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AR documentary app will let viewers experience the ‘JFK Moonshot’ launch of Apollo 11


By Kyle O'Brien | Creative Works Editor

May 2, 2019 | 5 min read

Some people, especially those born after Nasa’s heyday, may not know that president John F. Kennedy made the first trip to the moon possible. Those who were around in 1969, however, watched the launch in amazement.

JFK Moonshot

An image from the JFK Moonshot app

The story behind the rapid eight years of development that led to the eventual moon landing is being told for the next generation through an AR documentary app experience called ‘JFK Moonshot,’ being developed by Digitas and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

The project was announced at the Digitas NewFront stage by the Library’s executive director, Steven M. Rothstein and Digitas executive vice president, managing director, Boston-Detroit, Robert Guay. The app will be available for download on Apple and Android devices on May 29, on what would have been president Kennedy’s 102nd birthday.

‘JFK Moonshot’ will be the centerpiece of a year-long celebration marking the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing and president Kennedy’s vision that launched the effort.

JFK poster

“As creator of the concept and idea, Digitas tapped its diverse team of experts across capabilities of creative, data, media, strategy and tech to reconnect today’s generation with a pivotal and historic moment through the medium of AR, a medium that was just as unthinkable as the moonshot was 50 years ago,” said Guay.

The campaign came about after the team gained insight about the young generation having no idea that Kennedy had anything to do with the moon landing or with the space program. Then the group reviewed the speech Kennedy gave in 1962 talking about how the US would build the technology to get to the moon within the decade and decided that it couldn't be a regular ad campaign.

“We knew we had to build something that would bring that generation in,” Sue DeSilva, executive vice-president, executive creative director at Digitas Boston, told The Drum.

The app experience employs the latest augmented reality technology, immersing users in the Apollo 11 mission from 1969. Once someone downloads the ‘JFK Moonshot’ app, they can take a deeper dive into president Kennedy’s vision for his moon shot and space program with interactive AR games, archival video footage and historical artifacts of Kennedy’s time as president.

On the actual launch day, 16 July, users can attend the Apollo 11 commemorative ceremony at the JFK Library in Boston to witness the AR rocket launch or place the virtual rocket launch at home and then follow the five-day journey from the Earth to the Moon.

Digitas teamed with Unit9, a global production partner, to create the app.

DeSilva said there would be archival material so that the experience will live on and people can continue, can learn from it. “We're calling it a documentary… it's going to be pretty rich. Our goal is to not have it be a disposable app.”

Along with the app launch, the event at the library will be simulcast on the app. “And we're doing a 30-second spot that really captures the moments exactly, from 1962 to 1969 to now.”

The spot was inspired by Dr Mae Jemison, who was the first African-American woman in space.

DeSilva noted that families gathered around and watched the launch on TV in 1969, and with the app, new families can watch and experience it 50 years later. “We're trying to really make it this multilayered, multisensory, experience and the idea is to educate a bit too, but make it super engaging,” she said.

The project involved a huge Digitas team, which was dedicated to getting attention to the finest details.

“We really had to pull in everybody on this one. We have tech, who’s on the phone with the clients who's on the phone with Unit9. Our original strategy deck was so amazingly beautiful and inspirational that kicked the teams off…everybody has just been really so committed,” said DeSilva.

“We’re thrilled to have partnered with Digitas to bring this experience – as well as president Kennedy’s passion and moonshot legacy – to life. Just as president Kennedy had the smartest people working on the most complex projects, we are appreciative to have Digitas as our creative, media and technology partner to prepare the virtual moon launch in July,” said Rothstein.

JFK Moonshot promo
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