Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Virtual Thirst Launch: Nov 8, 2007

Well, today was the big day. People have asked me why I hadn’t posted work in progress on my blog up until now. And why it’s taken so darn long to complete! I couldn’t really release any details prior to launch. So, I figure I owe a nice long blog post dedicated to this promotion. I’ll do a little step-by-step from my perspective (not only as a winner, but as a marketer and resident of SL). I’ll talk about my experience overall working with Millions of Us, Crayon and Coca-Cola on the project. And of course, a little about the Virtual Thirst launch and how you can now participate.

First, why I entered this contest.

I had so many reasons to do it. I had just spent 8 months on a second life project that had fallen through for another client. In the process, I had really become enamored with SL. I learned to build and I wanted the time I had invested in SL to be put to something productive. Opening a small store of my own in world was definitely an accomplishment for me, but I had spent so much time on looking at brands and how they affected residents. I really kind of wanted to put those skills to the test. I figured my building skills and everything I had learned about Second Life and brands entering the metaverse gave me a leg up.

There’s one other thing that probably given me an edge. One of my first 15-minutes of fame in my career was also given to me by Coca-Cola when I designed back in 2001. Now, that was a long time ago. Coke was my first consumer packaged goods client. Trust me, it isn’t easy selling soft drinks. Especially when there are so many beverage choices out there. But Coke isn’t just a drink. It’s a brand. People feel connected to it. They are one of the few brands I’ve worked with that really put brand experience at the top of their business strategy. Those experiences have changed exponentially since my first Coke experience, but one thing I have to say about them – they are always willing to take a risk. Try new things, and make people care. I know that somewhere at Coke, there’s a guy (or gal) who’s job it is to wave the ROI finger. Well, I don’t envy them, especially since you cant really track if a TV spot, banner ad or bottle you saw in Second Life really made you buy that can of Coke at lunch today. But they consistently make an effort to keep their brand experiences fresh and relevant. SO – I know a little about Coke, and I’m a fan of the brand. Figured I had a pretty good shot of winning this one. So I entered *grins*.

I set to work on my entry. I spent about a week on it. Carefully crafting an elaborate brand experience that I felt would really make Coke relevant to SL-ers. I did some layouts and did a 2-page write-up on all the different elements. When I finished it, I figured it didn’t stand a chance because it was too elaborate. There was one element I had worked into it that I thought stood on it’s on though. They were small bubbles hidden around the island that you could interact with to win a prize. I decided to switch that up a little into a bottled brand experience and submit that on it’s own. I mean why not, it took me maybe an extra hour or so. Well, that’s the one that won.

Winning Virtual Thirst.

Well, you probably know all about what I won already, and if not, there’s an earlier blog entry where I covered that. In the end, my experience working on this project far out-weighed the trip and the lindens.

The trip to San Francisco on July 31st was basically the kick off for the project. I spent 2 days at Millions of us (MOU) working on the start of the build. I wasn’t sure how it would all play out, me being a contest winner, but a Creative Director by trade. Oddly enough, in the beginning it felt a whole lot like being at work! Working with MOU, Crayon and Coke to make sure the bottle experiences were engaging and the prizes cool and relevant (without upsetting indigenous businesses already within SL). We needed to iron out our distribution method, how much of it would be viral, etc. So back in July, I guess we all sort of knew our work wasn’t done. For those of you in the biz, it’s like this. I had just gotten sign off on the concept. Now we had to make it a reality.

The launch was originally set around the SLCC Convention in Chicago on August 24th where crayon and Coke would be speaking about the project. Steve at Crayon had asked me if I planned on going. I knew since my SL project had been put on hold, it would be on my own dime, but I did have 500,000 lindens layin’ around. So I decided to go.

We kicked it into high gear, but we all pretty much knew we wouldn’t be done by SLCC. SLCC was where a good majority the fun was on this project for me. I went there on a whim figuring it would be fun to see the Coke presentation. Meeting and spending time with the guys on the project there was great. I got to spend some time with CC Chapman and Steve Coulson who were both with Crayon (and now The Advance Guard), and Michael Donnelly, Director, Worldwide Interactive Marketing at The Coca-Cola Company. These guys are a new era of marketers. I bow to their social media know-how and brand 3.0 moxy. I still don’t get twitter – even after watching them do it all day and night. One of these days maybe I will enough to say throughout the course of the day – and enough people who actually want to listen, and I will make that leap! Until then, I’ll stick to micro-blogging on facebook.

The entire team treated me like one of them, not just a contest winner. They were very respectful of my opinions and ideas. As a group, we refined and blew out each and every element. And 3 months in the making, today we unveiled the 3 Coke Puzzle Bottles.

The Bottles.

The essence of my idea is this: have the bottle be a vehicle to the experience. Make it immersive and cool, and then give me something to take away that adds to my everyday Second Life experience. I wanted something that residents will like and use. Not just some branded piece of advertising that we push. It was our mission to do it right and make it fun.

Each of the 3 puzzle bottles stands about 10m high. They start out in solved-mode, and scramble when a user clicks to interact. One the puzzle is solved, a stream of particles escapes the bottle and it presents the player with one of 3 prizes (which you are free to share with friends since they are copy/trans). It also rezzes an experience for everyone to interact with, not just the avatar who solved them. Some of the experiences also have some neat accessories you might find yourself using long after the Coke experience *coughs*snowball*coughs*.

If you could only see the original list of prizes we had. I think at one point it was 3 pages long – lol. OK, I confess, it took us 3 months because I wanted a ka-gillion prizes. Can you blame me? I was like a kid in a candy store. Anyway, we narrowed it down to 3. Here’s a run-down on them:

Puzzle Bottle 1:
This bottle rezzes the Penguin snow-globe experience. Grab one of 4 bottles on the side and play with a penguin, go ice fishing or go ice climbing. It’s totally awesome for taking snapshots. This puzzle bottle presents you with a cute life-like little Coke bear buddy.

Puzzle Bottle 2:
This bottle rezzes the Bubble machine. Grab a parachute, and hop on a bubble. You’ll take a ride up through a monster bottle of Coke and then parachute down once you come out the top and your bubble pops. The parachute will definitely be a keeper, and this puzzle bottle presents you with a very cool Coca-Cola scooter with custom AO (animation over-ride).

Puzzle Bottle 3:
This one just happens to be my personal favorite – and not just because it’s located at my store! This bottle rezzes the snowball fight. Two machines dispense snowballs. There’s only 2 mounds of snow to hide behind, but this one will get everyone involved trust me. Attached the snowball, go into mouse look, aim and fire. Pelt everyone and anyone you please with snowballs. Plus this machine gives you a totally tricked out Coke electric guitar. Just wear it and choose a rockin’ move from the HUD. Also one of my fave prizes. I just love the reactions from people when they see them for the first time.

The launch event today was great. Packed the sim, fought the lag and spread a little slice of Coca-Cola - Second Life style. If you missed it, here’s some links ya’ll can check out because I think I’ve blabbed on long enough.

> My Virtual Thrist Flickr Set

> The Flickr Virtual Thist photobucket

> Greg Verdino's Blog post and audio download

One last thing before I go:
MoU – Reuben, your team got *mad skillz*
Crayon – Virtual Thirst was a great idea – big kudos on bringing this project to fruition
Coke – You’ll always be one step ahead of the competition, cuz you got Mickey Douhet.

Thanks for the great experience.

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