Creative Roundtable: See the U.S.A. in a Chevrolet
A look at a Web 2.0 campaign with a retro feel
Chevrolet has shifted its efforts to reach drivers online into high gear with the creation of Chevynation.com, a Web site hosting a mix of brand and user-generated video, image galleries and text and audio features, as well as links to MySpace pages, where users can communicate with other Chevy owners.
“There’s nothing quite like Chevy Nation out there right now,” maintains Jeremy Morris, senior vice president and director of digital and custom publishing for Campbell-Ewald, the Warren, Mich.-based agency that created Chevynation.com. “The site provides a highly experiential user interface with a huge amount of new content that’s being refreshed every week.”
The site went live on April 25 and is a long-term destination that will continue to grow and evolve. “As new Web tools become available, we’ll integrate them. As our users make suggestions, we'll follow their advice. As social media continues to evolve, so will we,” Morris relates.
A 3-D experience set in a retro-style American city, the site features six distinct channels aimed at various groups of Chevy drivers. For instance, The Club House, which highlights classic Chevy cars like the Corvette and Camaro, is for muscle-car fanatics and gear heads, while The Racing Garage is the hub for info on Chevy's racing program, and the Chevy Groove club celebrates the brand's relationship to popular music.
Sounds like something for everyone, but how will digital creatives rate the effort?
OMMA asked a trio of digital creatives — Agency.com’s Mat Zucker, Mick O’Brien of Digitas and Atmosphere BBDO’s Arturo Aranda — to take a spin around Chevynation.com.
Upon arriving at the site, we are greeted by an aerial view of a city full of neon lights and moving cars. Flyovers sweep us from one channel to another.
OMMA: What are your initial thoughts?
O’Brien: It’s got a really cool vibe — the feel is almost one of nostalgia. This isn’t the right reference, but it almost has this American Graffiti feel to it where cars are king, and your car is an extension of yourself.
OMMA: What about the look of the site?
Zucker: I think it’s really tight. I don’t know if it’s innovative, but the motion graphics and the design elements are well crafted, and the movements are smooth and slick.
O’Brien: The flyovers are really cool. The level of detail that you see in terms of light reflecting off the cars shows great craft. It’s a little bit repetitive on the home page, but as you move the sound design is really nicely married to the graphics. It has almost a surround-sound effect as you’re passing cars.
Aranda: I think 3-D flythroughs are pretty standard for any kind of broadband effort. They’re kind of cool, but I also feel like they focus too much effort on making these interstitial transitions look as sexy as they could instead of making the individual pages feel more inviting and more interactive. After the flythroughs, everything becomes pretty static.
O’Brien: Once you get in to the [Chevy Groove] club the attention to detail is awesome and just the three-dimensionality of it and the whole gestalt inside is really cool. But the content is not as satisfying to me as the journey to get there. I think what happens here is you set up a really high bar from what the user is waiting for and looking for, because you did such a great job with the animation and the graphics and that whole experience. Then you get into a situation that’s more two-dimensional.
OMMA: Is this site easy to navigate?
O’Brien: I think it definitely is. These days users are certainly savvy enough, and this design is intuitive enough, that people will know exactly where you want them to go and will be able to get there. It’s leading edge from an interaction/design perspective and a user interface perspective. Clearly, we're in the realm of Second Life, and I think more and more we'll see user interfaces that are three-dimensional.
Zucker: I’ve worked on a lot of auto sites, and I had no idea what to do when I first got here. Exploratory is terrific. All sites are to be explored, and the user should be in control, but a brand should guide people. It might be a sentence, a suggestion of where to start and, most importantly, the promise of what this is. I think the promise of the experience should be here.
Aranda: I wish that the community aspect was [played up] more intuitively [on the home page]. I would have rather they proclaimed this effort very clearly on the home page and said, ‘You can be a part of this community by clicking right here. Go to this MySpace page, and you can sign up and be a part of this great brand.’ But what’s happening here is they are making people do a lot of work by burying the links. People have to go and dig for them.
OMMA: Each channel offers a link to a MySpace page. Is this the best vehicle for community, or should Chevy have built a community of its own?
Zucker: I think it’s smart for brands to integrate with existing communities rather than create their own. The Web is an open, interconnected network of communities, and brands are smart to connect. The more you do that, the more successful you’re going to be.
Aranda: I think there is some street cred that comes with being part of MySpace. It just makes you that much more easily accessible. So I don't have a problem with them using MySpace. But [the links] are buried [and] difficult to find.
OMMA: Chevy is trying to reach all sorts of Chevy drivers through this one site. Is that a good strategy, or might it have been a good idea to create separate sites for each group?
Aranda: I think it’s good that you have all kinds of people all within one place. That makes it more interesting.
Zucker: It’s best if you can create nuanced experiences for each [group] in the same format. But they don’t have that sharp of a distinction [between experiences] here.
OMMA: Do you see potential for this site to grow and evolve?
O’Brien: Definitely. What’s interesting about the city metaphor is you can put up a new building and take one down. Cities are living, breathing things.
Aranda: Yeah, that’s what’s great about building this idea of community, embodied within a city — it’s modular, you can keep on updating areas and nobody is going to question if a whole building or a whole storefront starts to shift or evolve.
Zucker: There is potential for growth. I think they could add some elements like a guide for the site and really explain the reason why you are here.