Crafting Moments: Mobile As A Reflex, Not A Medium

What do you do to promote the opening of a legendary musical -- but it's a market where live audiences are declining, the economy still struggles, and discretionary income just isn’t going to live theater? Oh, and by the way, do it on a $10,000 budget. That was the challenge for Leo Burnett in promoting the Chicago Shakespeare Theater opening of “Sunday in the Park with George.”

The ingenious solution leveraged one of Chicago's own great treasures -- its Art Institute -- and the Georges Seurat painting that plays a central character in the musical itself. It was a bit of a caper. “It took about six months to convince the Art Institute,” says Bill Reishtein, SVP/Group Creative Director, Leo Burnett.

Well, yeah. The idea was to create a fake version of the famous painting, but with some of the characters missing. They situated the painting about 50 feet away from the room with the original, so that visitors would come upon it thinking they were seeing the real thing -- but maybe not quite. They set up video cameras to capture people’s reactions as they laughed, scratch their heads and looked on in wonder.



“And after 30 minutes we had actors come in and do the song “Sunday” from the play. It was a beautiful moment of music going through the museum,” Reishtein says.

In fact, it proved to be a mobile moment… And the necessary one. The Burnett team had done a good job of alerting the press with embargoed releases and local station trucks ready to cover the event. But moments before a major announcement came down involving the infamous Chicago teachers' strike of last year, pulling most of the remote trucks away from the Art Institute.

“That was where mobile came in,” he says. “The interaction between mobile and social was our strategy.” Working with Iris Mobile, they distributed on-site signage and pass-outs inviting people to text to win their own Sunday in Paris. They got back a video for the play that was easily shared via Twitter and Facebook. Or they could buy a ticket.

The second phase involved putting the faux painting at the Chicago Art Expo with a cutout inviting people to pose as the missing characters and post the images to their own social media.

The two-phase campaign netted 8 million media impressions in 24 hours as local media around the country picked it up. A fully fleshed-out multimedia package was distributed to media in very short order. But more to the point, it drove real sales. The show broke the theater’s record for having the highest number of first-time guests in its history.

For Senior Digital Strategist Ian Beacraft, the campaign worked because social was not a simple add-on -- an invitation to “like” something. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime event and it is a way for people to take it with them, to take a postcard.”

In other words, the strategy here was not to find and insert oneself into a mobile moment, but to create a sharable mobile moment for people. “Bring people to it and let them broadcast it as a highlight reel of their lives,” says Beacraft.

The mobile phone has become a reflex for recording and sharing. When we see something amazing, our impulse is to share with someone we care about. That is mobile media as we the consumers have defined it in our lives, and it has nothing to do with the mobile browsers, ad units, app distribution ecosystem and marketing methods that we in the industry call “mobile media.” In everyday life, mobile media is more of an impulse to record and share.

Technically, the campaign here was designed to make the assets easy to share. “We recognized what platform they were signed into and gave them that option for sharing,” says Reishtein. And the shared content like video clips from the show were designed to be enjoyed by people who weren’t even present.

The effort paid off in longevity as well. Seventeen percent of the people who texted into the program opted in for further messages.

There is a cool idea in here about how mobile marketing can evolve into something that slipstreams into the mobile behaviors that people already demonstrate in everyday life. Either creating occasions for mobile self-expression and sharing or simply understanding the places and the times when those behaviors take place opens up a whole new range of creative possibilities.

Instead of intruding on a mobile moment, you are facilitating one, inspiring one, and helping to enhance one. If we really come to understand the mobile device as an extension of personal will or activity or sharing, then we have the opportunity to imagine it as so much more than just another screen to be occupied.

The idea becomes: how do you inspire the behavior -- become a part of it -- become aligned and identified with it? We start thinking of mobile as something closer to a reflex or a behavior than just as a medium.

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