CHANNEL 4: Life imitates Art for ‘Humans’

Action: Getting viewers to tune in to Channel 4’s latest drama

Imagine a world where synthetic humans are the new must-have household gadget. This is the premise of Humans – the Channel 4 drama we were tasked with launching. The programme asked a big question – what does it mean to be human? If A.I. can drive a car and raise a child, what is our role in the world? Our challenge was to demonstrate the show’s broader appeal beyond the sci-fi geek, whilst staying true to C4’s remit of challenging the status quo. But crucially we had to get people to tune in.

Create: Bringing Humans to life in an interactive brand experience

Artificial intelligence was already generating headlines and public discussion, but it wasn’t part of everyday conversation. So, we prayed on people’s fears and took Persona Synthetics, the brand from the show, and used media to launch it as a real company, selling robots as household gadgets.

We took a shop on London’s Regent Street, one of the world’s most famous shopping districts, and turned it into a flagship Persona Synthetics store. The frontage carried a “coming soon” message and housed two 90” digital screens featuring two of the synth models which would be available for sale.

Using Microsoft Kinect technology, the synths on these screens would beckon passers-by over to interact, waving and pointing to direct the people to interact with them. Consumers were then invited to ‘bond’ with the Synths by raising their hands to connect with the animation. People could explore features of the Synth by hovering over icons and selecting buttons to add skills such as cooking, driving and even personal training, the displayed “price” of the model escalating in real time with these added upgrades.

To add realism to the experience we were creating, we hired actors to work as Persona Synthetics employees, delivering a boxed synth to the store ready for its opening, reinforcing the illusion that this technology would soon be available on the high street.

Impact: Making Human’s part of the UK’s conversation

13.1 million people watched Humans, making it Channel 4’s highest rating British drama of all time. 7,000 people interacted with the Regent Street storefront and, combined with an advertising campaign created with key people across Channel 4 Marketing, 4 Creative and OMD, the campaign drove more than 800,000 visits to the ‘Persona Synthetics’ website and more than 40 media articles about the campaign across national newspapers, technology, and marketing media. The campaign won two Silver Cannes Lions, a BAFTA and the Media Week Awards Grand Prix.

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