Samsung Times Square Experiential Campaign
Showcase Samsung Galaxy’s camera in a way that excites and delights people, inspiring them to jump on board with Samsung.
Attract upgrades from current Samsung loyalists and convert competitors’ users through the Galaxy camera’s appeal. Invite customers to play in a physically and visually immersive experience, which ends with seeing their portraits on a 62-foot tall Times Square billboard. The story with a great ending: get larger than life with the Samsung Galaxy camera.
The stage doesn’t get much bigger than Times Sq! Having designed and produced experiences for small screens my whole professional career, the opportunity to deliver a campaign to a six-story tall screen in the heart of my hometown was more than a thrill. My role as Executive Producer had me not only leading the effort but collaborating with the Creative Director on creating the perfect User Experience.
Entering the initiative, the business goal was clear – drive sales through phone upgrades and conversions. The concept was also well understood – use the Time Sq billboard to show photos taken with the Galaxy camera to build buzz and sharing opportunities. What wasn’t defined was how to pull this off in a seamless way that would deliver engagement and reach.
To start, I wanted to thoroughly understand the user’s journey, which actually involves physically traveling. The experience has two scenarios. One, customers enter Samsung 837, located in the heart of the Meatpacking district in NYC, which serves as a kind of showroom on steroids (see photos on the right). According to the website, “Samsung 837 is where anyone can try out cutting-edge experiences, take part in interactive art installations, or see a larger-than-life, three-story screen.” If we are going to allow customers to put photos taken with the Galaxy on the billboard in Times Sq, we need to take them first, and they need to look great. This is where the Create Space installation comes in. Create Space is a series of three portrait studios designed by Hypno to showcase the key features of the Galaxy camera (Live Focus, White Balance, and Low Light). To start, the customer enters a cue designated with the Create Space sign. Three large screens greet them that illustrate the key camera features. The customer uses a tablet mounted to the wall to enter their email address, which will be needed later to send them their photos. A Samsung Brand Ambassador guides them to the first studio space and takes pictures of them with a mounted Galaxy phone (see images to the right). The customer is then led through the next two studios. Once the customer is done taking photos, the Brand Ambassador takes them to the back review area, where their images appear on multiple mounted wall screens. Three giant tabletop touchscreens allow customers to select their favorite photos and send them to their previously entered email addresses. Within seconds the customer receives an email with their photos attached. Those photos are also sent to Samsung’s moderation team for approval to be used on the Times Sq billboard. Once approved, another email is sent to the customer with a link to a microsite. The microsite contains directions to Times Sq and the functionality for broadcasting your photo to the billboard. Once in Times Sq, the customer can use the microsite to cue up their photo for the giant screen. The microsite encourages them to take a selfie and share their Times Sq fame with the world using #withGalaxy. The second scenario finds the customer starting in Times Sq. Here they see the messaging on the billboard that they too can have their photos shown on it. The customer then travels to Samsung 837 to get their portrait taken. They then follow the same steps described in the first scenario. This campaign involves not only traditional digital User Experience considerations but also real-world Customer Experience and out-of-home. There is a mobile website to be built, plus multiple kiosk interfaces, display screens, physical spaces, human interaction, and a 62-foot billboard. Context-of-use was a huge consideration. I needed to walk in the customers’ shoes to grasp all the options and opportunities. For ecological validity, I went to Times Sq to see the billboard and watch its content to understand better what works at that scale. There I asked people if they would travel to 837 Samsung if they could have their photos appear on the billboard, and other general questions. The responses were encouraging. I then traveled to 837 Samsung by subway to see how easy or not it was to take the subway. It required one train line and 15 minutes of walking, which was simple enough. At 837, I spoke with Samsung Brand Ambassadors and explored the space. I also researched an exhaustive report on Time Sq insights provided by Samsung. To memorialize all of this, I drafted a flow diagram using Lucid Charts that captured each step of the journey and identified potential failure points.
With the flow diagram, it was clear that every interaction (digital, physical, human, out-of-home) needed to be encouraging and work in harmony to get customers to travel from 837 Samsung to Times Sq. Sure, seeing your photo on a giant billboard and sharing that experience with the world is a huge payoff. Still, users are easily distracted, and any breakdown in the experience could lead to abandonment. I worked with the brilliant Creative Director and super savvy Samsung team to ensure we took a customer-centric approach and always considered the best way to interact with the customer along the journey. This included hype video content encouraging them to go to Times Sq to broadcast their photos when they arrive at 837 Samsung, a map on the microsite to show the way, and great messaging on the billboard calling the viewer to go to 837 Samsung so they can have their photos broadcast on the billboard.
Production and UX
Now that I had a clear strategy to deliver an excellent experience, I was ready to provide support serving as EP. The team consisted of a Creative Director, Visual Designer, CTO, Lead Developer, System Administrator, Web Developer, Motion Graphics Artist, Android Developer, and AV Installation Expert. In the morning, I would connect with each team member by Slack or in-person to ensure they had everything they needed and were not facing any obstacles. In the afternoon, I would conduct a daily standup with the entire team to review the schedule and address ideas and any concerns. Because of my Interaction Design background, I worked with the CD, VD, and Motion Graphic Artist to ensure the UX was the best in class. I also interfaced with the vendor that runs the Samsung billboard in Times Sq to be sure to play nice with their technology and have ample time for testing. I handled client engagement with Samsung’s executives to keep them up to date on progress and get approval on our work.
This experience had so many moving parts. I was concerned that it could break. Samsung’s top executives and the world were watching. I laid out a plan to battle-test the entire end-to-end experience. This involved many nights leading into the morning in Times Sq in the cold to ensure the billboard and the microsite’s timer were working perfectly. It also meant repeatedly testing every interaction at 837 Samsung to work out bugs or poor UX. It was a painful process but necessary to ensure there would be no surprises when we went live.
One of the challenges that appeared late in the process was the need for strict moderation. Samsung wanted to make sure that what appeared on the billboard was not inappropriate. For example, someone wearing an Apple watch or flipping the bird. We needed to put in an intelligent moderation platform that would be easy to use by the Samsung team and not slow down the User Experience. I worked with the tech team to come up with a solution. We were able to deliver it as part of the package on time.
What I Learned
I learned a lot over the project, including how to create immersive experiences that include digital and real-world interaction.
Thousands engaged with the Samsung Experience with combined exposure to hundreds of thousands of people throughout the activation.
- Product Design
- Interaction Design