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How Dove Cleaned Up Times Square With Weather-Triggered Shower Campaign

Havas helia brought In WPP's Candyspace and Kinetic to handle production on smart billboards that used real-time data from Forecast.io to showcase the ‘One Shower’ ads for Dove Body Wash.

Dove turned the gloom of April showers in New York City into something a bit more cheerful and surprising thanks to the use of smart, weather-triggered billboard messages in Times Square that would alert passersby to coming raindrops.

But aside from helping people avoid getting wet as they made their way through midtown, the campaign sought to connect the Unilever brand’s One Shower Body Wash with soft skin and falling water (during April and beyond).

The campaigne was managed by Dove’s agency Havas helia, which brought in WPP Group digital shop Candyspace. Dove’s Times Square campaign used data from weather app Forecast.io and connected it to the digital signage in Times Square via WPP digital out-of-home specialist, Kinetic. Dove also worked with  on the creative.

dove its almost shower timeA Long Reach

“In a nutshell, we used a digital billboard with a rain sensor,” said Greg Crockart, CEO of Candyspace North America. “We used a weather API for the data, as well as an actual, physical rain sensor. The creative then changed depending on whether it was dry, a rain shower was imminent, it was actually raining, or the rain had just stopped.”

Candyspace is known for connecting mobile ad targeting to real-time, physical environments in order to capture the context of particular moments consumers are experiencing. The underlying platform it employed for Dove’s Times Square effort is called Reach.

“With the Reach platform, it allows us to important almost any kind of data to trigger a message or change the creative in a dynamic way,” Crockart said. “We could be using sports scores, snow conditions, surf reports, stock prices, TV schedules, temperature… literally any data point you can imagine.”

dove can you feel the rainDove’s Marketing Forecast: High Receptivity

In the campaign, a “Dove real woman” named Alice can be seen moving across two large billboards while wrapped in a towel. At various times, she might just call out to people passing by (“Hey, Times Square!”). But more frequently, Alice is concerned about checking the weather and asking if it’s “time for a shower?” or if passersbys can feel the rain yet.

The idea of using “smart billboards” with sensors that know what’s happening around the ad is meant to capture the attention of people who may be ignoring the bombardment of imagery in Times Square. To be sure, even people with umbrellas opened were inclined to take out their phones and snap a photo, showing a high degree of engagement, while extending the message out to others across social media with the #OneShower hashtag.

“We’re interested in educating connected consumers wherever they are, so we’ve become very interested in playing with multiple screens at once,” said Martin Brierley, Candyspace’s global creative director. “We get excited is when we can work with sound technology that produces something natural and unexpected. The great thing about this effort for Dove in Times Square is that it wasn’t just pulling a weather API to trigger a general set of messages; it was trying to be genuinely localized with a rain sensor, which is a new approach to take.”

The emphasis on being targeted to people in the right moment relied on a number of steps. For example, a “task force” convened to decide on just the right kinds of conditions that would trigger changes in the creative, Crockart said.

“A lot of the digital screens that are in out-of-home environments have been typically used as very dumb screens,” Crockart said. “There’s no intelligence. It’s kind of ridiculous, really, but they’re very unaware of their environment and what’s going on around them most of the time. The creative that people run on them just tends to be very broadcast-orientated and doesn’t take into account things that are going on around the screen itself.”

For Candyspace, the premise seems obvious: Someone walking past a digital screen on a particularly hot, humid day, is apt to be more receptive when the ad speaks directly to that condition. At least for now, the interactivity on a screen that’s not in your pocket or on your desktop has a certain novelty that Unilever brands in particular love to experiment with.

While Candyspace won’t release performance metrics for the campaign, Crockart and Brierley say that the Dove effort has resonated with its other clients.

“Just anecdotally, it certainly seems to work because we actually got a call out of the blue from another client that had actually walked through Times Square and seen it,” Crockart said. “Their case has something that is uniquely tied to weather as well. So we’re currently exploring a similar project with them. Predominantly, the objectives of the campaign were basically getting people talking about it, whether via socially, whether via PR coverage. And we certainly achieved that.”