Helping Microsoft make history.
Updated: Sep 11, 2019
It was the stuff of tech dreams – a brief to intrigue, excite and drive footfall to the opening of Microsoft’s new London flagship store. So when we were asked to design, fabricate and install a giant interactive billboard in London ahead of the store opening, the tech geeks in our team were rubbing their hands with glee.
The giant interactive billboard replicated a giant gumball machine, where fans could come and activate the billboard to release a coloured box designed to mimic the Microsoft brand icons, which contained a secret gift inside. The selection process ensured fans received a gift that related to their personal interests (education, gaming or business) and included prizes such as an Xbox, Pop socket or Surface Pro.
The initial technical challenge was in engineering stability into a structure of this size with a relatively small footprint. The structure itself (6m wide, 1.1m deep, 3.5m high) was constructed using a core steelwork framework clad in MDF and a huge amount of ballast to give the billboard the rigidity and stability required for a large installation of this stature and many tonnes of glass!
The exterior was constructed through using toughened glass panes – perspex would have been lighter and less likely to break but would have compromised the premium finish and been less eco-friendly – something we were not prepared to do. Each pane of glass weighed approximately 100kg but the end result made all the careful manoeuvring during the installation worthwhile.
This project also offered a chance to flex our in-house coding capability through the activation mechanism that delivered the gifts into the waiting hands of the fans.
Consumers would be welcomed towards the billboard by the Microsoft Brand Ambassadors and instructed to activate the machine by waving their hand in front of the illuminated motion-activated sensor. This sensor triggered the actuator mechanism which pushed the gift box out to the waiting fan. Dynamic lighting was triggered as the process initiated to give the sense of anticipation before the gift was dispensed. Each of the LEDs in the delivery sequence also had to be programmed separately to switch on in turn so was a labour of love for our in-house coding expert Mitch.
The production team went into box-making hyper drive during the production period hand-folding over 8000 boxes ready for stacking inside the giant billboard. Fairly sure our team could give Santa’s elves a run for their money!
One of the colours used in the box colour scheme was green – and ‘green’ is a key theme for both Realise Live and Microsoft. A recycling logo highlighted to consumers where they could place their boxes once they had opened to receive their Microsoft gift.
The whole structure was powered by Realise Live solar panels which were installed on the structure roof for maximum sunshine exposure (and also ensured the panels were hidden from view). The inverter and batteries were hidden inside the structure to allow the team to check the charge vs. output usage.
The use of our solar panels made the experience very environmentally friendly with all the power being provided through a renewable source – an approach we champion here at Realise Live. Why use a fossil fuel generator when you can harness the power of the sun and gain exactly the same energy and experience!
A smaller version of the billboard machine (2m wide, 800mm deep, 2.1m) was also produced to maximise reach of the activation and toured with temporary pop-ups in Office Group and Vue Cinema in Leicester Square.
The launch was a huge success with 8,000 gift boxes dispensed and huge queues forming as excited fans awaiting their chance to use the billboard. The visual impact, unique and engaging mechanic and excitement over the activation drove great awareness and as Microsoft UK Chief Executive Cindy Rose stated in her welcoming speech at the opening of the store, “Thank you for helping us make history today”.
Project partner: Exposure.