Director Carl Rinsch, RSA and AMV BBDO teamed with Digital Domain to create a cinematic, off-kilter world for Mercedes as the foundation of an integrated campaign spanning online, TV, mobile, outdoor and point-of-purchase marketing.
Shot in Hong Kong and Los Angeles, "The Escape" has viewers wake up inside a live action world inspired by Google Street View where things aren't quite right. A guide in a Mercedes C63 AMG helps participants navigate challenges where actions can lead to escape, the possibility of winning a Mercedes - or uncertainty. The campaign launched with TV spots that aired November 12 in the UK during The X Factor and more than 5,000 billboards. It can be seen at 135 Mercedes showrooms across the UK and experienced at escapethemap.co.uk
"We wanted to give people the sense for how it would feel to actually exist inside a street view-like world," said Rinsch. "Digital Domain created a world with movement and animation that mirrors the familiar interaction but intensifies it in ways we've never experienced."
Digital Domain Visual Effects Supervisor Jay Barton, who is currently working with Rinsch on his upcoming feature for Universal Pictures, "47 Ronin," led the team. His idea was to use photogrammetry - a technique in which measurements are taken from photographs to create real-world objects - to create the world. All of the live action was shot in Hong Kong, with Barton scouting and shooting iconic locations which were later used in the world-building. Additional green-screen shoots were staged in Hong Kong and Los Angeles.
"We first had to develop the visual language of the world," Barton said. "We took inspiration from Google Street view and replicated that, but in moving video. As photos are stitched together, they sometimes seam strangely. They might not line up, or two buildings might occupy the same space, or people get cut in half. We played a lot with how images would load or resolve, or react when a whole new set of photos came in to reset the world. Here, when you explore you have more options and more viewpoints. You can decide where to look, walk, or drive and your perspective and resolution update accordingly."
The effect, and the storyline, creates the discomfort and paranoia of living in a photoreal -- but not truly real -- world. "The feeling is something like that of primitive cultures who believed that being captured on film steals your soul," said Barton.
Movie-level visual effects are found at every turn of the experience, from a pixelating prophet to a warping skyscraper to a thundering shower of location markers destroying the landmark Tsingtau bridge.
To escape the map, drivers must first clear their blurred vision by shaking the mouse. They move through the world by choosing views to activate video play, meeting characters, entering an address into a browser, speeding through a tunnel in bullet time, and as a final action, typing in their mobile phone number before leaving the world in a flash of white light. Some lucky winner in the UK will find themselves not only back in the real world, but also, the proud owner of a brand new Mercedes C63 AMG.
"This concept is completely fresh - it's not derivative of anything," said Ed Ulbrich, Chief Creative Officer of Digital Domain and President of Mothership. "The world is bizarre, yet it's totally familiar to people, and it speaks to them in a visual language that is appropriate for that interaction, across a host of connected devices and channels."