Is it Monday yet? — ESPN and W+K Create Engaging Ad for Monday NIght Football

If you see someone standing in front of a storefront window, jumping around and maybe yelling “oh yeah!” to no one in particular, there’s no need to cross the street or completely avoid eye contact. Especially if it is a Monday…

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You can count on ESPN’s series of “Is it Monday yet?” ads that promote Monday Night Football, to be pretty darn amusing. Better yet, it seems like every year, ESPN has been working with Wieden + Kennedy, N.Y to step things up a notch.

MNF Turf Postings2008 & The Missing Turf Mats: Last year, in bus shelters and in walls around New York, they used turf-like mat postings with phrases such as “T.G.I.M.N.F.”, “Sack Monday’s Doldrums” and “Stiff-Arm Monday’s Suckery” to raise awareness as part of a multi-layered campaign.   Not only were these ads engaging, but somehow they became a “must have.” ESPN reported that in just seven days, 20 of the 195 turf mats (ranging anywhere from 68″H x 47″W to 72″H x 96″W in size) for the Big Apple were stolen from their locations.

MNF Turf PostingsApparently, New York City  wasn’t the only place where that phenomena occurred. In Los Angeles 13 of a planned 205 went missing in action. In fact, all of the campaign’s six targeted cities had thefts: Boston (3), Chicago (6), San Francisco (2) and Washington D.C. (5).

“We know football fans are passionate about Monday Night Football, but clearly, we are a little surprised at the…enthusiasm they’ve displayed for this element of our campaign,” said Aaron Taylor, ESPN vice president, sports marketing.

Which brings us to this year’s campaign.  Considering what happened a year earlier, this is brilliant.  ESPN and Wieden + Kennedy, N.Y. are inviting pedestrians in New York, Boston and Chicago to partake in a virtual game of catch.

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Playing virtual catch…

W+K has installed interactive and gesture-recognizing touch screens on various storefronts that challenged pedestrians to catch footballs thrown at them by a virtual quarterback. Per the Creativity Online story, the screens are also outfitted with yardage markers that track and encourage passersby to play. The game also allows players a choice of quarterback opponents and features rankings, allowing players to compete for first place on the national leaderboard. Throughout each game, players also hear commentary on their catches and fumbles from an ESPN talent.

Pretty cool, huh?

In a separate post, Creativity interviewed members of the W+K team (CW Eric Steele, CD/AD Stuart Jennings and Head of Interactive Production Liz Whittaker) about making the virtual game a reality. Here are a few excerpts:

  • So how did this project come about?

Eric Steele: The Monday Night Football campaign is about finding entertaining and unexpected ways to remind football fans that for 16 weeks a year, they’re lucky enough to have a light at the end of the tunnel that helps make Mondays a little less crappy.

  • And how did you come up with this particular idea?

Stuart Jennings: We knew that we wanted to somehow bring a taste of Monday Night to the Monday grind. We liked the idea of creating a football spectacle and being right there with pedestrians on the sidewalk-offering them a bit of respite from all the office building hustle and bustle that you’re never quite ready for when you wake up Monday morning. Plus, marrying the interactive storefront vehicle that can track passersby with a football video game that was actually performance-based felt like something unique and fun. So the more we talked about it, inviting people to let off some Monday steam with a virtual game of catch seemed really compelling and right on strategy. And by varying the quarterback who’s throwing to you, we could even tie it in to weekly tune-in.

  • What were the biggest challenges on this job? Production-wise, it seems like there may have been some interesting technical hurdles. Can you tell me a little bit about those and how you addressed them?

Liz Whittaker: We realized early on that the key to creating an engaging user experience hinged upon how accurately we could replicate the experience of anticipating a real life catch, where you don’t know exactly where or when the ball is coming. For the user, each throw needed to feel unique and random. But from a production perspective, breaking down the act of throwing and catching into specific components that could be looped and replicated was the key to processing speed and playability. It’s always a delicate balancing act. From the beginning, we established that we would create a finite number of throwing sequences and then alter the specific flight path of the ball through the front end flash layer. Rest assured there were plenty of days spent tweaking throw trajectories and talking about the spin versus the tilt of a football in flight. But the end result is a series of throws that changes for every game played.

They noted how this game has attracted many bystanders who like to congregate and observe people as they play.

So there you have it. A new and engaging way… to engage an audience.  It’s very fun and in  a way, it’s very Wii-like too. Nice to see well-executed creativity that gets the job done. If anything, it makes Mondays a little less drab.

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creativitylogoNote: Creativity Online (http://creativity-online.com/) is an awesome resource that is true to its name. Reading about and viewing the creative works of others is truly inspiring.

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