In the wake of its first-ever Super Bowl spots, GE is using online "augmented reality" to promote renewable energy products.
GE launched an integrated ad campaign Sunday to promote its solar panels and wind turbines. The effort's interactive portion uses a system of print-outs and user Web cams to generate digital holograms of the renewable energy products in action, so consumers can "wrap their hands around them," said Jennifer Walsh, GE's global director of digital media.
The campaign, which includes GE's first ever Super Bowl spots, employs a microsite at Plugintothesmartgrid.com, where people can interact with the holograms by holding a printed panel in front of a Webcam. The panels can be printed from the site or taken from print ads that will appear in four magazines: Sports Illustrated, People, ESPN, and Entertainment Weekly. Banner ads on news and entertainment sites including CNN.com and Yahoo will also take consumers to the area of the site where the holograms can be seen.
Two digital hologram segments will be shown, one to promote solar panels and one for wind turbines. They both "unfold like pop up books to create a scene that depicts the alternative energy sources," said Christian Haas, creative director at Goodby, Sliverstein & Partners, which handled the digital elements of the campaign.
The wind turbine hologram shows three turbines in a grassy field with the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay in the background. "When you move the panel, you hear the sound of the wind and the water and if you blow into the microphone you see the turbines spin faster," Haas said. "Then the lights in the little house go on, like you're generating power for the house."
The holograms demonstrate how the distribution of energy is being transformed by GE Smart Grid products. "In the past if you used solar or wind power you had to live near the source of the power, but now it can be distributed around the country and this is a fun way of showing how it works," Walsh said.
The holograms are 3D Flash based, with Flash being used so the content can be seen without having to download additional software, Haas said. Goodby worked with North Kingdom, a Swedish digital agency, to produce the effect.
The use of augmented reality may be unprecedented in a major branding campaign, with GE claiming it's never been used before and Haas saying it was used "because we wanted to create something people had never seen before."
Barry Parr, a senior analyst at Forrester Research, says that interacting with the digital holograms "has a larger impact on individual perception or memory than any other kind of advertising experience. You're offering them a unique experience. It's fun, they'll want to do it and it has a huge viral impact. You've held this simulated wind turbine in your hands, played around with it and looked at it from multiple angles. It's hard to put a price on that level of interaction and engagement."
One of GE's Super Bowl spots, from BBDO/New York, features a modern version of the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz. The ad includes a link to Ecomagination.com, GE's general environmental energy site. The Super Bowl spots "gives you the big reach at the beginning of the campaign," said Judy Hu, GE's global executive director of advertising and branding. "The online elements give people the chance to experience it."
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