2006 Interactive Design Award Winners: Best of Show

View a complete list of 2006 interactive Design Award Winners

Larger Than Life

By Michelle Taute

Leave it to NIKE to come up with something that eclipses runner’s high. Last May, the company partnered with New York City-based ad agency R/GA to offer its customers a natural buzz without the prerequisite sweat equity. The company, which focuses on interactive media, put Times Square pedestrians in control of the Reuters sign that towers 23 stories above the landmark. Cell-phone users simply called a toll-free number, pushed a few buttons and watched as their custom shoes came to life.

The project has a significant wow factor, the kind that might well seduce jaded New Yorkers as easily as 14-year-old tourists—not to mention tech-savvy HOW judges. "R/GA breaks new ground here with a truly interactive piece that’s part performance art, part e-commerce and part play," judge Jason Kottke says. "This project could have easily gotten out of control scope-wise, but they kept the interaction as simple as possible, considering they’re letting people custom-design their own sneakers on a huge billboard in Times Square." Plus, as judge Jemma Hostetler notes, the project engages not only the person controlling the sign, but all the people standing nearby watching, as well.

Much of the sign’s genius lies in its ease of use and the complete loop it creates with users. Anyone with a cell phone—regardless of phone brand or service provider—could call 1-888-8-NIKE-ID and use simple prompts to change colors on the displayed shoe with his or her phone keypad. Each person was given 60 seconds to use the sign, and if it was already in use, he or she was placed in a virtual queue.

After maxing out the time limit, callers with SMS-enabled phones received text messages that contained a link to download mobile wallpaper featuring their custom shoes. (These made perfect keepsakes, as well as conversation-starters.) The messages also included unique codes and links to a special page on NIKEiD.com. Users could follow the links, enter their codes and pick up where they left off with their designs—or simply order the shoes as-is. This ingenious touch completed that all-important link back to e-commerce.

While the essence of the idea for this project has been floating around NIKE and R/GA for years, this is the first time all the pieces came together. In the past, R/GA worked on a billboard that could be controlled with a cell phone, and NIKE previously hosted an SMS scavenger hunt. This project, however, was innovative in that it linked so many interactive marketing elements together. "I think this type of digital interaction is really new in the U.S.," says Brian Reed, NIKE senior manager of U.S. digital brand marketing.

The billboard also created an intimate brand experience outside the home. "The consumer can interact with the brand when they’re not sitting in front of the computer or TV," says Richard Ting, R/GA creative director. "We can interact with them when they’re walking down the street."

It’s a strategy that appears to have paid off. As one of the sign’s users commented, "It’s something only NIKE would do."

HOW April 2006

Design Firm: R/GA, New York City
Creative Director: Richard Ting
Analytics: Briggs Davidson
Copy: Mike Spiegel, Josh Bletterman, Scott Tufts
Designers: Brian Votaw, Laura Pence, Troy Kooper, Matthew Garton, David Alcorn, Johanna Rustia
Interaction designer: Aya Karpinska
Production: Andy Bhatt, Matt Howell
Programmers/Quality Assurance: Ephraim Cohen, John Mayo-Smith, Sean Lyons, Scott Prindle, Chuck Genco, Michael Shagalov, Todd Kovner
Reuters Sign Production team: Dave Jenssen, Dondi Fusco, Taiwai Yun, Michael Demaio, Kyle Kane, Tia Kim
Client: NIKE


Get the April 2006 Interactive Design Annual