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GPJ Creates 'Experiences' in Beijing

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LOS ANGELES George P. Johnson hopes its experiential marketing venues at the Olympic Games in Beijing will help shift, expand and improve the agency's international image.

The Detroit-based shop, well known in automotive circles for its large-scale displays and show support, sees Beijing as a chance to play on a broader stage, said David Rich, svp of strategic marketing worldwide.

In Beijing, GPJ represented two high-profile clients: Chinese PC maker Lenovo and the Bank of China.

"Lenovo represents the only Chinese tier-1 sponsor of the Olympic games," said Rich. "So you don't want to stub your toe on that." He added, "As they see it, this is their chance to evangelize their brand."

Robert Albitz, GPJ's svp of worldwide creative, said the key question was "how to build a compelling experience" in a way that would bridge significant cultural and linguistic gaps.

Ultimately, GPJ designed for Lenovo a long-line queuing system, complete with computerized wristbands, to entertain people while they learned about the Olympic torch display at the main stadium in Beijing. In a nod to long-standing traditions at U.S. theme parks, at the end of the Lenovo "experience," visitors were given a novelty picture of themselves holding the pass-along torch against an exotic backdrop achieved by blue-screen technology.

"It gives us a chance to show off Lenovo's proprietary Veriface facial-recognition software," Albitz said. "It is a total immersive experience, with the additional brand story of how the Olympics required over 500 engineers and 10,000 pieces of computer equipment to support the Games."

For Bank of China, which is also seeking to raise its international profile, the creative team decided "to align the story with Olympic history, so it is almost a museum-like setting, Albitz said. "You got that walking through the interior. But what's more relevant to the Olympics? Bank of China is the official sponsor of badminton." Using blue-screen technology again, visitors could hold a badminton racket and see themselves playing a virtual game against the Chinese team for two minutes each."