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The Winning Experience of Playing Video Games for Beer

by UX Magazine Staff
5 min read
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A closer look at the results in the Interactive Component of an Advertising Campaign category of the international Design for Experience awards, featuring the winner: McKinney.

It’s no secret that the proliferation of technology has led to massive changes in just about every aspect of daily life. We can now do things in a matter of seconds using the glowing pills in our pockets that would have taken a roomful of computers several days to accomplish a few decades ago. It’s cray.

The revolutionary nature of this technology blanket has also ushered in a new golden age of advertising—a platinum age, perhaps. As with all types of experience design, there are very few limits to what can be created, and for creative agencies and their clients this has meant a torrent of opportunity. Nearly every major advertising campaign has significant online or interactive components, but many of these interactive components reflect the needs of the business and its hopes for how customers might behave more than they do actual customer needs and desires.

That’s not to say there aren’t campaigns out there that court users with a unique and rewarding advertising experience, and the work McKinney did for Big Boss Brewing stands as a near perfect example—one that won the Design for Experience award in the Interactive Component of an Advertising Campaign category.


The Last Barfighter arcade game has cup holders in place of typical coin slots. To start, players insert their beer cups, then choose from five characters representing Big Boss’s signature brews. Players fight three rounds with their opponent, and last one standing receives a trial-sized pour dispensed automatically from the chilled keg inside the machine.

“This is a perfect example of designing an experience to user context—I love the combination of digital experience with real-life interaction,” says Sam Kuhlmann, one of the judges in the category. “McKinney has created an unforgettable experience that truly satisfies the target audience. This is an excellent example for designers and marketers of how business goals and user goals can both be met in a simple and engaging way.”

@McKinney has created an unforgettable experience that truly satisfies the target audience

When not at the brewery, The Last Barfighter travels to beer festivals and bars that serve Big Boss beer. So far, the beercade has generated over 100 million PR impressions, equaling more than $1.1 million in earned media with $0 paid media spent.

“We work with a broad range of clients with budgets of all shapes and sizes,” says McKinney’s Director of Creative Resources, Stacy Seefeldt. “We excel in creativity that influences the world, whether that world is the white-hot competitive consumer electronics market or the beer-sampling community where discerning palettes call the shots.”

One of the ways McKinney works to create solutions that connect on multiple levels is by aiming to understand several essential components before designing a campaign and selecting the required media. This involves asking questions about the business (e.g. “What are the primary and secondary business challenges we need to solve and why?”), the audience (“What are their current perceptions of the brand?”), the concept (“What new emotional and conceptual territory is the brand free to claim?” “What relationship will this idea be creating with people?”), and the culture surrounding it all (“What sort of cultural/technology/design trends do we need to consider?”).

The judges were impressed with the way this campaign met its goals with a creative solution that wasn’t outsized or extravagant, agreeing that it showed a full and nuanced understanding of the client and their customer base.

Shoot for the Stars

Plenty of interactive campaigns aim high, but the work DDB & Tribal Worldwide, Amsterdam did for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines literally touched the stratosphere. With the “Claim your Place in Space” campaign—a finalist in the category—users were invited to witness the launch of a weather balloon and then use a specially designed cross-platform experience to predict where it would pop and track its ascent in real-time—following the balloon from launch location to final destination through a lush, three-dimensional, animated story. The winner of the competition, a Brazilian student named Pedro Nehme, is scheduled to fly into space sometime later this year aboard of the XCOR Lynx.


The project came together in a so-called “war room,” where a small and dedicated team got busy with paper prototypes, post-its, sketches, moodboards, and the like. As the project drew nearer to the launch, the team worked with MediaMonks to ensure that the web experience and every asset and interaction were executed at high levels of detail and sophistication. Despite the grandeur and scope of the project, however, it ranks alongside other complex projects that DDB & Tribal Amsterdam has created.

“It might be in our nature to never be satisfied with the obvious,” van den Berg says. “We’re always trying to evolve and push the boundaries of what’s been done before. Even our smaller projects have a level of complexity, whether we’re pushing the technical aspects of a backend system or creating something that’s gone where no one has ever been.”

Sending Customers a Message

Chipotle is very open with customers about its efforts to source fresh ingredients that are raised responsibly with respect to the farmers, the animals, and the environment. Creative Artists Agency kept these notions in mind as they worked with the restaurant chain to produce “The Scarecrow,” a mobile game and animated short film designed to generate curiosity about where food comes from—a project that was also a finalist in the Design for Experience awards.


Set in a dystopian world where food production is controlled by fictional industrial giant Crow Foods, the story follows one of the scarecrows who staff the Crow Foods factories. The film includes a cover of the song “Pure Imagination” from the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory performed by Fiona Apple.

The game takes users deeper as they help The Scarecrow correct the wrongs committed by Crow Foods. Designed for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, the game allows players to fly through the City of Plenty to transport confined animals to open pastures, fill fields with diverse crops at Scarecrow Farms, and serve wholesome food to the citizens at Plentyfull Plaza, all while avoiding menacing Crowbot.

“We always start with understanding the story we want to tell and why,” says Todd Hunter, an agent in the marketing group at CAA. “For ‘The Scarecrow,’ we asked what would the future hold if we extrapolated our exploitation-based food supply exponentially and unchecked by ethics? The result was the inspiration for the world of ‘The Scarecrow.’ Then, we determine the best entertainment vehicle to express that story in a way that people will seek out, consume, and share, based on the quality and the experience.”

Hunter says that exploration led to the creation of the game as a way to communicate important messages about food and food culture in a compelling way. “Each stage of the execution, from the game’s script and characters to level design and musical score, are all informed by the story and the audience. We placed careful attention on how the world of ‘The Scarecrow’ could authentically be pure entertainment, while still delivering a serious message.”

The video currently has over 12 million views on YouTube, and the game became the #1 Adventure Game on iTunes, hinting that a real hunger for advertising of this size and scope exists.

post authorUX Magazine Staff

UX Magazine Staff, UX Magazine was created to be a central, one-stop resource for everything related to user experience. Our primary goal is to provide a steady stream of current, informative, and credible information about UX and related fields to enhance the professional and creative lives of UX practitioners and those exploring the field. Our content is driven and created by an impressive roster of experienced professionals who work in all areas of UX and cover the field from diverse angles and perspectives.


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