Nat Geo's VR Helmet Blasts Off With The Right Stuff
ADWEEK|August 20, 2018

Mccann N.Y. Earns Adweek’s Top Prize for creative innovation.

David Gianatasio

If you’re yearning to experience the awesome wonders of space and get a closer view of the solar system without leaving Planet Earth, Nat Geo Channel has the right stuff for you.

By “the right stuff,” we mean an immersive VR experience that takes place inside the network’s “Astronaut Reality Helmets.”

Developed by McCann New York to tout director Darren Aronofsky‘s science show One Strange Rock, these lids were tricked-out with internal film projection units and visors that provided a full field of vision. You could turn your head this way and that to fully admire breathtaking footage of the Earth, moon and sun, just as they appear from orbit.

“Though we knew existing virtual reality headsets provide a good visual space simulation, we felt those headsets didn’t provide the real experience of a person up in space, dressed in a space suit and looking on Earth for the first time,” says agency executive creative technology director Nir Refuah. McCann collaborated with Pepin Gelardi of Tomorrow Lab to design the helmet, and created the four-minute VR film, using footage from the series, with Framestore.

Twenty-five helmets were produced, and journalists who attended a launch event in New York donned the headgear for a virtual off-world adventure. “This not only created additional singular stories about this first-of-its-kind helmet experience, it also provided an intriguing layer to stories written about the series,” says Nat Geo marketing chief Jill Cress. After the screening—which helped generate 312 million media impressions in the run-up to the show’s March debut—the helmets blasted off for planetariums and science centers across the country.

Michael Solomon, a marketing professor at Saint Joseph’s University, praised the device as “an imaginative vehicle to ease everyday people into the VR domain.”

Refuah likens the initiative to another spacey project from McCann, “The Field Trip to Mars” for Lockheed Martin, in which the agency realistically simulated a journey to the Red Planet via VR technology installed on a school bus. (“Field Trip” won Adweek’s Gravity Award in 2016.)

“It’s no longer just about doing the best practice in existing technology platforms” for innovative campaigns, he says, “but about inventing the technology that truly delivers the creative idea and brand content.”

MARKETING & ADVERTISING EVENT/EXPERIENCE INVENTION

HBO | SXSWESTWORLD GIANT SPOON

At SXSW in March, HBO recreated Westworld’s frontier fantasyland in a 90,000-square-foot, minutely detailed theme park, offering tailored experiences to visitors based on responses to a personality assessment. 66 actors took part—sorry, no robots. All told, the three-day activation—which took four months of planning and five weeks to build—generated 1.9 billion impressions and more than 500 press items worldwide. “We’ve started the next chapter in experiential,” says Giant Spoon co-founder Trevor Guthrie, “a chapter that requires participation—where you, as a person, become part of the brand’s story.”

MARKETING & ADVERTISING PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT INVENTION

HEINZ MAYONNAISE | MAYOCHUP | VML

Ketchup + mayonnaise = Mayochup, a tangy push designed to introduce Heinz Mayonnaise. Via Twitter, the brand asked Americans if they’d like to see ketchup and mayo combined. Big numbers poured in: 2.28 billion impressions, 1,245 media mentions and nearly 1 million Twitter poll responses. (Since the majority gave Mayochup a thumbs-up, the combo product is available for pre-order online.) “Not only did Mayochup effectively break through the newsfeed, but it created a groundswell in cultural conversation,” says VML group director, integrated strategy Madeline Nies. “It turned mayonnaise into a something worth talking about again.”

MARKETING & ADVERTISING CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE INVENTION

TENNESSEE DEPARTMENT OF TOURIST DEVELOPMENT THE COLORBLIND VIEWER | VML To promote Tennessee’s dramatic fall foliage, the state’s tourism office installed high-tech viewers at scenic spots that allowed people with red-green colorblindness (some 13 million Americans) to enjoy autumn’s vibrant, fiery hues for the first time. Their reactions were captured in an online film that generated more than 9 million views and national coverage resulting in 662 million earned impressions and $2.5 million in earned media value. In the weeks following the campaign, hotel revenue near viewer locations rose 9.5 percent year over year.

MARKETING & ADVERTISING COMMERCE INVENTION

PAYPAL | LOCAL SELECTS | CP+B

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