Dx3
Microsoft Advertising Xbox Challenge

By Jorge Figueiredo - March 10th, 2013

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Dx3 has come and gone, and Toronto Thumbs managed to sneak in for an afternoon to witness the awesomeness that was the Microsoft Advertising Xbox Challenge. A number of Canada’s top digital agencies competed against one another to create a Movember campaign using Microsoft media platforms. The catch? They only had about 24 hours to get this stuff done. The prizes were pretty amazing; but what I really enjoyed was the creativity and the inclusion of a console platform – something that is getting more and more traction practically every day.

The power of Microsoft is undeniable when you sit down and think about it. Regardless of what technology you own, as one of the speakers at this event pointed out: nine out of ten people touch a Microsoft system daily. Bravado? Maybe. However, it is not as far-fetched as you might think. Most corporations run Windows-based systems. A ton of folks own Xbox 360′s and an increasing number of people are turning to Windows-based mobile hardware. So the results of the challenge to the participants have very real significance and real-world applicability.

Essentially, the challenge centered around Movember, the annual month-long fundraiser during which men grow mustaches (starting from clean shaven faces) and get people to sponsor them to do so – all to support the cause of spreading awareness about (and fighting) prostate cancer. Unfortunately, during this time there are guys that grow mustaches as a form of support – but do not actually raise any money themselves. The point of the competition was to create a campaign to reach these outliers, as they are an untapped source of fundraising due to the fact that they don’t get captured in the registration process for Movember.

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The competition was not only about creativity, but also about elevating digital advertising as a whole. This was apparent in the judging criteria: strategic relevance; creative thinking; best use of the capabilities of the various technologies involved; user experience. The participants were not allowed to affect the official Movember website. I’m not going to get too specific in regards to what was presented. I will say that the amount of creativity displayed in such a short interval was very impressive, especially the innovative use of the Surface, Skype, IE and Xbox Live. To me, however, the important piece of this adventure was really about the use of the Xbox 360′s online platform in an advertising campaign.

Increased engagement was the name of the game as the different groups proposed various strategies to leverage the console infrastructure in their quest to get more folks to register. It was refreshing to see gamers in general being referred to as a valuable demographic – without any mention of poor bodily hygiene or challenged social skills. To me, this points to a much larger part of society becoming integrated into gaming culture – with the accompanying normalization wiping out the traditional stereotypes.

So what were some of the suggestions on how to use the Xbox 360 and Xbox Live to help the campaign? One of the groups pointed to the use of the Kinect as a tool to track moustache growth. They proposed that the Kinect could be used to capture an image of the XBL member’s face the instant they log in and update their Movember profile (one group even suggested that the Kinect images could be stitched together to form an animated GIF as a souvenir at the end of the Movember journey). The integration with Movember wouldn’t end here, though, as a connected Xbox Live tile could be a link to mustache-themed movies (Tom Selleck, anyone?), music, avatar customization and more. Not only could Xbox Live be used to keep track of yourself, though – it could be used to keep track of others as well. This kind of social integration is key in a campaign like Movember.

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In line with this social aspect, some groups referred to the use of XBL to recruit more Mo-Bros from your friends list; perhaps even having a scrolling tile that displayed various XBL users and their reasons for wanting to participate in the cause. One group even went so far as to suggest that Movember itself could become a “friend” on various platforms to help bring the user into the world of the mustache. Talk about a powerful use for a “bot”!

The ideas were brilliant, and well thought-out. Out-of-the-box thinking was definitely employed in many aspects – including activities happening in pre-Movember months, moustache-themed peripherals, and the additional use of Kinect to allow Mo-Bros and Mo-Sistas alike to control their Movember access by use of a creative mustache gesture using your finger. Overall, it was a lively series of presentation full of humour and great ideas.

A lot of the time, gamers whine and complain about advertising and marketing in general. However, these things are not really going to go away (at least, not any time soon); in fact, they are becoming increasingly integrated with technology – to the point where they can be so subtle as to not be noticed overtly. It is important to note that advertising and marketing, when used properly, can be a positive force to raise awareness for worthy causes and effect positive change. The inclusion of gaming console networks and the gamers that use them just shows where the untapped potential is hiding.

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