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Dog days of broadcasting begin as Seymour takes digital ambassador leash

Tapping into the love humans obviously have for digital/robotic dogs, Seymour is now the face of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage’s Going Digital campaign, with Designworks’ animated canine setting out on a mission to let New Zealanders know the country is switching off its analogue broadcast system and moving to digital broadcasting between September 2012 and November 2013.

Paul Johnson, design leader at Designworks, says the brief was based around creating a consumer-friendly brand supported by a 21st century mascot.

“This was the result of a lot of careful thinking about how to execute the branding of a government campaign with a consumer focus. We wanted to take a positive, aspirational approach that focused on what people stood to gain, not what they were losing,” he says. “We also looked at similar campaigns that were underway overseas. Having a campaign name that felt positive and collective was critical. The name ‘Going Digital’ says we are doing it together as a nation. It’s not an opt-in.”

At last quarterly count, 25 percent of New Zealanders had Freeview-capable sets or set-top boxes in their home and around 48 percent of households are now 100 percent digitally served by Sky. As marketing oracle Michael Carney says, we can’t quite add the two figures together and conclude that 73 percent of the country is now digital-ready, because many of those Sky homes have gone Freeview as well. So his estimates suggest the real number is closer to 60 percent. Come the cut-off, however, if you’re still on analogue, you’re stuffed. Which is what this campaign aims to show.

The first stage of Going Digital involved Designworks and media buyers Ikon,  but the second phase involves DraftFCB, OMD and Moxie.

Going Digital also worked closely with Freeview (which was recently won by Shine after TBWA decided not to participate in the agency review). But they are separate campaigns, however, with Going Digital a straight information and awareness campaign to promote the switchover and Freeview just one of the options viewers have along with SKY and TelstraClear.

According to Johnson, Seymour (geddit?) won out as the brand mascot because dogs are known as faithful helpers.

“There’s a lot of familiar expression you can bring with a dog—and they’re part of the family. There’s also a little nod to Nipper, the old HMV dog. We also wanted it to appeal to kids. We’re couching the switchover as an entertainment proposition, so Seymour can do a lot of things, like run around with cables in his mouth or run off with the remote.”

At the same time, mechanics influenced the dog’s design.

“This was the first time we’d created a fully animation-ready character as part of a brand. It felt like 50 percent creating a cartoon character and 50 percent product design. Seymour had to work properly as a piece of machinery so that we’d have no barriers going into motion. He can scratch, sit, wiggle his hips, raise an ear or an eyebrow and achieve a huge variety of facial expressions just like a real pooch. I’ll admit we had a few laughs along the way making sure he could perform a comprehensive suite of dog movements.”

So far Johnson says the campaign branding has been received well, winning approval from everybody connected with the project and, more importantly, researching extremely well.

“All the little subtleties that we were picking up on were validated. In terms of a core asset to work with, Seymour has proven very effective, so I feel it’s a great result. The brand we’ve created isn’t a logo, it’s a character as well. It’s now the task of the agency to give him a script. It’ll be exciting to see what he does as the campaign evolves and the switchover date gets closer.”

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