For out-and-out innovation, BBDO New York's 'Live Looper' for Downtown Records sets the bar high. It takes a potential flaw (the several second delay in Facebook Live) and converts it to a tool for new creativity.
No wonder it worked its magic on the Cresta jury and took the Grand Prix for interactive.
But how did this project, which promotes the indy band The Academic with an unprecedented form of multi-tracked live performance, actually work? We put our questions to Pol Hoenderboom who, with Bart Mol, was the creative team at the heart of the work.
Please tell us about the 'intense R&D' that was needed to develop this idea
Pol: 'The beauty of this project was also its biggest challenge: It's a live performance. We knew that if one little thing would go wrong it would be repeated loop after loop, a nerve wrecking thought.
Overall there were so many things that all had to come together in the end.First we had to rewrite the whole track to match Facebook's delay. Next to that we had to find a way to keep the build-up of the song interesting, as loops easily can become repetitive.
In our exploration phase we also found out that the sound output becomes more compressed each time we introduce a new loop. We were OK with the video output, but we needed to find a solution to keep the original music quality even when we're five loops in. To solve this each music loop had its own output that needed to be mixed live. Next to these technical challenges, the music, live performance, sound, the live stream projection in the background and the lights all had to be in sync. So rehearsing was the name of the game.'
How long did it take to get the band on-board and how did you work with them to get ready for the recording?
Pol: 'It was incredibly difficult to explain the exact idea, you basically have to see it to get it. From our first internal meeting to even an hour before going live, there was always at least one person confused about what we were talking about. It felt like we were constantly talking about two different 'live' experiences. What we see on set when we go live… and what people see when they're watching the performance online.
To explain the concept to The Academic we even made a prototype (with Bart playing his guitar) to give the guys a clear idea of how it would work. They loved it from the start and weren't worried about the live aspect at all. We then went into the studio in New York and started rewriting the track together. After the guys flew back to Ireland they kept sending over different variations of the song until we found the perfect one. Before the actual live performance we had one day of practice where everything had to come to together. Until then everything worked… 'on paper'.
In the days leading up to the event we announced the time we would go live, so we couldn't push the performance. Luckily enough we had a great team who all did their part, so the guys could completely focus on their live performance. To be honest, I think we were more nervous than them.'
How was this planned in terms of converting the cool recording idea into an effective creative idea that could drive a promotional campaign?
Pol: 'We needed to target music lovers who are always on the lookout for new music and live performances. We also knew that online, people love to watch and share movies where music and skill come together. A big part of this is proving you did something extremely complicated for real, while it's much easier to just fake it. The Academic are super tight live musicians– so that was the main reason we pursued this unique and innovative twist.
After the live performance we also uploaded the video to the Academic's YouTube channel and added a title card to explain the idea. From that moment on it literally blew up. People loved it so much it ended up on the front-page of reddit –the one spot money can't buy. From there it went viral overnight and was picked up by many outlets. From live TV to renowned (music) blogs- resulting in millions of views from all around the world - all without any paid media.'
Are there any 'take aways' that you want to use in future work? How might other creatives pick up on what you have done?
Pol: 'Stay true to your idea. For us the big idea wasn't only to use Facebook's delay but also to actually do it live. We've been in numerous conversations where people told us we could just 'pre-record' it and upload it as if it's a live performance. But from the beginning this was always a big no-go for us. In the end we even started the livestream by google-ing the current time just to proof this was really live.
And it really paid off: taking home a Cresta Grand Prix.'