Last month, VW unveiled a key element in the buzz-building campaign, a 3,685-square-foot interactive billboard in New York's Times Square. It pictures the bug parked behind his microphone, alongside the headline "The people want their voice to be heard." VW is the first brand to utilize the interactive technology of the ABC SuperSign, which allows a two-way dialogue with passersby via SMS. Using their cell phones, pedestrians text their yes or no responses to the poll questions appearing on the sign, and through WAP technology, their texted votes are recorded live on a news ticker.Our take:
After any poll reaches 1,000 votes, the results are displayed via Web banners using advanced keyword tagging to match up relevant content. For example, an ad on an article page about the Democratic primaries uses keyword targeting to ensure the most relevant user-generated statement is displayed. The polling questions range from philosophical queries such as "Do you want to live forever?" to the topical such as "Do you want to know the truth behind gas prices?"
The interactive Times Square billboard also caught the attention of the media, including the hosts of The View, who spent about five minutes discussing the poll on the show.
"For us it's about participating in pop culture," says Ellis. "One of the things I was personally very intent on is crossing over from the interactive world into the real world. I want to create ideas that can naturally travel from one channel to another. ... It says something about the progressive nature of the brand in the way it speaks to the consumer."
So far, Ellis says the company is more than pleased with the results it is seeing from the effort. "I had high expectations, but I never thought we would get the response we did as a result of this polling," he says, noting the nearly 1 million votes received thus far.
While certainly on the expensive end of things, VW's experiment illustrates the power of combining out-of-home advertising with social media -- a combination being tried in ever more venues nowadays. Granted most companies can't afford to install a huge, custom-built electronic billboard in Times Square, but even those using more modest displays are increasingly tapping the power of mobile microsites, SMS messaging and other mobile interactive technologies to encourage viewers to interact with their medium.
One of the more interesting points that AdWeek made was that the entire campaign -- including technology -- was managed in-house by VW's agency of record, Crispin Porter. The team hired an ex-R/GA member to work on the project, which was particularly clever given that company's past experiences running interactive, social applications on the digital billboards in Times Square (for example, with Nike).