As part of our multi-year partnership with All Nippon Airways (ANA) - the sponsor of our $10 million ANA Avatar XPRIZE - we launched a companion marketing campaign with the following objective:
- Elevate the overall conversation about avatars among the general public by creating a campaign that makes the topic of avatars accessible, relevant and exciting, while creating demand and interest in the technologies that will result from the ANA Avatar XPRIZE.
- Focus on the tech and creative communities in the U.S.
In order to put the public in the mindset of being in the future and to be inspired about the possible use-cases of avatars, we created the fictional company, Avatars Inc, around which our campaign is based. Through the use of storytelling across a number of platforms, we were able to fully immerse the public in this fictional world - a world that we feel is likely to occur as a result of the real-world work currently underway at XPRIZE.
Established in 2038, Avatars Inc is the world’s leading producer of robotic avatar systems that can transport a human’s senses, actions, and presence to a remote location in real time. For the next few decades, they developed hundreds of avatar models and enabled millions of operator-hours.
In order to accomplish our objective, we used storytelling in a number of different, but interconnected ways:
- World-building on owned channels. In order to establish the believable narrative of Avatars Inc (a fictional company), we secured the URL (avatars.inc), and developed a website to serve as the primary campaign hub. Here, an animated video introduces visitors to the world of Avatars Inc and the prompt for the anthology. We meet Ana, an astronaut in the year 2080 who is on a mission for Avatars Inc to retrieve a memory chip from a decommissioned avatar unit left on the surface of Mars. She retrieves the memory, representing the use of that avatar, and uploads it to the Avatars Inc Memory Archives, which segues to the campaign website where users can read all of the uploaded memories (more details below).
- To support, and send traffic to, the website, we created profiles on social channels (@AvatarsInc) with an emphasis on Instagram, due to the visual nature of our assets, as well as to more effectively reach the creative community - a target audience for the campaign.
- The crux of our campaign was the creation of a sci-fi anthology for which 24 world-renowned science fiction writers each contributed a short story presented as a memory retrieved from an avatar system, showcasing a novel use-case of avatars in the 21st century. Each was illustrated and uploaded to the Avatar Inc’s Memory Archives.
- Additionally, we asked the public to find and upload the one missing memory – in the form of an original short story between 2,500-3,500 words – as part of a contest to engage the community. The winner received an iMac Pro and other prizes.
- Finally, to create intrigue and to drive traffic to the campaign site, we asked 8 artists to each imagine a set of advertisements that would be used to promote and sell Avatar-related technology, services, and experiences in the future, inspired by the avatar short stories written for the anthology. Through media buys and outreach, we targeted audiences with these mysterious “ads from the future.”
These tactics were supported by an aggressive public relations efforts, influencer engagement, and email marketing, to create and maintain buzz and excitement around this campaign.
The campaign produced the following results:
- 119 million impressions on Instagram
- A community build of 21,000 new followers on Instagram
- 309,000 website sessions at Avatars.Inc
- 4,159 e-mail sign-ups
- 500 story submissions from 33 countries
- Positive anthology reviews by Chicago Review of Books, Locus Magazine, Strange Horizons, Tor.com, and more.
- Mentions or features on EW.com, Den of Geek, Geek's Guide to the Galaxy, Yale Climate Connections, and more.
- Influencer testimonials from Margaret Atwood, Charles Yu, and more.
But more importantly, here is a snapshot of the 3 finalists of the short story contest, to capture what cannot be captured in statistics:
-Anya Ow was born in Singapore and went to school in Australia, studying environmental law and intellectual property. hopes her story will inspire people to look into supporting frontline, community-driven conservation charities.
-Bryce Banks is a Black poet from the Compton area of Los Angeles. This is the first short story he’s completed, which was inspired by his childhood memories. He dedicates his story to those who have been victims of police brutality, especially those of which who have lost their lives – say their names!
-Rhianna Jones was born and raised in a small, ex-mining village in North Wales, proudly calling herself “working class” for as long as she lives. This story is the first to meet anyone’s eyes but her own. She would like the takeaway from her story to be for people to realize that what we do now could have a profound impact on our future.
Video for Avatars Inc