When MillerCoors launched Redd‘s Apple Ale with TV spots featuring apples hitting people in the head we thought, why not let the internet throw them as well? Thus, the Redd‘s Apple Launcher campaign was born, and came to life for two full weeks as a livestreamed interactive Facebook sweepstakes including over $50,000 in prizes.
But this wasn‘t any ordinary campaign. Just about every element involved — from the concept, to the set, to the internet-controlled cannon and web application — had to be invented from scratch. It was a first of its kind: hundreds of thousands of people, from all across the country, aiming and firing a custom-built launcher in real-time. The result? A lot of delight and even more destruction.
After taking over a secret, 100,000 square foot warehouse in Washington, DC‘s Ivy City, the set building could begin in earnest. Though the end product would be built from wood and steel, our team started by designing the Redd‘s bar in SketchUp, a 3D modelling software program. Once a scale model had been designed, and camera angles tested, we used the architectural plans to construct the physical set from plywood — the only affordable medium durable enough to withstand two weeks of punishment from our launchers.
Set dressing was, in a word, fun. We sourced a bright-red pool table, an oversized Moose head, and a fireplace for ambiance. We installed four working Redd‘s apple ale bar taps and had more than 15,000 red aluminum bottles designed, manufactured and shipped from China. We even created an antique-looking Redd’s light-bulb sign, hung 20-feet in the air, that would strobe when struck. And just about everything got a coat of candy-apple red paint.
In short, we hacked a baseball-pitching machine to allow it to be controlled over the internet. The basic form-factor suited our purposes with its size and adjustable wheels, allowing for greater control of speed, arch, and projectile size (though much more tinkering was needed to customize them). We retrofitted them with linear actuators and added on remotely operated loaders to supply them with the 80-100 apples they‘d fire per hour.
For 98 hours, almost every minute of this two week experience was carefully scripted with a variety of mini-stunts and activations, including RC cars, zombies, pinatas, bears, and a dunk tank.
For 98 hours, almost every minute of this two week experience was carefully scripted with a feast of mini-stunts and activations including a dunk tank, RC cars, zombie take-overs, piñatas, bears, and so much more.
Following serious user-testing, we connected our customized launchers to an Arduino Mega Controller so users could remotely aim and fire them at the Redd‘s bar. We paired the controller with an ethernet shield to receive commands from the internet, two linear actuator controllers to aim each launcher, and a relay to activate the loaders.
With a fully dressed set and complete launcher set up in the warehouse, we set out to perfect the user flow and experience. We quickly decided against a virtual queue because of frustratingly long wait times for players, instead opting for a timed quiz mini-game that let each concurrent visitor compete to control the launcher. Once they were in the hot seat, players aimed the launcher through a live camera feed and fired way, wreaking delightful havoc on our set. No humans or apples were harmed in the making of this project.
Over two weeks, we received hundreds of thousands of views and mentions, 15,000 players fired over 6,000 apples, and 9,468 entered to win prizes. More importantly, Redd‘s Apple Ale smashed its Quarterly and Year one sales goals, and went on to launch several new flavors.
The successful interplay between hardware and software helped solidify ISL as the go-to agency for bridging together digital and physical for executing ‘never been done before’ campaigns.