Project Re: Brief Continued...

Monday, April 16, 2012 | 8:31 AM


Several weeks ago, we introduced Project Re: Brief, an experiment to re-imagine some of America’s most iconic ads for the modern web. Today, we’re happy to unveil the two newest pieces, re-imagined ads for Alka-Seltzer and Avis, along with short films that give you a behind-the-scenes look at the history of the old ads, and how the new ads came together.

Alka-Seltzer:I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.”, 1972
Art Director: Bob Pasqualina, Copywriter: Howie Cohen

Howie and Bob’s original commercial depicted a heartburn stricken, middle-aged man, who said a memorable line - “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing;" the line and Ralph instantly became a part of popular culture in America.

In 2012, the re-imagined display and mobile ads bring back Ralph and his famous line, via 1970s sitcom-style episodes that tell the story of “The day Ralph ate the whole thing.” Told over breakfast, lunch and dinner, each episode leads up to the iconic moment captured in the original ad. Videos in each ad experience change based on the location, audience, time of day and other factors. Each episode also provides users unique ways to interact with Ralph, and influence the story. Watch this short film about Bob and Howie recreating their most iconic work.

The tech behind the Alka-Seltzer ad:
To give each viewer a different experience, we've combined ad targeting technologies with dynamic rich media ads to create custom videos on the fly. For example, in the morning, a user sees Ralph’s breakfast incident, while in the evening the dinner story is shown. The location of each episode is tailored to the user’s location through Google’s Street View, while weather data is used to create similar weather conditions to the viewer’s location, including rain and snow. The character roles, jobs and dialogs are all customized, ultimately making the stories more relatable. For example, when the ad is seen on YouTube, Ralph’s TV plays the same video as the user.

Custom interactions allow viewers to influence the story. During the dinner episode, viewers are able to call Ralph’s phone, in real-time, to distract him as he is cooking. While in mobile ads, a user on a smartphone can shake and wake Ralph up, or knock on his window through the accelerometer.

Avis:We try harder.”, 1962
Copywriter: Paula Green

In 1962, Avis debuted its “We try harder” campaign, written by Paula Green. Avis adopted the phrase as the company’s ethos, and has been using it ever since. The line was based on the insight that when you’re a challenger brand, you have to constantly try harder for every customer and can’t afford to offer anything less than great customer service and a great quality rental vehicle.

In the re-imagined display and tablet ads a user can write about his or her experiences with Avis rental cars in natural language, i.e. spoken English, and within seconds, his or her story is turned into a one-of-a-kind film, which he or she can share on the web - all within the ad. Every customer’s experience is unique, and so are the stories. Today’s technology enables Avis’s customers to tell the world about those experiences. And you can get behind the scenes with Paula through this short film.

The tech behind the Avis ad:
For creatives wondering about how this works in the background, the ad uses widely available tools used for building web apps. Built in HTML5 to run on desktop and tablets, the ad relies on popular, open source, natural language processing algorithms to parse and understand what a consumer writes. The stories are classified into themes of various experiences related to renting cars. Themes are based on common scenarios, like returning lost items or upgrading a vehicle, developed using a database of real Avis customer stories, collected over many years. Notes that people enter into the ads are matched with the language from those common themes, thus developing a custom narrative for each story. Animations are composed from overlapping, illustrated sequences to render video frames, and voice clips are stitched together from a pre-recorded database using open source tools, and rendered in the ad.

For more details on the overall project, we invite you to visit . In the meantime, we hope this gives a taste of how the technology of today can help inspire the ad creatives of tomorrow.

A special note of thanks to our creative partners and friends at Grow Interactive and Johannes Leonardo who helped to bring these ideas to (modern) life.

Posted by Aman Govil, Project Re: Brief Lead