digital, how to, offline

How To Take Digital Offline

morpheus was having a hard time explaining to neo how his actions in the matrix could have a real-life effect

I’ve been thinking for a while about the impact digital can have on a brand’s consumers, and it’s led me to a conclusion that quite a few digital professionals might find hard to swallow.

I’ve begun to believe that digital shouldn’t always be about ICE (yes, that same old, much-abused ‘Information Communication Entertainment’ buzzword).

It’s great to develop a digital engagement that meets one or more of the ICE parameters. It may be bang on brief. It may be a never-seen-before execution. It may become the biggest viral of all time. It may create fantastic online saliency for the brand. It may even result in a measurable rise in sales.

And while I want to achieve this, no doubt, I also want to create an engagement that has a powerful real-world impact. On-ground, offline.

I believe that what we do and experience online can drive us to do something to enhance that experience in the real world. The incredible viral spread of social causes online has proven that time and again. Because online causes are creatively packaged to entertain, inform and communicate; and eventually drive the user into making a real-world impact.

If we were to apply the same principles to digital brand marketing, we’d be creating engagements that spilled over from a computer or smartphone screen into real-world events and impacts.

As a digital creative, you will often be asked the (sometimes justified) question, What’s digital about it? when you come up with an offline idea. Here are some ways to help answer that question.

Can you throw some technology into it? QR code posters, pressure-sensitive touchpads, interactive kiosks, what have you. Volkswagen did just that with its ‘Fun Theory’ campaign (videos here, here and here). They then filmed people enjoying the experience offline, and went viral with those videos online.

Can you build a community online? Then continue those discussions offline with tweetups. Tweetups aren’t a Western phenomenon – they happen in India as well. Taking an online, anonymous discussion into an offline setting can have fabulous results for the people involved. I know people who met online and are now married. I know others who networked online, and struck deals offline. Online engagement, real-world impact.

Can digital be used to promote offline engagements and generate participation for them? What’s more, the after-videos could easily go viral. It’s a great way to build buzz on a low budget. Groups like Improv Everywhere have used the Internet to build a considerable fan following (not to mention willing volunteers). It’s not strictly a digital/interactive/new media engagement – but I believe there’s nothing wrong in suggesting an offline idea on a digital brief if digital would be more effective and efficient in seeding and promoting it. And if you could throw some tech into the engagement…you’re golden.

Can you use technology to bring fiction to life? One of the finest mixed-reality engagements I’ve come across was DDB’s work for Monopoly Here & Now. They turned the city of London into a giant Monopoly board, bringing the classic board game to life. They also threw in a real-world, Monopoly-style benefit – the winner would have his/her mortgage paid for a year. There was minimal digital engagement for the user…anathema for many digital professionals. But the results speak for themselves.

So the next time you get a digital brief, don’t aim for an award, or for recognition, or to impress your boss.

Aim to make an real-life impact…and the rest will follow.


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