There’s a difference between noise and impact. Noise can grab your attention, while impact has the ability to connect and engage beyond a singular moment. Noise is the interruption. Impact is the beginning of something greater. But how do you manage to sustain the former so it resonates in an authentic way? And, more importantly, what sort of branded experience are audiences really hungering for that the industry has yet to deliver?
This is the challenge the Viacom Velocity team (a full-service marketing and creative agency within Viacom) faced when partnering with MTV for a VMA activation last summer. Using New York City and the Hudson River as a backdrop, the goal was twofold: Create an innovative aerial marketing stunt designed to drive conversation around the announcement of Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj’s planned performance during the telecast (while also promoting key sponsors in the process) and actively engage with fans so they felt like they were more than just passive observers.
“It was not only about creating a promotional stunt for the VMAs with an exclusive talent announcement, but also about creating content—we livestreamed this first-ever aerial launch on MTV’s Facebook Live,” explains Dario Spina, CMO of Velocity.
“Millennial and Gen X audiences are savvy and they know when they’re being marketed to, so there’s an expectation that if a brand is going to grab their attention, it needs to invite them past the velvet ropes so they feel like a VIP guest at a party.”
With that in mind, Velocity joined forces with Remarkable Media to dream up the ultimate creative solution: projection mapping in mid-air utilizing three helicopters, augmented reality technology, infrared tracker markers, a 4K camera, and proprietary software. The idea was to create a first-in-marketing stunt to coincide with a first-time-ever event: the VMAs at Madison Square Garden.
While plenty of eyes were in the sky watching the record-breaking stunt unfold, it was the social thread that ran throughout the activation that built its own momentum and narrative.
“Our own My MTV research has shown that almost two-thirds of milliennials are really into interactive advertisement and like it when brands invite them to experience something,” explains Spina. “So we had MTV’s Gaby Wilson livestreaming it, there was a Snapchat Story, a viewing party happening at a hotel on the Hudson River, and even Ariana Grande was talking about it on Twitter. All these elements weren’t an afterthought—they were strategically executed so MTV fans really got to own the conversation from beginning to end.”
This activation was further heightened by the fact that Spina and the Velocity team managed to snag their own moon man of sorts—a Guinness World Record for largest aerial projection screen, not to mention a viral lift of 1587 percent across all MTV handles.
“Winning awards is great,” laughs Spina. “But winning with fans is even better. And ultimately, that’s our goal every time we create something like this. To do more than just grab their attention—we want to connect with them in a way that really counts.”