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When Mobile Takes the Stage

Goodby Silverstein & Partners designed an ad for Frito-Lay that mobile users could control with their smartphones.

Goodby Silverstein's Niklas Lilja, director of innovation
Goodby Silverstein’s Niklas Lilja, director of innovation

Last spring, a Goodby, Silverstein & Partners campaign for Frito-Lay brand Doritos angled to tap into the bond concertgoers have with their smartphones as well as with social media.

South by Southwest Music Festival (SXSW), the annual event in Austin, Texas, features days  of concerts that showcase musical talent. Thanks to its growing popularity, its national (and even international) appeal, and the droves of young people it attracts, SXSW is emerging as an advertising hotspot — particularly if you’re an advertiser with a known brand and a hefty budget.

Niklas Lilja, director of innovation at GSP, says that back in 2012, his firm convinced Frito-Lay to have presence at the festival and the two engineered an enormous on-stage Dorito’s vending machine.

From Physical Prop to Mobile Puppet

“It was just a prop with dancers performing inside it and the chips fell onto the stage,” Lilja says. It was a cool visual, Lilja suggests. But for he and his fellow creatives at GSP, something was missing.

“We thought it would be way cooler if the vending machine actually worked,” Lilja says. And so the following year, 2013, when Frito-Lay returned to GSP asking to do something similar to what they’d pulled off the year prior, Lilja and his team collaborated with digital agency Sabertooth Interactive to design a functional vending machine that audience members could control via their phones.

Lilja and his fellow creatives came up with the idea of letting people tweet commands to the Dorito’s machine. “It came from the simple insight that people are going to be tweeting on their phones all the time, not necessarily during gigs, but while at the event,” says Lilja, who set out to spice up the traditional vending machine model. “Instead of someone [tweeting] ‘B2’ for some Dorito’s flavor, they could pick ‘B2’ for an explosion to occur, or punch ‘C2’ for the band, and so forth.”

Tying in the App

Users tweeted suggestions at a code that was linked to the vending machine and then voted on a final action. Pictures were also a part of the SXSW mobile ad campaign. “You could take a photo of yourself with your phone and it would appear on the screen between gigs,” Lilja says, adding: “We also filmed the whole thing in 360-degree, so if people used the 360-degree Doritos app, you could have a view facing the front of the stage, or jump to the back camera and [have the perspective of being] in the middle of the crowd.”

The 360-degree Doritos app extended not just to audience members, but was live-streamed to reach people who weren’t physically in attendance. “It extended the gig to whoever wanted to be a part of it,” Lilja says.

Frito-Lay was back at SXSW this year, again with GSP, and Lilja says that another vending machine was back in action, though it was “more Instagram and Vine-based this year.”