January 16th, 2010
This was originally going to be a new year post, but was delayed because of some happy distractions for me personally. So now we have an even better day to release this, the 3rd Anniversay of UltraSuperNew Inc!
Back in January 16, 2007, me and Marc started up USN in some shared office space in Shibuya. 3 years later we have grown to a good sized team working with some great clients and getting more and more opportunities to “do our thing” from our office in Harajuku.
So, as we get kicked off into 2010 and start on a fresh year with many new opportunities and expectations, we have taken a moment to reflect on all that was achieved in 2009 (ie. Year 3) at UltraSuperNew Inc.
On our final day in the office for 2009, we spent a little time discussing our favorite projects for the year and for me, this past year was really something to be proud of. We managed to step it up to the next level this year, and even though some days it seemed like a tornado of different things all demanding attention, we managed to achieve a lot. In the end, keeping the list down to 10 projects was actually very hard, this could have been a much longer list.
So, without further ado, lets get the list going.
1. Missing Wheels (client : Red Bull)
In order to promote the call for entry for the Red Bull Box Cart Race, we bought 70 second hand bicycles, took off parts and placed them around the city with obvious signs that read “We have borrowed your wheel. We needed it to build our box cart for the Red Bull Box Cart Race and will return it to you after the race.”
We managed to create a new type of media with the bicycles, utilizing something that is in plain sight all over the place in busy shopping areas of Tokyo. Even though we had to answer some questions from the police since they were wondering why all these bicycles had no wheels, they found we were behaving completely legally and even complimented us on the idea.
The result was a lot of attention for the race, discussion online and off and in the end we managed to get about three times our goal for the number of entries for the race.
2. Crowdcast (client : Red Bull)
Red Bull Crowdcast is a new platform we developed for Red Bull to get people attending their events more involved with the brand and create a new source of media surrounding events.
Attendees at events can use a simple mobile application to upload photos of the event to a central server. The Red Bull Crowdcast website then publishes the content and provides a combined stream of images in real time back to mobile and PC users at the event or at home, as well as digital screens at the event. When watching in slideshow mode, images can take just a few seconds from submitting to appearing in the slideshow.
The images submitted are more spontaneous than the general material that is collected around events and are published much faster.
We did everything on this project from the concept to the programming to the running of the system, and have many more plans for the next year to take this to the next level in 2010.
3. Pump 20th Anniversary Party (client : Reebok)
We created a 20th anniversary party with a difference for the Reebok Pump at Mado Lounge on the 52nd floor of Roppongi Hills building in central Tokyo.
Apart from the general logistics, branding and planning, we had three key special features for the event that made this one a special one for me. The shoe display, projection screen and dance performance.
Reebok made 20 collaboration models with select specialty sneaker stores around the world, and we needed to display them in an interesting way at the event. The solution in the end was a special vacuum pack that we ended up doing by hand at the office because nobody had machinery the right size to do the sealing of the vacuum. The vacuum packed shoes were then hung on a custom built display. This one took a lot of hard work to execute, but ultimately an incredibly satisfying result that people really took notice of.
For the main space I wanted to make sure we had an interesting way to show the shoes as well, so we designed a special screen in the shape of a shoe silhouette that we then projected images of the 20 collaboration shoes on to. The footage was also programmed on a cycle with sound reactivity and some special tweak controls. The end effect was a floating shoe that pulsed to the beat sitting over the room with a backdrop of Tokyo city lights stretching out below.
Finally for entertainment, in addition to headliner Captain Funk, we had a dance performance by what I term “The ghosts of 1989″. Three guys in neon costume pulling off crazy b-boy dance moves.
We had a packed event and generated a lot of press and buzz around the 20th anniversary. By the end I was so tired from putting everything together I couldn’t even make it to the after party, but slept one of the most satisfied heavy sleeps I ever had.
4. pecha-kucha.org Renewal (client : Pecha Kucha)
This year marked the second major iteration of the Pecha Kucha online platform that we have put together in as many years, and this years version is really pushing towards the big vision. Pecha Kucha is a presentation style and an event format, Pecha Kucha Night, that is now held in over 260 cities globally, and still growing.
We have been involved with Pecha Kucha Night for a few years and have known the founders, Mark Dytham and Astrid Klein, since the beginning back in 2002. In 2009 our goal was to set Pecha Kucha for the expansion that it has already experienced and also what is still to come. The complete overhaul included an extensive redesign and an expansion to allow presentations to be viewed online with its own custom player via the presentations portal. It also saw a formalizing of the special event platform where one off Pecha Kucha events can be tied up with larger conferences or events and the integration of Creative Commons licensing on presentation content.
The new platform was soft-launched in late October, in time for Tokyo Design Week.
5. 100 Years of Life (client : Audi)
For Audi’s 100 year anniversary we put together two short documentaries and an exhibition at the Audi Forum Tokyo.
The documentaries featured two Japanese centenarians. Tateoka-san still plays the koto and we were able to arrange a special reunion for her family where she was able to meet her great grand-daughter (just a few months old) for the first time. 103 year old Shouchi-san still travels Japan and the world lecturing and holding workshops for both adults and children about how to live life well and stimulate your mind at both a young age and when you are in your later years.
For the exhibition we collaborated with photographer, Shouichi Ono, who specializes in photographing 100 year olds, to show the life and strength post 100years.
6. Easytone Pink Bomb (client : Reebok)
In one of our last projects of the year we put together a guerrilla campaign in bustling Ginza with the special pink Christmas edition of Reebok’s toning shoe, Easytone.
We assembled 100 women wearing the bright pink Reebok Easytone and coupled that with some promotional trucks and sample girls giving out present gift cards, all driving people to one of four stores in the area that stocked the shoes.
Even on a cold winter day, we made a lot of people take notice and managed to dominate the area with pink.
7. Pump Atmos Billboard (client : Reebok)
This is a fun, impactful billboard that we put together for the Atmos store in Harajuku for their special 20th Anniversary Reebok Pump collaboration shoe and the anniversary in general.
We wanted to make something a little tactile, so placed a great big three dimensional pump in the middle of the board and added shading on the billboard surface to make it look three dimensional.
8. Audi Live (client : Audi)
We created a live blogging platform for Audi press conferences so that a larger audience of press members could be reached.
The platform consists of a live updating page that is updated by someone at the event and a live video stream. The text portion is also directly updated to the Audi Japan Twitter account. Also on the page is a question form so reporters online can ask questions and receive a real time response, extending the press conference past the duration of the press event.
The innovative use of Twitter made news on TV Tokyo’s Morning Satelite, and featured our own Toyo Yokota.
9. Jetset UK, Claska (client : MINI)
To provide an impactful space for MINI at the Jetset UK event at Claska in Meguro, we created a massive 8m x 3.5m window sticker to make sure MINI put their stamp on this UK themed event.
To execute, we worked with a UK based photographer to get some original scenes from Mayfair (the namesake of one of the new release MINI models) in London, then put together a design utilizing the Union Jack flag and some Minis.
The design managed to dominate the main space of the event, providing a strong thematic element for the event and also present MINI well for attendees.
10. E-City (client : Expedia)
E-Cities was what we term a “passive game” that we launched all the way back in January 2009. The concept of a passive game is that the user just needs to sign up to get their page (their city in this case) and then doesn’t need to do anything other than get people to visit their page in order to play the game.
The more people that visit, the higher the population of your city and the more your city evolves and adds features and buildings. We featured Paris, New York and Honolulu as the key cities that you could grow.
We added some special giveaways as incentives to play the game. Visitors to the cities were rewarded with coupons for discounts on Expedia travel and hotels, while city owners had the chance to win the trip to their favorite city.
BONUS. New Office
Not really counting as a project, but quite significant to us for 2009 was the move to our new office in Harajuku. In our Shibuya office we were bursting at the seams, all in one room, some people even working off the meeting table. We spent more than 6 months on the lookout for new space before finally lucking out and discovering the gem of an office we have now in Harajuku.
Other than space and a great environment to work in, we are treated by working each day surrounded by the key people (young and fashionable) that we spend most of our time creating for. The only thing we have to worry about now is that we don’t fill up this office too
As I mentioned earlier, we had a lot more projects to be proud of in 2009 that couldn’t fit on the list, and for me personally, this past year of work speaks for the hard work that the whole team at USN has been putting in. As we are approaching our 3rd anniversary of the company, its incredibly satisfying to look back at the progress we have made. Especially in the face of trying times financially for the industry in general, we are very happy to have had our most successful year and have finished on an upswing.
2010 has a lot more in store and we are looking forward to an exciting year ahead.