I love Web 2.0. I’ll admit, at first I thought it was a bunch of spin, another empty buzzword slapped onto a collection of barely related phenomena, but there’s one aspect of it that has proven to be—well, if not true, at least very salient. And that is Web 2.0’s openness to open-endedness. Web 2.0 embraces the idea that you cannot always predict your visitors’ needs and that therefore you should build a certain level of flexibility and responsiveness into your technology. It’s Wikipedia instead of Britannica Online, it’s blogs (like Motionographer) over personal websites (like justincone.com).
Maybe it’s a stretch to say that this phenomenon has caught on in the world of advertising, but a couple recent campaigns seem to fit this modus operandi. 72andSunny’s Zune Arts campaign for Microsoft invited studios and individuals from around the world to express friendship and sharing however they saw fit. No expectations. No briefs. The results? A crazy collection of music, animation, film and design from just about every angle imaginable, most of it really good, some of it downright brilliant.
Another recent Web 2.0-ish experiement was undertaken by ad agency FUEL London and Not To Scale for Volvo. The campaign, entitled A Product of Free Will, is centered aroud the Volvo C30, which like most Volvos, isn’t the kind of car that satisfies everyone’s tastes. Instead of denying this fact, FUEL embraced it and took to the streets of Europe, where they gathered people’s spontaneous responses to the car. They called this database of kneejerk reactions the Volvo Vox Popular.
Not everything in the Vox Popular was pretty. "If it was up to me, I’d drop it in the sea," is one particularly vivid response that comes to mind. "I could see, like, a superhero driving it as their safe car" is nice and vague. Is it really a good thing that Clark Kent would drive the C30 to the Daily Planet?
FUEL let five Not to Scale directors pick their favorite quotes from the Vox Popular to create a series of animated films. Then they let them go crazy. The only rule was that the films keep the car and the quote central to each film. The resulting 16 spots (8 x :10 and 8 x :20) are wild, diverse and decidedly bad ass.
See for yourself:
Coan & Zorn
Many, Many Eyes
Looks Like a Greyhound
Love It/Hate It
Take It On a Picnic
Drop It in the Sea
Pierre & Bertrand
Too Exciting For My Mother
Want It/Don’t Want It
Hiss It/Kiss It
Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down
From This Angle
Superhero’s Safe Car
To read more about the creation of each spot, download this massive but informative PDF (27mb).
Another cool aspect of this campaign (as well much of the work in the Zune Arts campaign) is that these films were designed to be viewed on the web. This is a great example of how the web, as a distribution platform, frees up motion designers and animators to create content that’s a little outside the mainstream. Because the buy-in for clients and agencies is lower, more studios can be tapped, more content can be created, and more boundaries can (in theory, at least) be pushed.
Okay, now for the sober epilogue. Yes, this is still advertising. Yes, it was, to a certain degree, controlled. (You don’t hear any quotes like, "Fuck off, Volvo blows," or "The Volvo C30 gives me a rock-hard stiffy.") Yes, it’s a little too self-aware to come off feeling brutally honest. But still, the work is great. New things were tried and many of them worked. For this, Volvo, FUEL, Not to Scale and all the directors involved should be roundly applauded. The fruits of their labor hold up to repeat viewing and show a creative exuberance that’s inspiring and invigorating.
Props to Mr. John Cranston for pushing this one to the front burner.