Let’s be honest it was a pretty ambitious and audacious plan all round from Sony Music; a 7 hour live broadcast hosted by the boys from One Direction and special celebrity guests live from Google Studios in LA. If that wasn’t enough there were Google Hangouts, events from around the world, and second screen exclusive content, features and fun interactions unlocked by zapping the stream.
Sony Music and Fulwell 73 working with Modest Management and One Direction pulled together an extraordinary roller coaster of a show with a panoply of the great and the good making video appearances from David Beckham, James Corden to Michael Bouble; as well as live appearances from Simon Cowell, Cindy Crawford, Dynamo, Jerry Springer, Piers Morgan, Scott Mills and many more. And then there were the fans: with amazing contributions from every corner of the globe – Iceland, Japan, Norway, Germany, Australia, USA and so on – courtesy of the super-reliable Google Hangouts. And all these moving parts were beautifully held together by the One Direction boys themselves and Director Ben Winston as they fought with the ever-present technical and timing issues of any live event.
To be honest it wasn’t without its glitches and hiccups. But hey, this is the Internet age, and we like our content real. It’s more human and gave a great platform for the boys to connect with their fans.
The Technical Challenges
The technical challenges at our end were multiple and varied: how do we account for different types of display, viewing distances, lighting conditions, devices? How do we zap a moving image with quick cuts between camera shots and the inevitable ebb and flow of running order on a live show? How do we keep the content nimble, adaptable and totally flexible? How do we make sure the experiences don’t distract or detract from the show whilst providing content that fans will appreciate and can share? Oh, and how do we get it all locked, loaded approved and ready to air in a matter of weeks?!
Well if nothing else, here at Zappar we love a challenge and we love an ambitious plan.
We also have a secret weapon that meant we could make this second screen dream a reality: the humble (but awesome!) Zapcode.
A Zapcode is like a QR code on steroids. A device that can be scanned from distances and acute angles in an instant: just open the app and zap. It can be small on screen (it only needs to be 1/15 of the height of the image); each Zapcode can be unique (we’ve got 4 billion we can use which should cover it); the experience can be triggered from the Zapcode and appear relative to the screen itself, or be taken away from the monitor and enjoyed on the device (we call this ‘grab & go’), so the codes don’t have to appear in the broadcast for long periods of time (we recommend 45 seconds). Coupled with the Zapcode Creator we can also update and change content in real time as circumstances change and feed in features from the show itself as they happen.
So Zapcodes are small, fast, flexible, nimble and pack a serious AR punch.
To our knowledge there’s no other device in the world quite like it. In fact, it’s hard to think of any other company in the world who could have delivered this solution. This whole concept was a world first on every level. The reason it worked so well was down to teamwork, 360-degree integration across all channels and technology.
All in all we made 23 individual Zapcodes for the broadcast made up of celeb guest biogs, exclusive behind the scenes videos of the boys, and specific interactions relevant to segments in the broadcast (Zayn’s Graffiti art feature, Rock/Paper/Scissors mini game, band hair style photo share function etc.).
Working closely with Sony Music we made sure that in the build up to the show there was a pre-awareness Zapcode and messaging across social channels getting fans to download the app in advance and familiarize themselves with the Zapcodes and the act of zapping.
In the show itself the boys and co-presenter Scott Mills made sure to call out the Zappar functionality and point people towards the codes.
Throughout the broadcast we made sure that all messaging in social media informed fans about what was going on, to share their content socially to appear in the broadcast on the live video walls (through the fantastic Tagboard technology) and also gave them a second chance to view codes they may have missed and look out for more.
And the early results are just breathtaking. We can’t comment on the broadcast stats (which are off the charts by the way) but we do know that we got almost 1.5m zaps on the day with an average dwell time of 1 minute 34 seconds per zap. At times we were seeing 3,000 zaps a second. Our Google Play rating went to 4.25. We reached #16 on the free app downloads chart on iTunes. And we got a simply amazing response from the fans on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.
What can we say… it was a heck of a day! It defines a totally new use case for AR as a second screen experience for live broadcasts and television in general through the unique power of Zapcodes and the Zappar platform. Most importantly it showed how we can engage, surprise and delight consumers with bite-size entertainment experience serving relevant, fun and exclusive content.
We can’t thank everyone at Sony Music, Fulwell 73, Modest and indeed the band themselves enough for having the brass balls to even attempt the show let alone add in a digital world first into the mix with Zappar and Zapcodes. We had a blast and we hope the fans did too.
The question now is, where next? Watch this space…