Coming Soon

By Adam Smith
Agency: Cole & Weber Red Cell
Client: Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame
Category: 2005

BACKGROUND: In the summer of 2004, the first ever museum dedicated to the science fiction genre opened its doors to an enthusiastic Seattle public, eager to explore the mysteries of the unknown within its walls. A few months prior, the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame (SFM) approached Cole and Weber / Red Cell to help launch the museum.

The launch campaign had to address some intrinsic product challenges: They wanted to be taken seriously. How do you pique the interest of the rabid SF fan and the general public, when it is widely assumed that SF is strictly the domain of the dateless and the dweebish?

CAMPAIGN OBJECTIVES: To drive ticket sales and membership, the advertising had to build awareness and interest for the SFM launch with the general population while remaining authentic and credible to the SF enthusiast.

WHAT I DID: The client had previously conducted exploratory focus groups while developing the museum exhibits. From reviewing those transcripts and reports it became obvious that the general public saw science fiction as being representative of a nerdy geeky minority and were reluctant to associate themselves with that negative stereotype. Yet at the same time, they did have exposure to science fiction through movies and popular culture. Furthermore, what they saw, they liked. There was a kernel of genuine latent interest - the preconditions for success were there. Understanding this, the challenge then became how we could make science fiction relevant to them. How could we engage their curiosity and plant the seed that they may be interested in what SFM has to offer?

Science Fiction's roots are in literature. The genre was born there. In order to understand what people find appealing about science fiction and how it works, I started researching science fiction literary theory. Reviewing online lesson notes and lectures from college literature programs that teach science fiction as part of an English major, I learned that science fiction resonates with people because it creates a fictional world that is different from, yet consistent with, the world we live in. It blurs the lines between fact and fiction.

From this insight I realized that science fiction and by extension, SFM could become exciting and relevant to the primary audience when the potential reality of science fiction is clear; when the world or situation they are presented with doesn't seem that distant from the world that they know. It becomes exciting when there is a sense of urgency behind their imagination, when they feel like the future might be right around the corner - or already here. From this, I knew that if we could make them feel what happens when imagination and reality collide, and ask themselves \"is it real\" then we would be successful.

CREATIVE EXECUTION AND RESULTS: After being briefed and armed with those insights, the creative team went forth to tease Seattle with an integrated campaign promoting futuristic products and services were supposedly \"coming soon.\" From print ads and billboards to faux storefronts and live action \"alien cover-ups,\" our executions drove an unprecedented attendance, where ticket sales exceeded expectations by 18%. By connecting the SFM to those things that people love the most about science fiction, we drove fans that didn't even know they were fans to the museum.

The campaign was a success for the client, but perhaps the best measure of success for me was when the creative director came by my office and said to me, \"If you keep doing work like that, you'll do just fine here.\"

Judge's Comments: \"This case credibly demonstrates the initiative and role the planner played, cool thinking and insights that are reflected in the work. It's well argued and seems refreshingly honest.\" - Catrina McAuliffe