Great Scott! Creative Director Of Lexus Hoverboard Campaign Reveals Secrets Of Viral Success

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock in outer space with industrial noise-cancelling headphones on for the past two months then you’ll have heard that Lexus created a hoverboard. No, not like one of those fakes that got our hopes up and then smashed them to pieces over the years.  A real life hoverboard that Marty McFly would be proud of. You know, one that actually hovers. 

Now, we have to admit, when the first teaser dropped back in June, there was a mixed reaction here at Unruly. One half of the office could not conceal its excitement and was counting the days down to the official launch. However, the other half were a little more cynical. making lots of comments such as “the board drops when he steps on it” and “there’s absolutely no chance that’s real”.

Whether people believed in it or not, it captured their attention and the teaser alone racked up 56,000 shares. The world wanted to know what the hell was going on. Were we finally getting the real deal?

To our amazement and excitement, we were. A second teaser showed a moving, floating hoverboard and, crucially, a reveal date. Reminders were immediately set on our calendars for August 5th.

Unsurprisingly, as well as the rest of us, Lexus couldn’t contain its own excitement and released the reveal video ‘SLIDE‘ a day early.  Around the world, Back to the Future lovers, extreme sports fans and people who didn’t care about either of those at all went bananas and the video was viewed more than 10 million times within the first 48 hours.

And it did not stop there. ‘SLIDE’ has been shared over 267k times over the past three weeks, as well as generating a monstrous 10,000 headlines, the equivalent of more than £60m worth of advertising.

But just how was the campaign constructed and planned? Well, we caught up with Monty Verdi, the Creative Director at CHI&Partners, to find out everything we could about this epic project.

Can you tell me more about your content and PR strategy? How long did it take to plan, create and execute?

The Lexus Hoverboard project has been more than a year in the making – and it’s not over yet.  There are two more films still to come, and requests for interviews are still flooding through.

We designed the idea to be digitally contagious, meaning it would spread like wildfire across social media; and to influence the influencers, meaning global media coverage would become the fuel for the campaign. A lot of time and thought went into planning our two-month narrative for the project; we lined up a number of different videos and PR milestones which would engage people and the world’s media at the right time. Throughout our teaser phase (which ran from June 24th through to August 5th), the objective was to build anticipation and create a community of Lexus Hoverboard enthusiasts, including celebrities, influential journalists and people on social media.

We held a media day at our shoot in Barcelona in July, inviting journalists from across the world to come and see the hoverboard in action, with all footage and photography embargoed until our launch date, August 5th. This is when we released ‘SLIDE’, our main film, on YouTube – sharing it with thousands of journalists across the world and kickstarting a media and social media frenzy.

‘SLIDE’ attracted 10m views in less than 48 hours – an unprecedented level of success for Lexus. To create depth of engagement and interest in the project, we also lined up a number of pieces of content and interviews with the scientists behind the Lexus Hoverboard, starting with our 5–minute ‘Making Of’ documentary, ‘The Lexus Hoverboard: The Story’.

Why did you decide to do a teaser campaign?

We created a teaser campaign to build anticipation for the main film and get the world (and the world’s press) as engaged in the Lexus Hoverboard story as we were. Our aim was to build advocacy for the project itself, and create a community of Lexus Hoverboard enthusiasts to join us in the project. And it worked. Our teaser phase alone attracted more than 11m views and 4,000 headlines – raising mass awareness of the project before it even landed.

What were the main KPIs of the launch?

Our results so far have far exceeded the objectives we set ourselves. The project as a whole has attracted more than 25m views and sparked almost 10,000 headlines internationally – the equivalent of £60m worth of advertising in less than two months.

How did you decide on the content’s length? It must have been hard cutting it down.

We had so much fantastic footage to choose from, and you never get tired of seeing the Hoverboard in action, so it was hard to cut it down. We knew that we wanted the teaser to leave people wanting more, so it was easier being ruthless with that piece of content. The main film was a little harder, though – we reached about 60 or 70 edits before we arrived at the final cut. Although we weren’t constrained by conventional TV time lengths, there was no need to make it long for the sake of it, so we went with what felt right. The main film is just over 2 minutes – but it feels shorter, which is a good thing. It holds the viewer’s attention until the end, which not an awful lot of content does.

How did you approach multiple platform distribution?

Once we had signed-off edits from the client, the films were released on Lexus International’s YouTube channel, and Instagram and Vine versions were made, which were distributed to the various markets across the globe. We also released the YouTube videos on Lexus International’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, and on our  AmazingInMotion.com microsite, which tells the whole story from start to finish.

How did you decide which videos assets to create?

We listened to the conversation around the project and released content accordingly. We always wanted to release a teaser first, but when the reaction was so amazing, we tweaked our content plan and released slightly fewer videos so as to not create any backlash. People were obviously very eager to see it in action, hence the decision to reveal the release date via a video.

How did you decide to integrate the Lexus brand into the ad itself?

The Hoverboard represents everything about the Lexus brand, but if you’re asking about the car, we wanted it to have a role within the film rather than being shoehorned in or merely a packshot. So after discussions with Henry, the director, we came up with the idea of integrating it into the finale.

There has been some backlash toward previous ‘hoverboard’ projects, which have then turned out to be fake. Were you worried that people would think this was fake too? How did you prepare for this reaction?

We obviously knew that ours wasn’t a fake, so we had no worries that there’d be any backlash. But knowing that there’d be some cynicism meant that we had to be careful with our shot selection, making sure that everything felt totally authentic. Releasing the film attaching Ross to the project also added authenticity.

How did you decide on the timings of the launch? Any thoughts about launching on ‘Back to the Future Day’ on October 21st instead?

The link to Back To The Future was a very neat coincidence and not a premeditated one. It’s great that the project is getting extra coverage because of the link, but our timings weren’t influenced by it.

Can we have one? We are actually holding a Back To The Future Day on October 21st and it would be perfect. 😉 

If only! We have in fact had a lot of requests to buy one (some quite aggressive!) but I’m afraid that the Lexus Hoverboard is safely in Tokyo with the clients by now …

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