Virgin Mobile’s interactive Blinkwashing ad

Ingenious interactive campaign whereby the viewer can switch between channels just by blinking at their webcam

Launched in September last year, Blinkwashing was the final instalment in Mother New York’s Retrain Your Brain campaign for Virgin Mobile, which used hypnotic techniques to encourage consumers to rethink their choice of phone provider.

Blinkwashing uses facial recognition technology to scan users’ eyes for movement via their webcam. It begins with a simple message about why they should switch networks but each time viewers blink, they are presented with a different scene. In each, a character continues to explain Virgin’s mobile offerings but scenarios become increasingly bizarre, and include a high-speed car chase and a woman burying what appears to be a corpse. The ad took around four months to make, say Mother, and most of this was spent refining the custom technology to ensure that the ad would jump seamlessly between clips regardless of viewers’ broadband speeds.

The film works by playing up to four videos simultaneously and each word is coded to ensure viewers don’t miss any of Virgin’s message when it skips. Twenty-five films were shot for the ad and most people are presented with around 16 – but Mother say the number of possible combinations is over two million. Aside from its ambitious use of technology, what makes Blinkwashing so impressive is its ability to engage audiences for over two minutes while delivering a dull message about price plans and tariffs.


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