Tom Sawyer has been ramping up his social media support gigs – some events we’ve been getting involved have literally been gigs (more to come on these soon) and some have been a bit more discursive in nature…
The most interesting (from both a digital and a discursive point of view) has been new immersive debate brand The Real Debate Club. This offers stimulating discussions in contextually relevant locations. The first event was about the Jimmy Saville scandal, titled ‘The BBC Was as Much to Blame’ and was held at the old BBC headquarters in Marylebone Gardens.
The second debate, slightly less controversially, was about digital democracy and entrepreneurialism and was held at Google Campus on Wednesday.
MP for Clacton Douglas Carswell was flying the flag for the digital age (drawing arguments from his book “The end of Politics and the birth of iDemocracy”), alongside Andy Williamson CEO of FutureDigital.Eu with Matthew Elliot, founder of the Taxpayers alliance countering and Paul Dowling of Dreamstake offering some interesting angles on the start-up side.
It felt appropriate to add as many digital and interactive elements as possible, accordingly we had a live feed via U-Stream, thoughts being captured by video vox pop start-up Ticckle and a live curated Twitter feed run via Twitterfall behind the speakers. Finally we used a live polling system PollEverywhere to count the votes for each motion before and after the arguments.
These digital components, much like the debate itself, were enthusiastic, interesting and engaging, if not quite seamless. Twitterfall does not seem to update automatically when on fullscreen which is fairly fundamental, and there were a few issues with the various videos that were shown. The Polleverywhere system was great, and did allow the people following the live feeds to participate, but it also slowed down the process and was less emotive than a hand-count.
What we were ideally looking for was a system that could track how the speakers were doing in real time – and where affiliations were being challenged or changing sides. So far we haven’t managed to find the software out there – so we may just need to build it ourselves!
Here’s the final result on the political motion from Polleverywhere. Seems pretty clear that politics needs to step-change in its embrace of digital technology and contemporary behaviour. But it does need to do so carefully, as the machine can still be as fallible as people…
Last weekend saw the launch of our biggest pervasive experience to date – Wilfred Bagshaw’s Time Emporium – a Victorian time traveller inviting contemporary adventurers back to (in this case) the 14th Century to rescue the life of John of Gaunt and thus heal a rift in time and (of course) save history.
As the overview put it: ‘The Contractual arrangement is simple: To go back in time, you must agree to help prevent John of Gaunt from being killed. Once they agree, our players are sent back in Time to a small, rural town with three rival factions vying for supremacy: the church, the peasantry and the military. One will be responsible for his death, unless you can prevent it.‘
The event and brand is a partnership between Tom Sawyer and Winterwell, supported by some of the best companies each organisation has come across in the last five years, and a lot of fantastic new individuals to boot.
To launch the Time Emporium brand we reversed the formula from the Winterwell, switching ‘big party / festival with a pervasive element supporting it’ to ‘big pervasive event, building to a fantastic after-party’. And as we were setting it in medieval times and taking a historical event – the Peasants Revolt of 1381 – we had to create a realistic world and a narrative that at least loosely followed real events, at the same time as making it interesting, accessible and playful.
To build an engaging immersive experience and world for 300 people involved more technical and logistical challenges than we have ever had to manage, despite the strength of our cast, crew and partners. But this was nothing compared to the challenge of making the adventure genuinely interactive. The principle problem was trying to anticipate how this many people would respond: to the world, to the individual actors, to the missions and tasks put before them, and finally to the set pieces that were designed to interrupt the immersive world like the cut-scenes in a video game. And – whereas previously our experiences had been linear – like a first-person-shooter – this one was open-world – more like a role-playing game (though say this in a hushed voice to not put off the non-gamers).
When it came down to it on the nights the audience responded enthusiastically. So much so that on the first night we actually got them too revved up (particularly in the peasant faction) – to the point that they were physically rebelling even when not being coralled to do so, shouting over and even throwing things at the actors. As someone put it later, this was how theatre used to be – with the crowd reacting to the action volubly and enthusiastically. Though with the actors in the midst of the crowd at this point we didn’t quite have the separation or the mechanisms in place to control it yet.
There were further problems on opening night. The tech run was delayed and then over-ran, causing us to open late and have to try to clear a queue of a hundred people waiting outside. There were issues with the cloakroom, we had over-estimated the number of people turning up in appropriate dress and therefore the number of cloaks needed to help them immerse themselves in the world; finally, the final Wilfred Bagshaw projection revealing time had been saved (ironically) got stuck.
But every one of these problems had been resolved through the Friday night and matinee runs. With the door opening on time on Saturday the Time Machine ran like clock-work (despite warnings from Wilfred’s assistants that it was overloaded and likely to malfunction and drop people into a different time altogether).
We made the cloaks earned items, signifying membership of one of the three factions that successful players had infiltrated, and these same infiltrators were then trained up to help control the crowd (in the case of the Military), placate the crowd (for the Church) and be secretive from the crowd (for the Rebels). As a result there was a huge amount of energy and responses to the main scenes as they unfolded, but after some urging the crowd would also still themselves and listen.
Even better, there was no more bread or pint throwing, and best of all when Wilfred’s final proclamation came up through the broken glass of the Cathedral window to declare that history had been saved the crowd spontaneously cheered (even though their heroine had just been killed in front of them).
There were, of course, many things that were still not perfect and a huge number of lessons learned for next time. But overall the Saturday night was wonderful to watch unfold: to see hundreds of people moving around the world desperate to find the next interaction, grilling actors for information and the opportunity to win (and spend) their gold pieces; then seeing those that made it into the ‘factions’ responding to their leaders and the gameplay challenges, then these coming together to resolve the narrative tensions. And – on the second and third runs at least – everyone we spoke to afterwards thought so too.
We are just working out now how and when Wilfred’s Time Emporium will be opening its doors again, and where to direct the time machine towards. Also what to reveal from the unfolding backstory of exactly what is happening with these infractions of time and why Wilfred must stop them.
We’ll keep you posted…
It has been all easels and elbow grease here at Tom Sawyer HQ, where we have been hard at work securing, creating, developing, and monitoring the online presence of The Estate of artist Francis Bacon.
The late, great painter Francis Bacon is one of the most renowned British artists of the 20th Century – when he passed in 1992 he left behind an incredible creative legacy. The artist’s Estate has a busy international schedule of exhibitions and activity including the Official Francis Bacon Shop to promote to a passionate, demanding global audience.
Ensuring the official social profiles of Francis Bacon’s Estate can be easily identified was the first task – we’ve assisted in securing definitive social spaces to share content with the community and encourage discussion.
The ongoing challenge, but undoubtedly the greatest privilege of our role, is showcasing the Estate’s incredible stories, from first-time solo exhibitions in Australia and Japan, to million-pound auctions at Sotheby’s.
We are taking immense pleasure in seeing the community come together to discuss Francis Bacon and his work on the pages we run. View our work on the Estate’s Facebook, Twitter and Google+ pages, be sure to like/follow them to see our approach to all the latest Francis Bacon news.
As we move forward, we will continue building and connecting the online community, including interacting with high-profile members such as galleries and broadcasters. We are also excited to be taking on further roles in managing the Estate’s online presence, read our first blog post on the subject of an exciting new London exhibition here.
Looking ahead, along with continuing our coverage of the Estate’s exciting plans, we have all kinds of ideas on how to get the enthusiastic artistic community talking…
The end of the year is a good time for looking back, reviewing and then using what you see to plan the year ahead. 2012 has been a very exciting and busy year for Tom Sawyer. As you may know, we do a lot of work under the auspices of partner agencies though (see Partners‘ page for details) and so often aren’t able to talk openly about many of the campaigns that we work on while they are happening.
So we thought we might take the time and opportunity to recap some of the things we have been up to in the last year…
Social media campaigns
The Tom Sawyer Effect is mostly frequently deployed for short term social campaigns designed to make an impact quickly on either awareness and excitement or community growth and engagement (or both). As in the following examples:
Coca-Cola: Coke & Meals – working with Draft FCB to develop a campaign helping Mums in Central and Southeastern Europe to get their families around the dinner table more often, with a Facebook app and tool allowing them to send personalised video invitations.
Duxcoat – supporting the nanotechnology company in developing the concept and seeding strategy for a video displaying the benefits of its waterproofing spray in an entertaining (and surprising?) way. Managing the video seeding supported by our partners Viral Seeding and running an online influencer campaign.
Sebastian Faulks – working with Unity PR we developed the digital concept for the online launch of his new book A Possible Life with a live ‘Emotigraph‘ charting the emotions of the world each day across Twitter and Instagram.
Wonderbra – we also supported Unity PR with the social media strategy and then execution of the Haul of Fame campaign for Wonderbra, asking their fans to submit their best ‘looks’ across a range of different styles, then make a haul video of their look and get the most votes to win a shopping spree with a celebrity stylist.
Most of our campaigns involve us either supplementing the existing community management setup with extra content and outreach or running the social media channels entirely for the period, but we also do ongoing community management…
Francis Bacon – Taking over the social media channels for the artist’s estate, integrating the different profiles for the artist, the estate and the shop and creating a content strategy to keep the different audiences happy while converting more engagement into sales.
Livescribe – running the UK community on Facebook and Twitter for the smartpen brand alongside blog and site reviews, content creation and campaign launches.
Tenpin Bowling - running their main Facebook and Twitter profiles from January to October, alongside establishing a strategy and training guide to integrate the local pages for all 37 of the individual sites.
Cabana – running the Brasilian restaurants’ Facebook and Twitter profiles for the Olympic games, while the eyes of the world were on Stratford (and set to switch to Rio!)
Wonderbra – supporting the management of the brand’s Facebook and Twitter profiles between August and November.
Event / real world activation
We also run a lot of live event support, broadcasting content & live updates and managing discussion with people both attending and watching from elsewhere for:
- Italian furniture designer Arper‘s London showroom launch
- Artist Tom Lewis‘ exhibition at the Hoxton Gallery
- Stunts to promote the Clothing Recycling campaign for Marks & Spencers, The Public Toilet interactive installation and Ben & Jerry’s
- A tweeting photobooth at a party for Pernod Absinth & Kitsune
- A live debate on the Leveson Report following his first appearance in public since it was published
- WWF – the launch of our mobile trail for the Panda Made Me Do It – see previous post
Digital strategy and consultancy
We ran digital consultancy, strategy and training for Ingeus Ltd, Wildcard PR, Neville McCarthy Associates, the Young Presidents’ Organisation of Malta and the Kenyan Orphan Project.
We ran pervasive games blending live actors and action with mobile, augmented reality and online content and challenges for Capcom and Resident Evil, Namco and The Witcher 2, the V Festival and both the Winterwell summer festival and Halloween party. We also ran a mobile game as part of the Shoreditch Fringe and helped run Camp Career Ending Footage at the Burning Man festival.
Finally we soft-launched Evnt – a new website to catalogue and review all of the amazing pervasive and immersive events happening in London…
Plus there are a couple more projects still live that we can’t talk about yet and, as ever, several more at different stages of planning production. All in it’s been a fantastic year, but one that we are hoping to build on in 2013 with some very exciting campaigns, a new pervasive event brand in partnership with Winterwell and the expansion of Evnt in both remit and geography. Happy new year to you all…
A little bit late to the party perhaps, but check out Dante’s tour through the Nine Circles of Hell at Winterwell Halloween.
Revellers met Dante himself at the gates followed by a series of strange sinners and interactive projections from the fantastic SDNA. Those that made it through to the centre met the devil himself and were then either indulged or punished depending on the choice they had made to sin or repent.
Sign up at facebook.com/winterwelladventures to find out when the next event is running and stay tuned here for an exciting new pervasive experience partnering with Winterwell next year…
This morning I presented a breakfast trends session to Malta’s chapter of the Young Presidents Organisation, a networking organisation for people below a certain age that run companies more than a certain size (the exact requirements for membership are undisclosed, but it’s ‘young’ and ‘big’!)
The topic, beyond emerging trends at least, was the interplay between brands, news, social media and public sentiment and behaviour, so quite a big one! We covered quite a bit of ground in just under two hours, though as always with this kind of session I think the attendees were left with three main responses:
1) What a fantastic set of opportunities social media keeps on offering up
2) What an overload of information and potential, where’s the nearest darkened room and something to lie down on?
3) How and where do we actually start to take full advantage of these oppotunities?
If that is the case then we’re very happy to pick up the discussions with everyone here, on email or on Twitter. The presentation is below – though it was made to be talked through obviously!
Back in the summer Tom Sawyer was interviewed as part of a feature on alternate reality games and real world gaming for Continue magazine.
Now that it’s been out for a few weeks we didn’t feel too cheeky asking if they minded us publishing the whole article. Which, generously, they didn’t! You may need to zoom in to read, but it should be high enough resolution to be legible (if not let us know)…
You can find out more about the magazine and subscribe here.
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