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Why Virgin Media created an interactive 4D mouth to promote its streaming service

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By Amy Houston | Reporter

August 26, 2022 | 5 min read

Telecoms company and its brand experience agency explain why they built multi-sensory out-of-home activation at King’s Cross.

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Virgin Medi'as huge 3D mouth was interacting with people at King's Cross / Audience

For one day only, an enormous mouth appeared at London’s King’s Cross railway station, hyping-up Virgin’s streaming service. Stood behind the 4D anamorphic billboard was garage artist MC Neat, whose movements were captured in real time and automatically lip-synched to two 4.2m x 4.2m screens as he interacted with the public.

The concept stemmed from the integrated brand campaign ‘Hyped’, which launched in July. “There were multiple assets in there that we could work with, but innovation was key,” says Stephen McIntosh, head of brand experience at Virgin’s creative audience engagement agency, Audience.

For the pop-up, he explains: “We used facial mapping technology that was sat on MC Neat in the backroom behind the installation.”

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Monitoring the crowd via cameras, the music artist was able to pick out passersby and talk to them via the huge digital lips, providing the public with a bit of a shock. “It’s disruptive technology,” says McIntosh.

The activation took about five weeks to pull together – a major project for the entire team at Audience – and included collaborating with creative agency VCCP. What does 4D actually encompass though?

McIntosh tells us: “We’ve got an optimal viewing platform that people are invited onto and that’s when the 4D element takes off. We have moving umbrellas and we’ve added in smells to get all the sensory elements.”

Alexander Bright, the managing director at Audience, says that while interactive 3D (and now 4D) campaigns are proving increasingly popular, the agency never set out with one in mind. “It’s all down to the experience that we think is right for that moment. We can take something that might seem quite routine or mundane and elevate it with technology, or do something unexpected. The 4D activation wasn’t something we said we wanted to do before seeing the brief – it was a reaction and then we designed something that we felt would be impactful.”

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Brands are clearly enjoying this type of work, but how do they go about measuring success? Virgin Media’s marketing director Amy Gilbert says it’s all to do with “being disruptive” and driving a “positive experience for those that encounter it physically and come across it on social media”.

It can, however, be “difficult” to measure she admits as it isn’t just about looking at footfall, it’s about looking at impressions of the brand overall and “doing things that feel right for Virgin Media and right for its strategy”.

Something tangible that Virgin does measure is social sentiment, she says. “We want the reach to be beyond those in person. It’s a constant topic of conversation between experiential designers: how do you track that someone who will pass by and think ‘that was cool’ and then go and buy something online? It’s really difficult.”

So, what was the reaction from the public? “A lot of people are quite surprised to see these massive lips calling out individuals,” says McIntosh. “There’s been genuine surprise and interest in what it is, with people asking about the tech and what we’re doing.”

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