Hats off to ingenuity of gamers

Mattessons and The Syndicate Project mobilised teenage gamers to collaborate on a bespoke product, Andy Jex writes.

Let’s do it. Let’s do the meat hat? And, with those words, the first review of work for the new Fridge Raiders brief came to a close.

The "Hank Marvin" campaign had done a job on mums. This brief was about engaging the "yoot" who eat the stuff. We knew they bandied around words such as "epic", "GG" and "FTW". We also knew that a massive 61 per cent of them come home from school and play video games.

We needed a credible way to engage them through gaming. We unearthed a problem: they all munch while they play. This habit brings all sorts of messy consequences – greasy sticks, crumbs in your buttons and sudden death (OK, so it’s only a pixelated death, but this shit matters).

Their snack of choice was crisps. Fridge Raiders are more filling and don’t have the crumbs. This makes them an ideal snack for gamers. To showcase this, we created "project MMM3000". The MMM stands for MMMattessons. The 3000 bit – that just looked cool.

The idea

The idea was to design and build a device that allows gamers to snack and game at the same time, hands-free.

It was to be entirely co-created online by teenage gamers anda team ofengineers. Mattessons has always specialised in meat innovation, but dispensing chicken through a hat was a step beyond.

We needed an authentic way to reach gamers. We partnered with The Syndicate Project, a popular online gaming commentator.

Basically, he uploads videos of himself playing games while he commentates over the top.

Now, this I could relate to. I’m often caught recreating the ’89 title-clincher in the car park, complete with Brian Moore commentary. The difference being he has three million followers, has generated 700 million video views and advertising pays for his bedroom endeavour to be a full-time job.

I, on the other hand, just end up in the visitor’s bay in a heap, mumbling: "It’s up for grabs now!" Thus The Syndicate Project became our sole media channel, saving us millions in media spondoolies.

How it worked

Rather than just being a celebrity endorsement with ads on his channel, The Syndicate Project mobilised his fans to work together to create a world’s first.

We asked his followers to submit their ideas to the Fridge Raiders Facebook page. More than 15,000 followers responded, with suggestions for robotic arms, troughs, crane chairs, desk-mounted cannons, wall forks, air bazookas, clap-a-pults and one moustache feeder.

Above all, they took pridein crashing our server. We responded, not by crashing their servers but by sending back official blueprints of the best submissions.

The very best ones were then built into prototypes and tested out on The Syndicate Project.

Daily Facebook updates and weekly YouTube episodes kept fans up to date. At the midway point, we decided what form the final design should take together. From that day on, the community focused their attention on the MMM3000… a helmet.

Could it be gravity-fed? Button-, pedal- or voice-activated? Should it have a refrigeration unit? Could it have a Rumble Pak? Should it have a headset and mic? These were just a few of the problems they solved along the way.

After weeks of productdevelopment, the final fully working prototype was delivered to The Syndicate Project by the Royal Marines. He then "unboxed" it to his millions of salivating fans.

The results

Unlike many projects like it, this one actually shifted some product. We’d always planned the project to culminate inan on-pack games giveaway. This seems to have worked, with sales up 65 per cent on the previous year.

We targeted an audience of 3.5 million seemingly under the radar to the mainstream. As big as gaming is, it still hasa very underground, cult feel. We became very relevant, fun and inspiring to them.

When a lad submits "the journey of the MMM3000" as his homework, you know you’re "in". When a girl promises to get an MMM3000 tattoo in exchange for a free packet of Fridge Raiders, you know you’re "out". But when a 14-year-old starts his own vlog on the back of engaging in the project, you know you’re the "hokey cokey".

For an audience of teen gamers who are all too often labelled lazy and slovenly, the educational element and the stirring up of creativity in them can’t be overlooked. This will continue to play an integral part as we build on this campaign.

Every decision we made was done so with our audiencein mind. The music was produced by Droideka, an 18-year-old bedroom DJ who later saw his song reach the top 40. The voiceover, by Jake Foushee, a 14-year-old witha voice unnervingly like the Walrus of Love in his pomp, became an internet hit.

The community demanded the MMM3000 to be mass-produced. They didn’t pipe down until we published a letter explaining that the legal and financial might required to get a product to market that puts meat and electronics ona child’s head was simply beyond us. That said, they still wouldn’t let it go.

The ultimate flattery, though, comes in the form of retailers apparently about to launch their own versions of the snack. Do us a favour, though – keep it under your meat hat.

Andy Jex is a creative director at Saatchi & Saatchi