For over 135 years, Merck has always stood for invention for the good of all; driven by their purpose of being a force for good in the world, continuing a lasting legacy of patient-first science, and at its core, a culture of invention. This means cultivating innovation at all levels. Merck knows the spark of inventiveness happens at a young age, so when we were tasked to think about the future of science, we knew we needed to look to the next generation.
Ogilvy focused on one of Merck’s priority target audiences, “STEM Parents,” who are highly involved in their children's education, and Educators to create a campaign that would be inventive— like the brand — but also serve as a learning tool for students inside and outside of the classroom.
During the lockdown era of the COVID-19 pandemic, young learners shifted to remote learning. Parents and educators faced challenges of fighting student burnout with distractions just a click away. We asked ourselves: how can we make learning science through a screen effective, inspiring, and fun for kids?
To overcome these roadblocks we turned to a world of blocks: Minecraft. Introducing Periodic Odyssey, an entirely new world in Minecraft, which is actually a chemistry lesson in video game form.
Ogilvy uncovered three key insights that sparked our creatives’ minds:
Out of these insights, Periodic Odyssey was born. Ogilvy and Merck would embark on a journey to create an entirely new world in the game of Minecraft, pairing the game's material extraction with all of the periodic table’s 92 naturally occurring elements (a Minecraft first) to help students learn science as they play.
Ogilvy tapped Blockworks, an award-winning Minecraft design collective to create two versions of the game: an Education Edition, approved for use in classrooms and including lesson plans for educators, and one for the Bedrock Edition so that anyone with access to Minecraft could play too.
Not only can each element be found in a zone that reflects their respective natural environments (Iron within the rocky terrain, Hydrogen in the water pools, Oxygen in the air, and other gases found in a dome zone), they also have similar properties to the real elements – better wear protective equipment before handling Chlorine. Back at the science lab, players see the fruits of their labor visualized, amassing the collection of found elements, unlocking sections of the lab by doing so, and being rewarded with special tools to help with their search as the rarer elements become more challenging to find. It all adds up to turning screen time into learning time, and ultimately to spark inspiration in budding scientists.
Blockworks and Ogilvy worked with educational consultants to develop accompanying lesson plans for the Education Edition vetted with a “green tick” from the Association for Science Education, verifying the scientific content, confirming it aligned with global science education curriculums. Beyond including lesson plans as part of the Education Edition, we made them available to all who were interested via the dedicated landing page on Merck.com.
Working with our in-house Ogilvy Influencer Shop, we partnered with influencers representing Parents, Educators, and Gamers to amplify the reach of our Minecraft world and showcase the gameplay. This amplification spanned TikTok content and ads, Twitch livestreams, YouTube recaps, Discord alerts, as well as paid and organic Instagram and Facebook content.
We further engaged our priority audiences through organic and paid cinematic-style teaser videos across Facebook and Instagram, a Twitter Amplify pre-roll campaign, and an organic series of clue posts for parents to share with their young scientists and help them collect the more difficult-to-find elements, providing a parent-child gameplay moment at the same time.
To date, Periodic Odyssey has more than exceeded expectations with current downloads of the game surpassing 1,000,000 in the first 12 weeks.
Our influencer partners generated an astounding 223,000 impressions and 27,000 engagements.
So far, our social campaigns have generated 58 million impressions globally and led to 30,000 clicks to the landing page. And with more campaigns on the horizon, this number is expected to grow.
Some of our favorite comments? From the teachers, students, and gamers themselves:
After this first foray into the world of gaming (and certainly not the last) Merck hopes that Periodic Odyssey will continue to foster an interest in the sciences among young people that will lead to a future full of invention.
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