Inside Uber and R/GA ‘Year with Uber’ campaign

Uber and R/GA Singapore have collaborated once again to bring back ‘Year with Uber’.

Uber and R/GA Singapore have collaborated once again to bring back ‘Year with Uber’, which turns users’ trip data in Asia Pacific into personalised animated music videos, bringing to life memorable moments in 2017.

Packed with a base of 5,000 story and song combinations, ‘Year with Uber’ allows each user to generate content that are location-specific and unique. That is why users in Thailand will see tuk-tuks, encounter tai-tais (wealthy aunties) in Singapore, the iconic Melbourne Cup and Sydney’s New Year’s Eve fireworks in Australia, the national sport of cricket in India. Festivals and holidays like Ramadan, Christmas and Deepavali will also be featured.

Explaining the creative process behind the campaign to The Drum, R/GA creative director, Cyril Louis says that the agency started by creating a framework that would enable them to always see how all the visual and musical elements would work together, before selecting data points that would enable them to tell the users’ stories.

“To craft more personalised stories, we extracted sentiment from the data and wrote scenarios that matched. 200 scripts later, we had our stories ready to be translated into animations and lyrics,” he adds.

In addition to choosing cultures and customs relevant to APAC for the campaign, Louis says that agency also chose 2017 favourites like the fidget spinner, and viral sensations like Huck the Roof dog and Salt Bae because of the timeliness. “The end result is a mix of characters and settings that are both classic and modern, and a design that’s stylized and striking, representing dynamism of the region,” he explains.

The music also had to be culturally relevant and broadly appealing, adds Louis, which is why R/GA went for an 80s-tinged hip-hop, funk, synth-pop sound because it allowed them to create something quirky, cool and beat-driven that complemented the visual style.

“The track also had to be modular - able to be chopped and changed, mixed and matched with the individual data points and visuals. We took each scene and created lyrics that tell the stories, work rhythmically in the track and fit perfectly with each data point,” he says.

Louis reveals that the entire process took over four months because R/GA also had to factor in the different devices and browsers the experience needs to run on, the dynamic involved in using user data to generate the large number of variations and the technical implementation.

In addition, it was also challenging to get edgy functionalities and visuals to work across browsers in the region as the types of browsers, quality of devices used by consumers and bandwidth varies across different countries.

“The in-app browsers of native social apps like Facebook, Twitter and LINE are often ignored in testing plans. We had them listed alongside the usual browsers,” says Louis, adding that the agency also drew from past experiences in APAC that most traffic will come from mobile and in-app browsers, which was why it worked hard to ensure that the experience look beautiful on Chrome mobile is equally important as making sure that it works on Facebook.

“Scenes and lyrics are directly informed by user trip data, making each film one of a kind. We built an engine interpreting that data and selecting accordingly the visuals and lyrics, stitching them all together to create the final film. The fact that it had to be available almost instantly without having prior access to the data was a tough challenge we relished,” he adds.

Asked what makes this retrospective unique to Uber users, Louis explains that as ‘Year with Uber’ draws from users’ trip histories, which impacts and influences the scenes and stories they will see, they will only be seeing a film that is truly personalised for them even though there are many millions of Uber riders out there.

“We identified 5184 possible combinations of the different visuals, instrumentals and lyrics. Encoded in different quality and different formats, we ended up having 20,000 videos to be used as the basis of the experience, but the reality is each user video will probably be unique,” he says. “The personal insights extracted from the Uber rider data are overlaying the pre-generated video matching his/her history, meaning that the number of the variations is probably in the millions (as many videos as there will be users trying the experience).”

Eshan Ponnadurai, director of brand and strategy for APAC at Uber, adds that enabling a much more personalised retrospective is integral to the creative vision behind ‘Year with Uber’, which sets the campaign apart this year. “It's not only the use of individual statistics that makes each rider’s visualization unique, but also the way these are matched to visuals and lyrics to build the story of how you moved throughout 2017,” he says.

The ‘Year with Uber’ campaign fits with the ride-sharing company's new strategy across APAC, which is to build relevance with consumers lives beyond just taking people from one location to another. Last month, it launched a new brand platform called Unlocking Cities.

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