Brands have mixed results when it comes to jumping into the Reddit fray. Sometimes it works, putting a marketer at the center of a cultural zeitgeist and other times it falls flat when it feels like a corporate name is attached to their posts.
Today, toy robotics company Anki and Wieden + Kennedy’s emerging technology practice W+K Lodge are launching an intriguing and complicated Reddit campaign though a livestreamed event that will likely push the boundaries on both scenarios.
To promote Anki’s $180 small robot Cozmo, W+K created seven IRL escape rooms in Portland, designing each one around a popular Reddit subreddit, the site’s editorial forums. Over the course of six hours, Cozmo will make his way through each room by unlocking six puzzles and challenges. His goal is to make it through all the subreddit-themed rooms before reaching one final room called the Front Page, named after Reddit’s slogan, “the front page for the internet.”
Reddit users will direct and coach Cozmo through the maze of rooms. Anki will prominently promote a livestream of Cozmo’s race through Reddit ads as well as on Facebook and YouTube.
“This thing is going to be impossible to miss,” said Nilesh Ashra, W+K Lodge’s director of creative technology. “From there, the entire Reddit community is going to be collaborating with Cozmo in his quest to escape.”
Confused already? Hang in there.
Cozmo is built with artificial intelligence and is able to learn, which will allow him to roam between the seven rooms.
“We actually refer to Cozmo as a little robot with big personality, but the reality is he’s actually packed full of technology and is arguably one of the most sophisticated consumer robots on the market today,” said Craig Rechenmacher, CMO of Anki.
IRL Reddit rooms
Each of the seven rooms is designed like one of Reddit’s most popular subreddits: Shower Thoughts, Hail Corporate, Rare Puppers, Shitty Robots, Gaming, What Could Go Wrong and Meme Economy. Within the What Could Go Wrong, Meme Economy and Gaming rooms specifically, Cozmo will need to solve a puzzle on three cubes placed in the rooms before he can leave. Each room is full of homages and Easter eggs specific to the subreddit.
“The first criteria here was with a subreddit, can you see a path in making a really fun, unique and awesome physical representation,” W+K’s Ashra said. “The second [criteria] was could we imagine what Cozmo’s path and journey would be like through a room that was themed like that—could we see how all of Cozmo’s personality could come alive in different rooms.”
Paulo Ribeiro, managing director of W+K Lodge, added, “There’s a tongue-in-cheek in a lot of these things. Yeah, we’re promoting this robot that we’re super proud of and think is awesome so why not go straight at that—Cozmo’s not a shitty robot, he’s pretty smart. So there’s lots of contrast there.”
For example, Cozmo has to navigate through the Rare Puppers room, which is literally full of puppies. The robot will also play games and offer the puppies treats to accumulate points that he’ll use for another challenge in an upcoming room, per W+K. And in the Gaming room, Cozmo will solve a giant video game and ask questions to Reddit viewers on the livestream allowing users to vote for what he does.
W+K said that they picked Reddit as the hub for the campaign because of the site’s strong community aligns with Cozmo’s target.
“If there’s something they love or hate, [users] jump on it real fast,” Riberiro said.
On the flip side, Redditors could also revolt against Cozmo if the campaign feels too much like an advertisement.
“We are familiar with this community—they are vocal, passionate, influential and we’d be silly to not worry about that a little bit,” said Rechenmacher. “We’re eyes wide open that some things could go wrong, but I think we’re fully embracing the fact that this is advertising [and] we’re not hiding that—we’re not trying to sneak anything by the community.”
After all, the goal of the campaign is to raise awareness of Cozmo, explained W+K’s Ribeiro.
“The success for us is a whole bunch of people that didn’t know Cozmo and hadn’t played with Cozmo yet actually get a flavor for how smart that little robot is,” he said.