Kid Approved, Family-Friendly Marketing

There are two new people in the world! We are thrilled to congratulate our very own Erin Mills on the birth of her twins. Oakley and Sawyer came into the world on Thursday, January 26. To celebrate their cuteness (pictured below), we figured we’d take a moment to look at our favorite campaigns — MAG-produced and otherwise — that put kids and families front and center.

iSPY 20th Anniversary

To celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Scholastic’s hit book series, I SPY, MAG invited a gaggle of students to play a larger-than-life game of I SPY in Times Square. When the kids arrived, they discovered the twelve-foot tall, hidden-object-laden birthday cake that we’d built at the crossroads of the world. The special event was followed by a book signing and cake serving by Author Jean Marzollo. When the students returned to school, their library was 500 books larger.

Similac: The Mother ‘Hood

In 2015, this video took the parenting community by storm. In it, baby formula titan, Similac, takes the age-old but undying breast-vs.-bottle controversy head on by mocking parental judgmentalism in all its forms. Mom vs. Dad, Part-Time vs. Stay-At-Home, Disposable vs. Reusable — this video neutralizes every major ideological debate in parenting by making us laugh and putting the babies first.

Bounty’s Quicker Picker Upper Games

In honor of Bounty’s partnership with three-time gold medal winner, Allyson Felix, MAG challenged families to a virtual race against her. In addition to that green screen sprint, our Quicker Picker Upper Games encouraged parents and children to compete in a variety of cleaning-themed races and distributed more than a thousand rolls of Bounty to attendees. New York and Chicago have never been cleaner.

Evian’s Baby Campaigns

Mineral water stalwart, Evian, has had so much success with baby-oriented campaigns that it changed its slogan to match in 2012. “Live Young,” the brand now proclaims. Their commitment to cuteness began in 2009 when their record-breaking, YouTube-exclusive “Roller Babies” video scored them more than 25 million views in less than two months. In 2011, they released a video entitled “Baby Inside Me,” and, in 2013, Evian gifted us the video above, “Baby & Me,” which scored 50 million views in its first week. We’re equally grateful for the “Baby & Me” mobile app that followed, allowing us to share baby-fied versions of ourselves with friends, family, and, of course, clients.

The Modern Family Corn Maze

To drive tune-in to Modern Family, MAG invited families to enjoy immersive corn mazes at The Grove in LA and Union Square in New York. Once they’d made it through the labyrinths, more than 7000 consumers hung around our branded pumpkin patches to play Modern Family trivia, pose for goofy photos, and enjoy an augmented reality experience.

GoldieBlox and the Princess Machine

In February 2014, GoldieBlox became the first small business to air a commercial during the Superbowl network telecast. The video brings us three adorable toddlers who transform their girly toys into an enormous Rube Goldberg machine. The contraption’s purpose? To change the channel from a mind-numbing variation on the Beastie Boys’ “Girls” to a cartoon about a female engineer. The ad, which was created to articulate GoldieBlox’s commitment to promoting science and engineering among young girls, earned 8 million views in its first week. Plus an endorsement from Ellen DeGeneres.

Miss Frizzle from The Magic School Bus poses with the entire class from the United Nations International School.

25th Anniversary of The Magic School Bus

In order to celebrate the silver anniversary of its hit book series, The Magic School Bus, Scholastic asked MAG to produce a one-of-a-kind experience for local second-graders. We brought the kids down to Manhattan’s Pier 84 to witness the iconic bus voyaging down the Hudson River on a barge. The New York Aquarium’s Dr. Kafka teamed up with our MC — playing “Scuba Sam” — to offer the students a hands-on lesson about the creatures that live in the Hudson River. At the end of the event, we opened a treasure chest to reveal a huge collection of books and announced that the class would be going home with the complete Magic School Bus series.

We’re more excited than ever to dive into family-friendly activations now that our in-house focus group of newborns has grown by two. Whether you’re planning an event of your own or you’re here just-because, we’re grateful that you stopped by to celebrate with us.

The michael alan group is a full-service experiential marketing agency & event production company. Check out our work and our team, and drop us a line to chat about your next kid-centric, family friendly campaign.

Location Scout: New York City

Empirically proven: the Empire State’s 10 best spots to activate.

We love New York and we’re proud of it — clichés be damned! It’s the city that has everything — a concrete jungle where anything (and just about everything) goes. Here, work, play, and people come together from every demographic. The city’s variety, diversity, and unparalleled cultural cache converge to make it one of the world’s best locations for brand promotion.

Even when it’s cold.

That’s why we’ve drawn on the michael alan group’s experiential marketing experience to bring you our picks for the top 10 best spots to activate in the Big Apple.

1. Times Square

A place that’s called the Crossroads of the World probably doesn’t need much introduction. It’s the most visited location on the planet and presumably the most recognizable too. So not only is this a one-of-a-kind hub for reaching consumers in person, but it also pays huge dividends in sizzle reels.

Celebrating the 100 day countdown to the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.


2. Union Square

Union Square is one of the city’s most beloved, most trafficked outdoor event spaces. We strongly recommend that brands add their own events to Union Square’s huge docket of movie nights, holiday markets, and al-fresco fitness classes.

A participant climbs the rock wall at History Channel's Mountain Men City Trek in New York City's Union Square.
Driving tune-in to the season premiere of Mountain Men on History Channel via an all-terrain environment.


3. Herald Square

Yes, we know, another square, but it would be criminal not to mention Herald. This cozy clearing — great for collateral and premium distributions — is located just a few blocks from Penn Station on one side, and a few blocks from the Empire State Building on the other side. Plus it’s got its own subway station, which sees about 38 million passengers a year.

Guests wait in line to check out Duane Reade's Red Nose Day Pre-Event Party.
Raising awareness for the inaugural Red Nose Day in the U.S. via an expansive pre-party, which was followed by a telethon aired on NBC.


4. Flatiron Plaza

With views of the Flatiron, Met Life, New York Life, and Empire State buildings, Flatiron Plaza delivers on classic New York iconography without feeling too commercial or touristy. It’s a great spot for a small to medium activation that needs to pack a powerful punch. Plus, it delivers a highly concentrated local crowd during lunch time.

Building awareness and driving sales for Almay beauty products via a mobile tour, kicking off in New York City.


5. Javits Center

If you’re of the go-big-or-go-home school of thought, we recommend the Javits Center — the glass colossus that hosts more than 150 trade shows, conventions, and special events every year. It has plenty of event and meeting spaces as well as year-round sponsorship opportunities.

Lighting effects on the floor of the TMNT hallway resemble sewer grates, further enhancing the effect of being inside the Turtles' lair.
Generating excitement around the launch of Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle revival series by giving New York ComicCon attendees a chance to be immersed in the iconic turtle sewer lair.


6. Time Warner Center

Time Warner has a wide variety of event spaces, with upscale environments to host groups both large and small. They all share great views of people falling in love down in Central Park and Columbus Circle.

Providing runners with an experiential hub in the days leading up to the New York City Marathon and their family/friends a place to relax and watch them run on race day.


7. Columbus Circle

We just mentioned people falling in love in Columbus Circle. They could be falling in love with your brand. This round-about is known to tourists for its access to Central Park, known to historians for its statue of Christopher Columbus, and known to regular New Yorkers as the best spot in the city to sit and wolf down a sandwich.

Celebrating the 40th anniversary of People Magazine with crowds of consumers lining up for the buzz-worthy Tweet for a Treat social vending machine.


8. Varick & Canal & Grand

It might not have a snappy name, but we’ve fallen pretty hard for this large plot of land in the heart of SoHo. It’s rare to find this much space in the middle of the city, (and that means it probably won’t last long). Brands should use it as much as possible while they can.

Raising awareness for Mountain Dew’s DEWcision 2016 Campaign via the DEWggro Crag Powered by The Splat.


9. On The Water (and at Chelsea Piers)

We love New York and its close quarters living, but every now and then we need to get some space. That’s when we like to hit the Hudson in boats and barges. Or if you’d prefer to see the water from a distance, you can rent a Chelsea Piers warehouse that gives you plenty of room for your event and unparalleled creative control.

Miss Frizzle from The Magic School Bus poses with the entire class from the United Nations International School.
Celebrating the 25th anniversary of Scholastic’s The Magic School Bus with an interactive field trip for students, complete with The Magic School bus floating down the Hudson River.


10. Grand Central

The name says it all. From its vaulted ceilings to its frankly-insane forty-two intersecting commuter routes, this station is equal parts Grand and Central.

Encouraging consumers to recycle their old phones with Gazelle through a money machine experience, allowing them to interactively determine the value of their old phone.

If you’d like to see more details on these venues, or if you’re having trouble figuring out where in New York your brand will fit best, just drop us a line. We love to talk about this city.

Seriously. You might have trouble shutting us up.

The michael alan group is a full-service experiential marketing agency & event production company. Check out our work and our team, and drop us a line to chat about planning an activation in the Big Apple.

Experiential Marketing: What to Expect in 2017

To welcome in the New Year, we’ve put together our predictions for all the ways that experiential marketing is going to evolve in 2017.

More Innovation

If you’re having trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality, you might be losing your mind. Or you might just be well read. In 2017, tech gurus are going to halve the gap between science and science fiction.

We’re already 3D-printing jet engine parts, and 3D-printed organs are beginning to reach clinical implementation. Virtual and Augmented Reality techs have become so advanced and so diverse that we recently published a clarification of which technology is which. Uber’s using autonomous cars and toddlers are coding robots. Meanwhile LG is prepping LED screens that you can roll up and stick into an overnight bag, and, in January, SpaceX will host a hovercraft race.

These innovations will continue to have a tremendous influence within the B2B event space as conferences and exhibitors explore new ways to wow attendees. We anticipate that brands will discover novel utilizations of augmented, virtual, and mixed realities. They will aim to cater to millennials with interactive and projection mapped displays. And they’ll break through the noise with disruptions that fuse the brilliant with the ridiculous.

But even more important than the New Year’s innovations in tech will be its innovations in format. In 2017, we’ll see the continued evolution and distention of the unconference.

The unconference harnesses the power of crowdsourcing to create collaborative sessions specific to the interests of participants. In 2017, more programming will be scheduled on-site and sessions will become a locus of conversation instead of presentation. Conferences will spotlight the personal strengths and needs of the attendees rather than the agendas of conference organizers and keynote speakers. We’ll also see new approaches to conference space as well — whether that means taking conferences outside or encouraging networking around interactive installations.

But for all the stylistic innovations we’re going to see in B2B events, content will always take precedence over form.

Inspired by Yayoi Kusama’s Obliteration Room, GitHub brought this interactive element to their user conference, GitHub Universe. Attendees were invited into the entirely white space and encouraged to decorate the room with colored stickers. Photo courtesy of Event Marketer.

Increased Branded Content

An event is only as good as the content it delivers. That’s why you’re going to be reading a lot about event capture in 2017. We’ll all be exploring better ways to transform live experiences into immersive offline/online combos that amplify the reach of campaigns exponentially.

Toward the end of 2016, the tech industry sent us a host of exciting new toys to play with in the New Year. To give Snapchat Stories some healthy competition, Instagram and Twitter launched “Stories” and “Moments” features respectively. Instagram also added an Events Channel that will collect videos from major events and put them in front of the users most likely to be interested. But perhaps the most exciting innovations came from Snapchat: in addition to offering improved metrics, Snapchat released On-Demand Geofilters, and Snapchat Spectacles. We also expect to feel reverberations from Pokemon Go, which popularized and gamified mobile-powered Augmented Reality.

In 2017, we’re going to see event planners exploring creative ways to harness these new technologies for improved content quality and reach. But the biggest shift won’t come from the megacorps, it’ll come from the little guys: Influencer amplification is going to become the new standard for cascading content because brands that partner with influencers are able to target consumers with near pinpoint accuracy. Influencers’ hyper-specific brand advocacy far outshines any messaging that’s crafted to resonate across broad, traditional demographics.

New Tentpoles

Even if we’re expecting broad-demographic strategies to phase out, don’t expect major tentpole events to disappear any time soon. People are still going to be watching the Superbowl in 2017 and Comic-Con is only growing. The same goes for SXSW, CES and Sundance. These have always been great places to activate and that’ll be no different in 2017.

But traditional tentpoles won’t have the stage to themselves anymore. Just as we expect to see influencers in the spotlight, we’re also anticipating that smaller events will be moving down-center. That’s why we’re always on the lookout for niche events that are seeing remarkable growth. The Summit Series will partner with any brand that shares its ideals. Likewise with the Aspen Ideas Festival. Athletic brands might do well to activate at a Ragnar relay race, women’s brands at The Yellow Conference.

The brands at these “tentpole boutiques” have been able to engage niche audiences face-to-face. Rather than promoting general awareness, they’ve focused on building deeper alliances with smaller communities.

From giving conference attendees the scheduling reins, to partnering with community influencers and boutique events, 2017 is going to be the year of getting personal. Your brand’s going to want to meet the consumers where they live, where they work, and where they play.

The michael alan group is a full-service experiential marketing agency & event production company. Check out our work and our team, and drop us a line to discuss where experiential marketing fits in your 2017 strategy.

360° Video vs. Augmented vs. Virtual vs. Mixed Reality

Wrapping Our Heads Around Other Realities

Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality technologies are quickly gaining technical and popular momentum, as is 360° Video. And while the law of accelerating returns would suggest that ubiquity can’t be far off, these technologies still have the novelty to attract and wow consumers.

So if a brand wants to draw focus, align itself with innovation, and give consumers first-hand experiences that literally defy reality, they need to begin by picking the right alternate reality to work with.

Picking the right reality

When we’re determining which technology will best serve your brand, we like to begin with a question: Do you want to alter your reality or be transported to an entirely new one?

For instance, 360° Video headsets shut out our surrounding environment and transport us to locations that were shot in 360 degree video. Unlike yesterday’s videos, which only allowed us to look where the camera looks, this technology puts the user in control, allowing consumers to look into the eyes of the people on camera or turn around to see what they see. But in 360° Video you can only pivot around a fixed position.

Virtual Reality, which also shuts out the present environment and transports us elsewhere, goes a step further: it allows us to create computer-generated fictional worlds and interact with them as though they were real. Go for a stroll. Spill coffee. Slay monsters. The better the technology, the deeper and more realistic the immersion.

We utilized Augmented Reality technology during Microsoft’s CES 2016 activation to enable customers to virtually go in store and view merchandising solutions.

Unlike 360° Video and Virtual Reality tech, Augmented Reality devices don’t shut out the real world — they alter it. AR generates two and three-dimensional graphics and overlays them across your physical environment, as though you were looking through a graffitied window. Augmented Reality devices — which could utilize LED screens, mobile phones, or hi-tech glasses — might make your text messages seem to hover above your kitchen counter or they might reveal a zombie who’s also chilling at your bus stop.

Mixed Reality is like Augmented Reality 2.0. The visuals created by Mixed Reality devices blend more organically into the real world by creating spatially aware holograms that can intelligently interact with the objects around you. A little elephant can walk on your desk, robots can blast holes in the wall behind you, and everything can be interacted with using gestures, creating an even deeper sense of magic.

It’s worth noting that Mixed Reality is the emerging technology of the alternate realities. At the moment, there’s only one device on the market — Microsoft’s HoloLens — and it’s only available to developers. Luckily, we happen to know said developers.

Wait, so which one is the best for my brand?

Well, to begin with, it’s important to remember that you can’t go wrong. Because alternate-reality devices are still cost-prohibitive for most consumers, consumers are thrilled to interact them. And, for many of them, this will be their first exposure to these gadgets.

Still, different circumstances call for different technologies. To return to our springboard question: it’s all about whether your brand will do better by enhancing the consumer’s reality or by changing it altogether.

Consider your brand’s promise.
Brands that promise to enhance the daily lives of consumers might do better with Augmented or Mixed Realities, which elevate mundane experiences. For instance, a clothing brand might use AR to show consumers how new outfits would look on them or a Hollywood studio might elevate the traditional movie poster by merging a fictional world with our real one.

On the other hand, brands that promise to dramatically change consumers’ circumstances might go further with Virtual Reality and 360° Video. A travel brand can tease consumers with 360° Video of an exotic destination and video games fare especially well in Virtually Reality.

Consider activation logistics.
Because AR experiences simply layer onto the real world, consumer interactions tend to move more quickly and require a smaller footprint. By contrast, consumers who enter into a Virtual Reality world often need more time to get equipped and become situated in the environment. Because of the extra time, your footprint may have to account for consumers waiting in line. Not to worry though, because lines look great in activation stills and sizzle reels, and they can attract the attention of additional consumers.

If consumers need to interact with a real-world product or if the brand wants to capitalize on the activation’s real-world location, Augmented Reality will work best. For identical experiences across multiple locations, 360° Video and Virtual Reality allow brands a more tactical option. In this 360° Video activation, consumers could visit Australia from any activation location.

Consider activation prep.
360° Video must be filmed on location, whereas VR, AR, and MR involve programmers and designers crafting the visuals with ones and zeroes. Some Augmented Reality experiences require static objects or images in the real world to trigger the alternate-reality event. We can fabricate these objects or select an activation location to act as the trigger.

Consider post-activation.
360° Videos can live online after an event. Users can watch them on YouTube or a brand’s website and even adjust the camera view for the full 360° experience, just as if they had been there on activation day. By contrast, for any of the other technologies, we’d capture video of consumer interactions on the day of the event. For instance, consumers could share video of their personal walkthrough of the Virtual Reality space.

Whatever the tech you use, we always ensure that it’s socially shareable, so that your activation continues returning dividends even after you’ve paid the bill.

Uh… I thought this article was supposed to make things simpler…?

True simplicity comes with the mastery of complexity. We’ve only scratched the surface here for each technology’s radically different budget, timeline, and feasibility considerations.

But you shouldn’t be worrying about all that anyway. That’s why we didn’t even bother talking about motion tracking, haptic feedback, or the virtuality continuum. We have experts in all that so that you don’t have to be one.

If you’re looking for guidance on how best to harness the power of alternate-realities to enhance prestige, amplify awareness, and drive sales, then all you have to do is ask.

(And here’s a handy-dandy link we put here for just that purpose.)

The michael alan group is a full-service experiential marketing agency & event production company. Check out our work and our team, and drop us a line to explore implementing experiential tech into your next activation.