You’ve almost certainly seen the Microsoft ad starring Robert Downey, Jr. today. We covered it a couple of hours ago, and this afternoon we spoke to some of the principal parties behind the campaign from Seattle-based agency POSSIBLE.
Chief Creative Officer of the Americas Danielle Trivisonno Hawley and Seattle SVP Josh Schmiesing gave us the inside story on the work.
How did this particular project come to be?
Josh: We’re retained on the Microsoft Office business. They wanted a campaign tailored to students and put out a brief on how we could do that for the One Note product specifically.
We had an insight on how the younger generation is all about collaboration, so the idea was about involvement: how do you get other people involved in your projects…and how can Microsoft help take these ideas to the next level?
We quite literally scoured the internet for stories, looked at hundreds, and landed on three involving students…doing selfless things.
Danielle: specifically these were people who could benefit from using One Note.
What’s the story behind the project?
Josh: Albert Manero, a Fulbright scholar, was driving and listening to the radio when he heard about E-nable, a company which was starting to create artificial hands for children without them. He was so moved he knew he had to get involved, so he went into school and talked to a group of people (which is where his org Limbitless Solutions was born). They used 3D printing to create the materials for the arms and engineer them with electronics.
Danielle: Each arm cost about $350; they do things like start a jar of “coffee money” to help provide the arms to families who need them.
When did Robert Downey, Jr. get involved?
Danielle: When we met Albert, the energy was contagious. The creative team dug deep and asked, how do we make these kids famous?
Josh: Microsoft was able to get a meeting with Robert, and from there we pitched the idea. He asked a lot of questions about Albert and, like Danielle said, it was clear that this was a big deal. It was a quick turnaround on the “yes.”
Marvel was also very supportive; it wasn’t hard to get them on board. We had to get permission to use the arm, and you see “Stark Industries” on the cases.
What about the creative direction behind the campaign?
Danielle: Senior CD Aaron Howe and ACD Leif Allen, who were the creative masterminds behind this project, knew that the power of the campaign was not about being a polished ad: it was the authenticity of the interaction between parties.
We wanted to make it as low-budget as possible to focus on the spirit of the interaction between RDJ and Albert rather than just throwing money behind it.
How did the shoot proceed?
Danielle: it was very high-energy: we were in awe of Robert and he was in awe of Albert.
It was one take, and the whole thing was absolutely as organic as it looks.
Josh: Robert was both in-character and out of character. Clearly he’s playing Tony Stark at some points.
The interaction between Albert and the Marvel prop guy was also great. The night before the shoot, he dropped off a case made especially for Alex’s arm (which Robert asked Marvel to make for him). He then spent an hour talking with Albert about engineering, 3D printing, etc., and the two will end up working together.
How has the response been?
Josh: On Facebook alone, it’s received close to 25 million views on Robert’s page. It’s been on every morning news show as well.
Danielle: If you look at all the comments, you usually get a lot of trollers. But there have been maybe five trollish comments in over 25 million views, which speaks to the energy of the project.
What about the next chapter of the project?
Josh: The next student is Neha Gupta.
Short version: at 9 years old, she took a trip to India with her parents, because the tradition in her family was to give to others on your birthday rather than getting gifts yourself. They went to an orphanage, and she was so inspired that she went home sold most of her belongings to raise money for orphans in India. She’s already received the Children’s Peace Prize and been honored at related events.
We’ll be on campus next week at Penn State to get more students involved. Hopefully we can get another sponsor like Robert Downey, Jr. to help as well.