Agency: Cossette / Jam3 / Tendril
Award: Yellow Pencil, Graphic Design / Digital & Mobile, 2014
The Royal Canadian Mint wanted to make coin collecting and history irresistible to children. Canadian ad agency Cossette worked with digital agency Jam3 and production company Tendril to create 'Heart of the Arctic', a stunning example of immersive digital experience that interweaves truth, fantasy and Inuit mythology to transform children into Arctic Explorers.
The first Canadian Arctic Expedition took place in 1913. To mark the 100th anniversary, the Royal Canadian Mint introduced four new 25 cent coins. As with previous special issues, the coins would be introduced into daily currency circulation - the idea being that people would collect them by withdrawing them from circulation.
A nationwide campaign was needed to encourage children to check their money and collect the new coins.
The Creative Idea
'Heart of the Arctic' is an interactive online adventure game in which each player navigates an Arctic environment to complete a series of tasks to win one of four coins - virtual replicas of the commemorative coins the Canadian Mint wanted them to collect in real life. Collecting the virtual coins helped players restore balance between night and day and so save the heart of the Arctic.
Game play transports players between two worlds: a diurnal world through which they learn about the Arctic world and its flora and fauna, and a nocturnal world based on Arctic mythology and legend.
"Our idea was to meet children where they now spend much of their time - online - to take them on a virtual journey," explains Cameron Wilson, who worked at Cossette as digital creative director at that time. "We believed we could overcome the challenges associated with reaching this age group by building a strong, educational element into the campaign."
Marketing to children is a sensitive activity made further complicated in Canada by being regulated province by province. The team needed to appeal to six to eleven year-olds - a diverse and fickle demographic, but they also had to win support from these children's carers: a delicate balancing act.
Working with an educational adviser, Cossette developed ideas for the journey’s different segments while officials at the Mint persuaded Canada's Department of Education to make available related educational resources, also developed by Cossette, in schools to support teaching of Arctic-related subjects within Canada's national curriculum.
Digital agency Jam3 and production company Tendril worked closely with Cossette to bring its ideas to life using HTML5 which all concerned agreed would be best for creating a high quality, interactive immersive experience for consumption across platforms - in particular, smartphone and tablet.
"A big challenge was balancing the volume of content we could produce with the technology against the need for content to be simple, easy to play and quick to load," says Jam3 partner and creative director Pablo Vio.
Visual style was extremely important and closely informed by research into children's current tastes. The team loved the popular children's illustrator Jon Klassen whose style influenced the campaign's striking picture book art direction, colour palate and watercolour-like animation.
“We started out sketching some loose ideas on paper. The more material you have, the better. For this project we explored a pretty broad range of styles early on – from super-minimalist and up, all the way to really elaborate illustrations for the forms and textures of our world,” says Alexandre Torres, CD and co-founder of Tendril.
"The Arctic is known as a hostile and blustering environment, so we spent a lot of time figuring out a balance between that and a more amicable world rich with secrets and wonder that would appeal to children," he continues.
"After we locked off the final design for the characters, we started breaking them into different classes or groups. Each had a determined level of animation complexity. With that information in hand we were able to distribute the animation bandwidth budget between all the different scenarios, allowing us to have an even amount of animation per section."
Every element had to move and transition naturally, Torres adds: “In addition, we had to separate the foreground and background elements into layers to create a parallax effect. For every animated character we created an animation ‘sprite sheet’ containing all the different poses, like the old days of 8-bit games.”
A final - and key - component was the physical collector's card used by collectors to store and display their real world coins. Like the educational resources, the design of this was informed by the look and style of the game, then distributed to children via schools.
The 'Heart of the Arctic' campaign, launched in November 2013, ran for three months. The game was promoted by an animated trailer on You Tube, Google and selected kids websites, banners and spots on TV and editorial content in magazines. Awareness was further built by teachers in school.
Thousands of young explorers ventured into 'Heart of the Arctic'. The web site generated more than 50,000 visits with dwell time averaging ten to 15 minutes. The trailer generated 1m+ views. Furthermore, 1,055 elementary schools and 2,375 classes participated in 'Heart of the Arctic'-themed activities.
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