Meet Arnie, the world’s smartest beer vending machine. The brainchild of Arnold Worldwide‘s director of creativity Anthony Stellato, Arnie talks to the agency’s staffers and makes beer recommendations. He can even socialize with them on Facebook and Twitter. Developed through the same rapid prototype cycle Arnold uses on client work, he’s a living, drink-wielding manifestation of the opportunities the agency sees in creative technology.
Stellato and Arnold Boston have taken Arnie on tour to show him off at SXSW during a talk on the intersection between creativity and technology. Prior to the conference, Marketing spoke to Stellato about his prototype process, how side projects benefit agency culture and what it’s like to talk to your fridge.
Where did the idea for Arnie come from?
He was born out of much more than a desire for free beer. Arnold’s headquarters in Boston are filled with hundreds of employees, spread out over multiple floors and departments. As much as we all communicate virtually through email and instant message, we were lacking an area where all of our disconnected employees could socialize in the most immediate and efficient way, face to face.
We already happened to have a bar at the office, which we call ‘Barnold.’ The question became how can we bring people to that space of their own volition. The answer was build a technological attraction, Arnie, and give away home-brewed beer, crafted by fellow employees. Arnie now provides a social nexus, a place where the latest and greatest idea can come from anyone, especially with a little added social lubricant.
Arnie was developed through Arnold’s ‘rapid prototype cycle.’ How does that process work?
One of the aims of Arnold’s R&D Lab is to refine the process of rapid prototyping, constantly introducing new tools and weighing the options to see how they will fit into our workflows. When an idea is brought to the Lab, it comes along with a caveat of ‘Is this even possible?’ After considering the project, we’ll assign the appropriate small team to create a prototype to confirm the viability. If successful, it then becomes a matter of iteration and refinement until we have a finished product.
What’s the benefit of working on creative technology projects that fall outside of the agency’s client work?
My primary job is to come into the office everyday to ideate and explore. The explosive growth of technology in everyday life is still dramatically reshaping the advertising industry landscape. Many agencies fall into a reactionary pattern with new tech.
A client demands and they scramble to provide, unaware of the hidden cost and obstacles because they have no hands-on experience with the subject at hand. Being able to work on creative technology projects outside of client work gives us the ability to clearly see the path ahead. We know the pitfalls because we’ve already been there. We’ve had a development version of that device or framework or technology well before it was mainstream.
This knowledge helps us create solutions for clients by need instead of just by demand. We are constantly expanding what we can offer a client.
What are the beer recommendations based on?
Our beer recommendations were first based on the rating system for each beer. However, we’ve changed it recently to sample the user’s past history of choice and recommend accordingly. We’ve found that a user’s previous data is a better predictor of choice.