“Did he tell you to f*ck off?” asks Zak Mroueh.
The president and creative director of Toronto agency Zulu Alpha Kilo is enquiring about a new interactive ad his agency has created to promote Toronto theatre company Canadian Stage’s upcoming production, Red.
The online execution, at ExperienceRed.ca, uses a webcam to insert visitors into the role of an assistant to the play’s subject, temperamental artist Mark Rothko – an abstract expressionist artist who was a contemporary of Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning in the 1950s.
In the ad, Rothko – played by veteran stage actor Jim Mezon – gives users a series of on-screen instructions, berating those who don’t follow them quickly enough or to his liking. The experience is different each time, depending on how visitors interact with the site.
“People who have seen it use the word ‘mesmerized’ to describe this actor,” said Mroueh, whose agency began working with Canadian Stage this summer. “It’s pretty intense.”
When the experience ends, users have the option to replay the video, share the link, or buy tickets. The site also features a promotional code that entitles users to a 20% discount on tickets.
It’s unlikely that Kellogg’s or Procter & Gamble will swear at prospective customers, but Mroueh said that the ad is a deliberate attempt by Canadian Stage to break with traditional advertising tactics.
“We decided to do something unconventional and different rather than running some ads in the newspaper or on radio,” said Mroueh. “We wanted to do something completely different to engage the audience in a different way.”
Zulu is driving people to the site through street teams distributing red paintbrushes featuring the URL at cultural institutions, including the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Royal Ontario Museum, as well as in various neighbourhoods throughout the city. The link is also being seeded on select websites and with existing Canadian Stage patrons.
While the marketing is designed to appeal to existing season ticket holders, Mroueh said it is also attempting to engage more casual theatregoers.
Common Good was the production house on the project, while Pirate Audio was responsible for the audio/music. Ransom Profit oversaw interactive programming.