Interviews from Tomorrow | Mitsubishi Live Drive – 180 LA

April 28th, 20116:03 am @


Interviews from Tomorrow | Mitsubishi Live Drive – 180 LA

TOMORROW: How did this project come about? You only recently won the Mitsubishi account.

William: Live Drive was actually the first thing we did after pitching and winning the Mitsubishi account. Once we won the account, we were able to take a look behind the curtain, so to speak, and see what their true business challenges were.

The business challenges for Mitsubishi were pretty big. They were very low on the consideration scale. About 96% of all Americans considering purchasing an automobile weren’t even thinking of Mitsubishi at all. The bigger automotive companies were outspending Mitsubishi on media at a ratio of 22:1, so there was no way they could compete on that level. And finally, nobody was coming into their dealerships. This last one was a big concern, because they had this new Outlander Sport coming out, and if you sat in one of them and tested out all of its features behind the wheel, you’d definitely place Mitsubishi on your consideration list.

So that was our challenge: how to get people familiar with the brand and the vehicle without a huge budget? And even if we had a huge traditional media budget, it would still be a challenge to get people to the dealerships, which tended to be more out of the way than their deeper-pocketed competitors.

So that’s how the idea behind Mitsubishi Live Drive was born. If we couldn’t get people into actual dealerships for a test drive, let’s see if we could use technology to bring the test drive to the people.

TOMORROW: Was the idea always to use a real car? I mean, this easily could’ve been a slick video game, no?

William: It could’ve been, but what we really wanted to do was take advantage of what has been going on for the past year, and that’s this blurring of lines between the digital world and the physical world. Take something like Foursquare, where you are digitally checking into a physical place. This really seems to be a trend in our world these days, and we wanted to play in that space. What we didn’t want to do was create a virtual test drive or a video game. That’s been done before. Test-driving a real car on a real track from the comfort of your living room? That hadn’t been done before.

TOMORROW: Whenever agencies come up with crazy ideas like this, there is often some doubt or concern from the client. What was it like to sell Mitsubishi on this idea?

William: (laughs) Well it wasn’t the easiest sell in the world, but when they saw the idea, they couldn’t help but get excited. At the end of the day, it wasn’t just an ad, it was a way for people to experience their car. It made it easier for people to access and learn about the car, and it would create much more buzz and earned media than a traditional campaign would. So what seemed like a crazy idea at first glance was actually a very smart one, and the client was bold enough to embrace it.

TOMORROW: While I’m sure that 180LA has some pretty smart people on staff, most agencies don’t have a robotics department. How did you branch out beyond your own capabilities to bring Live Drive to life?

William: One of the things that makes me most excited about working in the industry today is that when you come up with these kinds of ideas, you get to reach out to all sorts of people to find out if your idea is even doable.

It wasn’t easy, of course. It took a lot of different people from a lot of different backgrounds to come together and collaborate on this project. We partnered with B-Reel [] and Dr. James Brighton, {} a world-renowned expert in robotics. Dr. Brighton was needed to develop the robotics needed to drive the car, while B-Reel was needed to figure out how to connect this now robotic car to the internet. They are the ones that had to translate the seemingly simple actions of getting into a car, driving around, and looking around to experience the vehicle and the drive. They created many things that were quite frankly over my head (laughs).

TOMORROW: You built the car, you tested it, the interface works, now describe getting it into the hands of the consumers.

William: We embraced every type of media, from paid to owned to earned. The beautiful thing was that all it took was a little momentum for it to take on a life of its own. We soon had over 50,000 signed up to try it out, way more people wanting to drive the car than we could physically accommodate. We had more people drive the car in the short span of time available than the average Mitsubishi dealer had in an entire year.

TOMORROW: How did the Mitsubishi dealers react to this campaign? You often hear stories about campaigns that corporations approve but their dealers or franchisees don’t like because they don’t generate the sales they want, and this is quite prevalent in the auto industry.

William: Yes, we were quite aware of the friction that sometimes exists between car companies and their dealers. The beauty of this project was that the dealers were probably the ones most excited about it. CRM [] is an extremely important part of selling cars, and this acted a phenomenally successful CRM campaign. In order to drive the car, you had to provide your personal information, data that the dealers could use to help them bring customers into their showrooms. Approximately 25% of the people who got to drive the vehicle later visited a Mitsubishi dealership, so you can see why the dealers were happy.

TOMORROW: As you mentioned earlier, you had a lot more people wanting to drive the car than was physically possible. How did you keep the ones who weren’t behind the wheel engaged?

William: We really wanted everybody to enjoy the experience, even if you weren’t one of the ones actually driving the car at the moment. While people waited in the queue, there was a simulator where people could drive a virtual version of the car, learning about the car and the course so that when their turn came, they’d know what to expect. People could also watch whoever was driving at the time do his or her thing.

We also employed social media so that when it was your turn to drive the car, you could invite as many of your Facebook friends as you wanted to ‘ride’ in the car with you. When I drove the car, five of my friends came along for the experience. One guy invited 26 friends for his drive, which I don’t think is humanly possible in the real world. Lots of digital legroom (laughs).

TOMORROW: Surely there must be some funny driving stories from this project.

William: (laughs) Well when you create a car that can be driven over the internet, the first thing people want to do is try to crash it. I don’t know what it was, but every night at about 11 PM, that’s when the crazies came out. You’d be at the course and as soon as a new driver came online, you’d see them point the car at a wall or a post and just floor it, full throttle. Luckily we had a feeling this would happen, and we made sure there was a kill switch built in that would shut the car down once it crossed these invisible barriers.

TOMORROW: What’s next for you and Mitsubishi?

William: I think what’s happening in the world of technology is just fascinating, and as ad agencies, as people who work on brands, it’s incumbent on us to keep an eye on those things and try to figure out a way to use them as best we can. The trend of combining the physical world and the digital world is in vogue at the moment, and I think more people can and should take advantage of that.

Based on the success of Mitsubishi Live Drive, we are currently trying to figure out how to launch the company’s electric vehicle. If ever there was a product that could benefit from social media and technology, the electric car would be it.