The JWT Holiday House

Earlier this year I held an “Ardiuno/RaspberryPi Challenge” for my office in Dallas. I was looking to inspire engineers to activate and engage their creative sides and I did so by purchasing Raspberry Pis and Arduinos for anyone who signed up to participate. They didn’t disappoint. We wound up with several ideas, a couple of which made in front of clients (and potential clients!) and one which I cherished and latched onto the moment I heard it.

First, a little backstory. I manage Creative Technology, Database/CRM, Reporting, and Analytics disciplines. A majority of which are working out of our Dallas office. So I routinely fly back & forth between Dallas and Atlanta to manage projects, oversee the teams, etc. As you can imagine, any time you’re bridging both a cultural gap (engineers and creatives) and a literal distance gap, you face challenges. We’re always looking for little ways to make that “connection” between the two offices. With that in mind, one of my developers came up with the idea of creating an interactive “greeting card” that could connect two places in a meaningful and engaging way. The minute I heard the idea I said, “Okay, we’re making that. I don’t care how it happens, we’re making it”.

The result? The JWT Holiday House. A raspberry-pi-powered, proximity-detecting, photo-taking, wifi-enabled, Tumblr-posting “Gingerbread House”. Styled after the 8-bit world of “Minecraft”, the accessories and embellishments were fashioned from our 3-D printer, and the house itself was built by the guys and gals in the Dallas office as a holiday season labor of love. Beginning after Thanksgiving, and concluding a week before Christmas, the team threw themselves into cutting, nailing, glueing, soldering, painting, and printing after hours and on the weekends. Once the mayhem was complete, what we had in our possession were two identical holiday houses, one for Atlanta, and a surprise second house that we sent to New York. They were created to be completely turnkey. You unboxed the house, plugged it in, and it powered up, got on the network, and began looking for people to walk in front of it.

When you approached the house, the proximity detector noticed you and played a random, prerecorded Holiday Greeting from someone in Dallas, then once it had your attention, it snapped a quick picture of you, uploaded it to Tumblr, and connected you (your photo) with the person in Dallas who wished you holiday greetings.

It was a tremendous success, the participation and engagement was off the charts. So many people loved the idea and spent a lot of time coming up with hilarious ways to play in front of the camera.

Best of all? It was a truly creative idea that originated and was produced entirely within the “engineering department” of the agency. Agency nerds, normally tasked with banging out code rolled up their sleeves and got in touch with their creative sides. I couldn’t have been more proud.

Media Mentions:
Celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas, Ad-Agency Style (Ad Age)

More of 2013’s Best Agency Holiday Cards (Digiday)

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