showcase the “Raised in Scotland, Roused by the Caribbean” story of Glenfiddich’s 21 Year Old whisky.

In finding the best way to tell the story about Glenfiddich’s 21 Year Old whisky, we had to play outside of the sandbox. Way outside. In fact, it was sand that first started us on the path of using cymatics to showcase the process in which the 21 Year Old is matured in a warehouse for all that time and then finished in Reserva Rum casks for a sweet, finishing touch.

Our team stumbled across a music video by artist Nigel Stanford. His use of music to affect tiny fine grains of sand and petri dishes of liquid got us thinking. The 21 Year Old is a whisky that is raised patiently in Glenfiddich’s Dufftown Distillery for over two decades and then roused by the spirit of the Caribbean. We can bring together the sounds of both beautifully distinct cultures through music and through the use of cymatics, we can show how the music metaphorically effects the liquid. We knew we had something when the idea was sold without any feedback from Client. It excited them. It excited us. Now the reality set in – how are we actually going to make this happen?

There was a song to consider, talent to recruit, a location to find and a cymatics instillation to build and at first, four months before production to do it all. Surprisingly, the latter wasn't the issue - having found a creative technologist team through our production company, Ten Hertz, took on the task of conceptual design to final build like they've done this before. Their initial sketches of what the installation would finally look like inspired some “oohs” and “ahhs” when presented for the first time. Stunning glass vessels supported by gleaming copper stands had the visual appeal that would make the film worth viewing.

Now that the hard part was over, the song, talent and location proved to be a hurdle that was more difficult to jump over. How does one land the right song that would help enhance the story?

It wasn’t easy – four rounds of short lists and several of hours of listening to discographies later, and we discovered the song that would provide the right soundtrack to our film – “Love Illumination” by the Scottish rockers, Franz Ferdinand. The fast paced chorus and the mentions of sweet within the lyrics sold it through. Covering the song by creating a symphonic arrangement and performed by a Scottish orchestra would help accentuate the Scottish element of our film. To rouse the music was Puerto Rican artist, Calma Carmona and her percussionists to infuse in elements of Caribbean melodic flavour. By chance, we found a spot in London that provided us with the perfect backdrop for the performance – an old clothing manufacturing loft in Bermondsey that replicated the spirit of the Dufftown Distillery warehouses. It was all coming together beautifully.

So after seven months of pre-production planning, the two-day shoot was not without its challenges. The patient artists performed the song enough times that they were playing off memory by midday. The levitating drop took well over three hours to shoot and over 30 attempts to get the perfect droplet to levitate and land into the 21 Year Old bottle for that final dramatic shot. 

That hard work paid off. It resulted in a visually stunning piece of film that has gained over 3 million views collectively on Youtube, Facebook and Twitter since launching globally on October 21st. And beyond our social channels, it’s picked up incredible buzz including a retweet from Scottish actor Sam Heughan, coverage on Mashable and Daily Mail, and coverage from influential whisky bloggers like Great Drams.

Watch the final film here.

And to have a look into how we made it all happen, we’ve captured all of the great moments on a behind the scenes wrap up film:

Watch the behind the scenes film here.

It takes brave Clients to pursue this kind of creative work. Everyone involved was going into this campaign with a lot of unknowns and through a lot of patience and collaborative conversations, our Glenfiddich brand team Clients trusted that we and our team of maverick creative partners would deliver on a beautiful piece of film.

And to that, we raise a dram of Glenfiddich 21 and say Sláinte!
Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Revisiting cymatics - A case study of failure

Three years ago I wrote a blog about a cymatics R&D project I worked on that ultimately didn't work.

This week we launch a new film for Glenfiddich with cymatics at the heart of the idea. The ability to deliver such as high profile project with untested technology at its heart is in part a result of having tried, failed and learnt in the past.

So, here is that blog post in its entirety.

The new film for Glenfiddich 21 can be viewed here:

20th August 2012, London.

In the truest sense of R&D, failing forms the majority of a project’s lifespan. It’s the 99% that leads to the 1% that finally works.

That said, it’s rare to see a case study about the failed work - at least one that doesn’t end in a success with large numbers of measurement against it.
So, with this in mind we’d like to share some of the things that simply didn’t work out for our R&D teams. We’re big enough to admit things don’t always work out the way we expected.
In fact, we’d even be so bold as to open up a dialogue around some of our projects in the spirit of sharing and learning as a wider community. Commercial objectives dictate that much of our R&D remains behind closed doors - but those we can share, we will. And if you are inspired to come work with us on anything we post, please get in touch.
This first one is a story of highly poisonous fluids and non-newtonian physics; lofty ambitions and suspect packages.
We were looking to develop a stand-out installation for one of our car brands. Where the everyday bumps in the road are given an elegant, luxury twist appropriate to the level of craft featured on the vehicle itself.

It was an art installation to subtly portray a piece of technology that smooths the ride of the vehicle. We wanted a pool of water under the car with ripples to show the terrain of the road surface, from which the technology keeps you comfortable.
It was envisioned to be a beautiful, moving sculpture that was affected by a sound system plugged directly into the pool. This was to be driven by a field of science known as ‘cymatics’, first pioneered by Dr Hans Jenny which visibility displays different soundwaves by passing them through fluidic materials.
For the most part the water pool approach worked. But as with most things created for live shows it needed an element of theatricality and staging. We tried various lighting systems but it was really underwhelming. We also felt that it was a bit derivative, nothing more than a common fountain to be really critical of the initial idea.
Looking around for a new approach, things got interesting when we started playing with cornstarch.

Cornstarch, aside from being a useful baking ingredient, is a ‘Non-Newtonian’ fluid. That is to say its viscosity is dependent on the force applied to it. Quicksand also falls under this category which is why it’s responsible for so many deaths in bad movies.
It also means it behaves in a really fascinating way when you run vibrations through it. We planned to create a large pool and have it happily vibrate to a soundtrack under the vehicle. The issue, however, was that it happily vibrated itself into lots of small bits which then danced off the table.
It also looked like baby sick, which even with the most creative use of dyes and lighting was going to be a tough sell as a luxury installation.
Like with all R&D, a failure forced us to take a step back and try something else. And as is usually the case, the initial disappointment led to something better.
Our explorations for a new approach led us to ferrofluid, another amazing substance comprised in very layman's terms of magnetic particles suspended in fluid.
It’s a beautiful and unique material. It has a very luxurious look and bounces light in really interesting ways. Like the cornstarch, it can be made to thicken on demand, but with magnetism not vibrations.

We played around a lot with moving magnets near the ferrofluid and got some very photogenic results. The plan was to build an electromagnet underneath the pool and control the flow of magnetism by moving it around on rails.
The problems that eventually defeated us were that ferrofluid is a quite harmful material and needs to be handled with protective gloves and glasses on. Not good for a family show.

As a result, it got caught up in customs due to the harmful nature of it and arrived following a thorough inspection from the authorities looking like a student returning from a year backpacking around Borneo.
It was also prohibitively expensive given the quantities we were looking to use. Typically it is only supplied in small amounts of about 100ml and we needed gallons of it.
In conclusion we could have had some successes with a smaller form-factor and in a more controlled environment. But nothing that would be useful in a show environment for a large audience.
We had fun in a mad science, Mythbusters sort of way. Learnt a lot but ultimately failed.


You can see how we (successfully) worked with cymatics in this behind the scenes film for the Glenfiddich 21 film:

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Will a robot take my job ?

From The Drum
I have an irrational fear of machines. Even though I spend every day constantly hooked up to them. I think it stems from being given the I,Robot stories by Issac Asimov when I was 10. I was hooked. I loved it. The sci-fi fascination continued through my childhood with Star Trek, Blake’s Seven, Doctor Who, Quantum Leap (remember that?) and even Buck Rogers. My youth saw the golden age of sci-fi movies - 2001 Space Odyssey, The Matrix, Terminator, Star Wars and Alien – they were more than films they were clearly defined moments of my life.
And this is where my problem lies, a large number of the themes of these movies display a dystopian future that often includes some sort of ‘rise of the machine’ and therein lies my fear for a future where machines take over. When even Tony Stark himself (aka Elon Musk) describes artificial intelligence (AI) as “summoning the demon” and that these “existential risks’ are the biggest threat facing the world I think the World should sit up and listen.
Clearly it is good to see that the more creative and empathetic careers are not under threat but surely it is only a matter of time. After all as Will Smith asks Sonny in the brilliant I Robot “Can a robot write a symphony? Can a robot turn a... canvas into a beautiful masterpiece?”  Sonny’s reply “can you?” says it all.
Be afraid, be very afraid………
See the original here:

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Would a brand date or employ itself ? #smwldn

Our talk Social Media Week London Talk is only 24 hours away!
In a connected world a person is increasingly defined by their personal brand profile, indeed this is often the first impression that people create even before a face to face meeting. This includes the content they create, comment on and share, the tone they use and the channels they choose. Some people spend a great deal of time crafting and refining this image to achieve authenticity and credibility amongst their personal and professional network, some think less of it, often resulting in a confusing or indeed schizophrenic online persona.
Many companies fail to apply the same principles to their own brand in social often resulting in conflicting communications that restrict their ability to sell their products and services to the increasingly savvy, connected consumer.
Over a decade ago the conversation was around what people could learn from brands but at Gravity Thinking we think the time has come for brands to be judged against people, after all brands content is seen next to posts from friends, family and celebrities.
So what is the real personality top brands are portraying in social media and does it match the values the brand wants to portray ? What if these social media profiles were for people ? Would consumers want a relationship with them…to employ them…be friends with them…go on a date with them…?
Gravity Thinking will share the early findings of a year long project using psychologists’ personal profiling techniques to help show brands how they should be using the same principles as personal branding in their verbal and visual social communications.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Shock tactics work but only with an emotional connection

Originally published in The Drum

Andrew Roberts

This June on my birthday I completed my 100th Parkrun; that’s 100 Saturdays that I have run a timed 5km route as fast as I can, often with over 1000 others. 

My average time is about 21mins, some do it in an unfeasible 15 minutes, some with prams or dogs, some take well over 45 minutes.

Last week I did it with my 12 year old daughter, after we finished and on our way home she noticed 2 ladies who were still only half way round, her reaction, “good for them” was priceless. 

I asked her more about this and she spoke passionately of a video extolling the virtues of exercise a friend had shared on Instagram. She even talked about the benefits of running for your heart and said it was never too late to start up exercise.

Just over 50 years ago Marshall McLuhan the so called 'Media prophet of the 1960’s' wrote about the much misquoted concept of "The medium is the message”. In his essay he summed up the communication theory that the medium through which we choose to communicate holds as much, if not more, value than the message itself.

Fast forward to 2015 and as we all know that social now leads conversations -  it creates sharing and drives peer to peer communication and that necessitates the use of messages that are impactful and memorable. In the case of some charities that clearly now means using the shock factor.

The key however is not actually shock but rather emotional connection – the BHF ad connects with me (and indeed my daughter) because it pulls at the heartstrings and makes us think about the future.

Social is the place where we connect with our closest friends and family and, much like brands, if you can create emotional connection between your brand or cause and your audience the ‘message’ and the ‘medium’ are equally important. 

Of course shock tactics can work but so do many others, as long as charities focus on emotion then they can’t go too far wrong.