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  • 28 February
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Case Study: Channel 4's Humans

In 2015, Channel 4’s eagerly anticipated sci-fi drama Humans hit TV screens. Frazer Hurrell, Creative Technologist for Microsoft Advertising and Online UK, explains how the integrated pre launch TV marketing campaign was created.

How Channel4's Humans Came To Life

Channel 4 wanted to make sure the announcement of the show made as much of an impact as possible. The Humans channel 4 advertising campaign was a result of a collaboration between multiple agencies and media owners including 4Creative, Channel 4’s in-house digital and creative teams, Fuse, OMD, eBay and Microsoft.

To promote the new TV series, the collaborative effort of all these organisations created a ‘teaser’ campaign using a pseudo brand, Persona Synthetics, that manufactures the ‘Synths’ – artificial humans – in the show, as if the company were actually about to launch a range of these synthetics beings. As soon as it launched, people began to ask “what are these ‘synths’, and are they real?!”


Take a Look at the Synths Interactive Window Display in Regent Street

The idea was to create an advertising campaign for the brand and as part of the charade, for it to appear that the brands flagship store on London’s Regent Street was coming soon.

Microsoft pitched an idea of an interactive brand experience to engage consumers in a new and exciting way. They used Windows 8 and Kinect to bring the ‘synths’ to life in an actual storefront that offered consumers the chance to interact with and bid on the robotic assistants that feature in the show.

A mixture of technical photography and photogrammetry combined to capture high resolution images of actors. Each of the unique animations were carefully choreographed by the show’s choreographer to ensure they moved exactly how the actors did in the show. They even followed a ‘Synths manual’, created by Channel 4, to direct how the synths should behave.

How Channel4's Humans Came To Life

The experience was powered by Kinect technology and built within the Unity real-time game engine running on Windows 8. Using Kinect’s interactive sensors meant that the Synths could sense up to six individual people at once, by tracking their position and movements as they passed by the installation.

The models beckoned passers-by over to interact, waving and pointing to direct the user to the correct position in front of them. Consumers were then invited to ‘bond’ with the Synths by raising their hands to connect with the animation. Passers-by could explore features of the Synth by hovering over icons and selecting buttons to add skills such as cooking, driving and even personal training.

At the same time as the storefront was open, there was an eBay auction for the ‘synths’ running, with a dedicated website for the pseudo-brand “Persona Synthetics” and branded social media profiles: all of which combined to fire mass conversations within the British public on and offline. When Channel 4 then made the announcement that the campaign was in fact for the launch of its new show “Humans” it drove another round of media coverage and social media chatter. 

The whole campaign was testament to the power of collaboration from the beginning between brands, agencies and media owners.

Over 6,600 people interacted with the Persona Synthetics storefront – many of whom then took to Twitter to talk about their experience, which combined with the online ad drove #PersonaSynthetics trending, with 423,000 hits to the website and more than 200,000 views of the eBay auction in the first 72 hours of the campaign.  

If you think you have a campaign that deserves a Pencil, enter your work into the D&AD Awards and see if our judges agree. When it comes to awards, nothing matters more.

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