Close-Up: Why Skoda Puzzle takes TV idents to a whole new level

Matt Groves explains the thinking behind Fallon's multi-channel treasure hunt for the car manufacturer.

So, we've just launched our new Skoda Puzzle campaign at Fallon. Toys were thrown, dummies spat, tantrums had - and that was just me.

We were briefed at the end of last year to replace Skoda's existing idents sponsoring CSI on Channel 5. But rather than just coming back with a traditional set of ads, we wanted to explore how we could use the space a bit differently. We think the campaign we finally delivered is a great example of making content and technology work harder together.

In Skoda Puzzle, the idents are used as clues in an online treasure hunt to find the location of a virtual Skoda that's been hidden on Google Street View.

Post-broadcast, the participants can watch the idents again on a YouTube channel, and are also encouraged to use social media to get extra clues to help them follow the trail through to its final week in early July. The ones who solve the puzzle get the opportunity to win a brand new Skoda Fabia vRS at the end of the campaign.

I believe that content ideas are the spring that feeds the river of distribution. For a long time, this was just TV, linear and one way. Now, of course, it's a myriad of platforms built upon lateral technology, always on and democratic.

At Fallon, we've always aimed to create content that has been shared and talked about - if people like content, they will share it anyway, regardless of digital Jedi mind tricks. But if you can add that technological layer to great content, you can accelerate distribution, give it a helping hand, even guide its outcome. Can you say the same about technology that isn't matched with great content? Always start with an agency that can do great content and add the technology. It doesn't work the other way round.

Our Skoda clients recognised that there is a content gap between a big idea and banner ads, that "digital" is not a discipline but a channel, and were prepared to trust us.

When I was working in San Francisco at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, I created strong relationships with many online media and technology partners, including Google. These relationships helped a lot with Skoda Puzzle, as one of the first things we did was to bring in the UK office of Google to help us scope out the campaign architecture using its products, including a branded YouTube page as the hub for the campaign.

This proved to be an effective way of handling video (no hosting and bandwidth costs) and bespoke content in an environment where there is already a massive audience.

Influenced by the principle of the case wall in CSI, we were able to create a first for YouTube by combining Google Street View with interactive puzzles supported by embedded social feeds and the original idents. We even worked with puzzle specialists to verify our ideas. It was the first time anything this complicated, with this level of detail, had been hosted on YouTube - it's essentially an 11-week game that's been integrated with lots of different media channels.

We developed a social media strategy on Facebook and Twitter to gather momentum and keep people engaged. We even bought keywords on Google Adwords based around some of the content in the idents, as they are intentionally cryptic.

Needless to say, there were challenges, including pushing the technology on YouTube beyond its existing limits, which required involvement from Google's US engineers and also seriously constrained our timings.

It was also a cathartic experience inside Fallon, requiring efficient collaboration and less individual control. All our departments had to get to grips with following a new process designed to encourage integrated thinking and accommodate complicated, multi-channel campaign development that utilised TV, Google Adwords, Street View, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, seeding and even good old print.

It also included managing and briefing multiple agencies including Golley Slater, which handled PR and social media execution, and MediaCom, which bought the YouTube channel and Adwords.

The process was helped greatly by the fact that since I've been at Fallon, we've chosen to outsource digital production. Using this model meant that we had confidence that the film and interactive directors from HLA and unit9 would work closely together, provide creative input and deliver on time and on budget.

We've changed the process through which we create, manage and produce our campaigns; we've brought in some new people to be agents of change, we've worked on our methodology and introduced training on how to make things happen in a new world. All this has vastly improved our collective digital understanding and helped us to connect our content with people more effectively.

Matt Groves is the director of digital and integration at Fallon.


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