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Manhattan Musings

September 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Manhattan skyline sunset US Open 2011

While in New York recently, Zeitgeist was privy to a few interesting examples of brand activation and digitally engaging experiences that it thought worth sharing.

It just so happened that during the visit to New York, the fourth and final tennis grand slam of the year was in full swing in the form of the U.S. Open. Zeitgeist was impressed with the official site’s homepage, which had lagged behind that of the other slams in recent years in terms of user engagement and interactivity. Most impressive was the video functionality, which allowed live, crystal-clear streaming of all recorded matches, in a pop-out window that included information on important match statistics, a chat forum and even picture-in-picture capability so that the viewer could watch more than one match concurrently (see below picture). Also pleasing to see was an article written at the end of the tournament on the greatest matches of the 2011 Open, which included dozens of comments from people via Facebook. Zeitgeist was taken through to the site after seeing it linked from the U.S. Open’s Facebook page. Nice integration.

While most of Manhattan’s citizens had sensibly fled the city’s dog days of summer, some were still caught in the rat race. It was good of HBO then to attempt to bring some enjoyment into the workers’ commute, in a stellar piece of brand activation that lasted for several days. The cable network HBO has had an astonishing run of successful series – recently noted in The Economist – popular with audiences and critics alike, from Sex and the City through the Sopranos, Curb Your Enthusiasm and now with Boardwalk Empire. According to the Gawker, the network had spent so much on advertising on the Metro over the years, “the MTA let them buy the entire car”. The Prohibition-era series came to life for several days with passengers able to ride an authentic 1920s traincar, replete with the odd advertisement promoting the upcoming new season of Boardwalk Empire. It’s a superb idea, something very engaging while at the same time actually serving a purpose (functioning as an otherwise normal subway train). It also fits in very well with a particular fascination New York seems to have currently with speakeasies, a number of which have popped up in midtown and lower Manhattan.

Similarly, BMW have also been taking over a space, this time in the East Village, promoting the automaker’s take on what sustainability means in the form of the BMW Guggenheim Lab. The Lab will include more than 100 free lectures, movie screenings and discussion, according to an article on Luxury Daily, which quotes Harald Krüger, BMW board of management member, as saying “premium is also defined by sustainability”. PSFK called it an “urban curiousity hub”. A picture of the Lab is below.

BMW Guggenheim Lab NYC

It was also interesting to wander through the Museum of Modern Art’s current exhibition entitled ‘Talk to Me: Design and Communication between People and Objects’. As the website blurb says,

“The exhibition focuses on objects that involve a direct interaction, such as interfaces, information systems, visualization design, and communication devices, and on projects that establish an emotional, sensual, or intellectual connection with their users.”

Running through November 7th, one of the more interesting practical things Zeitgeist noted about the show was the introduction of Augmented Reality as a way of enhancing some of the pieces exhibited. Also included were QR codes featuring more information for visitors, as well as hashtags for each object, to encourage people to talk about them and discuss them more easily via Twitter. Really interesting stuff.

So as you can see, there is an awful lot of interesting and relevant stuff going on in the city that never sleeps. FYI, Zeitgeist will be accepting commissions for future trips, especially ones that involve further investigation into the speakeasies mentioned earlier.

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