The Most Interesting Man tackles Oculus Rift: Behind the scenes of Havas Worldwide's latest Dos Equis activity

As if having The Most Interesting Man in the World leading your advertising campaign wasn't enough, heightening an engagement experience through online technology such as Oculus Rift lifts it to a whole new level.

Through The Most Interesting Man campaign, Dos Equis has strong brand awareness in the south west of the US, in states such as Arizona and Texas as well as reaching further south into Mexico, but now it is looking to expand its reach to further parts of America.

As a result, for Halloween, the brand tasked its marketing agency Havas Worldwide in New York with developing a campaign to drive sales and grow awareness around its annual Masquerade themed event.

Exploring the background of the project, Havas Worldwide executive creative director for Dos Equis, Jim Hord, who has been heavily involved in the seven year journey for the overall brand campaign concept, explains that the latest element was sold to the client after they were issued "a huge challenge".

Hord says: "While Masquerade is more interesting than Halloween, it has less awareness so we wanted to make a stronger connection between masquerade and Dos Equis. Simultaneously they challenged us to come up with this big digital idea. We told them there were other things out there but they were really looking for a big presence which we could take to bars and use to create a roadshow to increase sales in-bar."

He continues to explain that the conceptual idea was decided to focus on the concept 'things get more interesting when you put on a mask' and working with partner consumer engagement agency MirrorBall to plan for the big party where every attendee is given a mask and are joined by The Most Interesting Man on the evening itself as well.

"They have circus freaks, contortionists, crazy people – it's a big event of about 1,000 people if you're lucky enough to get an invite... As a conceptual thread, the idea that 'things get more interesting when you put on a mask' makes a lot of sense."

This leads to the decision to approach virtual reality technology company Oculus to include their headset technology and create content that users can engage with through it – an idea that came through fellow Havas WW executive creative director, Jason Musante.

"When we talked to Jason, he thought there was cool technology in Oculus Rift and here were people who we're doing something extraordinary in this space. Until this point, Oculus has been used primarily for computer generated and video game virtual worlds. However, Jason knew a couple of people who made live action film for it."

Musante takes up the tale, explaining that he knew Oculus Rift could be used in a powerful way having been connected to a group of directors called M ssn g Peces, who are "really cutting into the bleeding edge of technology."

Although he quickly adds that despite there being a thought towards the use of the Facebook owned technology platform to tell a story, "without a great story or narrative it's just a thing. As we think about pushing the envelope and being more innovative around how we take technology to our clients in interesting ways, we almost have to keep at the core of that and making sure we are meeting in elements of narrative and storytelling. Even as Oculus gets better and better – what a great mashup to continue the story we've been telling for the last seven years."

The shoot itself for the interactive video and the Oculus Rift experience took place at a large country house, which saw the crew scheduled for 12-hour shoots over a five-day period. These then ran into 18 hours due to the complexities around using the technology.

""They had created a short film of a musician playing the piano, creating a piece of music in front of you. That was shared with us and it is a nice thing to take back to whatever brand you are working with to help sell in an idea that on the surface might sound crazy," continues Musante while describing the shoot for the Oculus Rift film.

Meanwhile, of the shoot, Hord discusses the extra complications around using the technology. "When you shoot with the Oculus camera it is stationary and everything else moves around it. So the operators can't be in the room, we can't be in the room and everybody needs a space to be and interact. Luckily it all worked out. You will get a sense during the film that you will always want to reach out and touch the person in front of you."

The online video experience was also complicated, with enough footage to cover several permutations depending on the choices the user makes and the path around the mansion they follow during the Masquerade, meaning it lasts from between three to four-and-a-half minutes in total.

Later, when The Drum experiences the Oculus Rift film first hand, knowing that the actors have filmed their elements separately, the image is seamless and it does feel as though there is a genuine masquerade taking place in the confines of the mansion and the guests are interacting in person. The achievement is fantastic to behold.

In the first fortnight, the online experience received 16m hits and the project already has received the Virtual Reality Pioneer award, while 21 Oculus VR headsets are currently touring bars in the south west, with some users waiting four hours to test the experience.

Ultimately this saw a very interesting man become involved in a very interesting campaign concept overall.

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