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By Awards Analyst, writer

November 4, 2019 | 4 min read

RT won Best Publishing Content Marketing Strategy at The Drum Content Awards 2019 for the #Romanovs100: AR Family Photo Album project. In this case study, the RT team explains the challenges they faced and the strategies they used to produce this successful project.

The challenge

How can lived history be liberated from mundane textbooks?

For example, students of history will know that on July 17, 1918, Nicholas Romanov, last Tsar of the Russian Empire, his wife and five children were executed by the Bolsheviks. Less well known is the fact that The Romanovs were photography pioneers — in the early 20th century they owned the world's first portable cameras and captured almost every meaningful event in their lives.

100 years on from the family’s execution, RT used this treasure trove of visual data as the inspiration for an entirely new breed of history lesson and intimate jouney into a ‘lost Russia’.

Our objectives were to:

- create an immersive educational project that would resonate with ‘new generations’, e.g. fully-adapted to social media.

- transform photographic content to an interactive learning experience and emotional journey into history.

- innovate new approaches to the delivery of history education.

Our purpose was not to write an illustrated textbook, but to create something personal and concurrent, entertaining and surprising, connecting two totally different eras through content and creativity.

The strategy

Our challenge was to design an interactive multimedia book mixing history with new digital realities but to also create something personal and emotional, bringing the past into the present.

In our design choices we wanted to create a feeling of intimacy: all images are unedited photos in original exposure with the same tints and colours as when developed by the Romanovs and pasted into albums with their own hands. We chose the ‘bound photo-album’ format and complemented it with an AR app to fill the digital gap.

The purpose of AR is to extend the storytelling through limitations implied by print, and to allow readers become active co-creators of the unfolding story.

The campaign

#Romanovs100 aims to show that learning history can be compelling and interactive. It targets younger audiences with innovative formats and digital approaches in educational storytelling.

#Romanovs100 combines the visual language of photography with AR tech to create an interactive history book featuring the human story and unique photographic legacy of Russia’s last tsar. This extended reality breaks the ‘fourth wall’ of storytelling providing for side narratives, archive video, 3D visualisations and more.

An app was developed to provide an immersive journey into history triggering three interaction types:

- informative (videos, galleries, maps): uses extended reality to tell additional stories through swipeable galleries, AR infographic, short video documentaries rolling inside photos;

- visual (panoramas, now/then AR images): AR app allows zoom-in on high-resolution images to experience them from different angles;

- emotional (love letters, colorizations, VR animation art): 3D animations which come to life on the book pages offering a fresh emotional connection to the Romanov family. It creates a learning experience through artistic and playful adventure.

In addition, thousands of the Romanov’s images were converted into platform-specific social media narratives on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram with accounts on each network showcasing unique format and content.

The results

#Romanovs100 was selected to showcase at one of the world’s biggest educational festivals - SXSW EDU 2019 in Austin, Texas where we exclusively presented the AR book. The response from educators and students was overwhelming and we delivered book copies to public libraries, to universities of Texas, Phoenix, New York, Cornell and many other educational secondary institutions who showed interest.

On social media, #Romanovs100 generated over 25 million impressions and gathered around 55,000 fans/followers combined. Social media posts generated over 1 million engagements.

The project received global media coverage, featuring in The History Extra magazine, BBC News Hour, Tatler, Sky News and Daily Mail.

This campaign was a winner at The Drum Content Awards 2019. If you think you can do better, register your interest in next year's awards.

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