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Connecting Flights
photos: Department Zero
Deutsche Lufthansa AG celebrates the beginning of nonstop flights between Silicon Valley and Frankfurt, Germany, with a highly interactive three-day public activation – and takes to the skies with 15 million total impressions. By Brian Dukerschein
Product Launch
Company: Deutsche Lufthansa AG
Event: #MoreConnected
Objectives: Educate consumers about the company's new nonstop service from San Jose to Frankfurt and generate publicity.
Strategy: Hold a multiday event in a busy public venue that would appeal to an affluent, tech-savvy audience.
Tactics: Give away tickets for free air travel to Europe via a live video stream with Lufthansa flight attendants in Frankfurt. Offer a virtual reality experience to allow participants to explore the airline's first-class cabin.
Results: Generated 15 million total impressions, gathered 5,402 email addresses for lead generation, and received coverage in eight local newspapers.
Creative/Production Agencies: Department Zero, www.departmentzero.com; MMGY Global, www.mmgyglobal.com
Budget: $300,000 – $399,000
In 1938, when a Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor operated by Deutsche Lufthansa AG landed in New York, it was heralded as the first commercial transatlantic flight. The plane's safe arrival, departing from Berlin and touching down roughly 25 hours later, made two things evident: Air transportation had achieved an impressive milestone, and despite vast distances – 3,728 miles, in this case – the world was a bit more connected.

Fast forward 78 years, and Lufthansa was ready to make another important connection. While the Cologne, Germany-based airline already had nonstop routes linking Frankfurt and Munich with 18 key U.S. cities, it didn't offer direct flights to a region of the country renowned for increasing connectivity, albeit in the digital realm: Silicon Valley. But that was about to change, as Lufthansa announced that it would begin offering nonstop flights between San Jose International Airport and Frankfurt Airport in July 2016. Much like the airline's historic Condor flight, the significance of this route was twofold: It would mark Lufthansa's debut in Silicon Valley, as well as the first nonstop service linking the technology hub with mainland Europe.

Preflight Checklist
Based on the company's previous success holding consumer-facing events, marketers at Lufthansa wanted to host some type of experiential event in San Jose, CA, to introduce residents to the German brand and its nonstop service to Europe. So the company turned to MMGY Global, a Kansas City, MO-based travel and hospitality marketing firm that partnered with the airline on previous consumer campaigns. "Lufthansa is well-known in Europe, but less so in the United States," says Shea Carter, MMGY's vice president of social and experiential marketing. "Face-to-face connections and interactions are very important to Lufthansa, and we at MMGY view experiential events as one component of a larger brand-awareness campaign."

To make an impression on Silicon Valley's affluent and plugged-in populace, MMGY brought in Department Zero, another marketing agency in Kansas City that specializes in high-tech activations. The two teams brainstormed a number of concepts, including a mobile activation featuring touchscreen-based games on a tricked-out truck that would roam the streets of San Jose.

While a game-based approach appealed to both teams, something was missing. "We wanted to play on the idea of connectivity, considering the launch was in the heart of Silicon Valley, and technology is a powerful means of bringing people together," Carter says.

Connecting San Jose residents to Europe via live-streaming video would certainly drive that theme home, so the agencies investigated the logistics of offering a number of real-time interactions between Silicon Valley locals and popular personalities in multiple European cities – a grand proposal that proved to be a little lofty for Lufthansa's down-to-earth $350,000 budget. "The logistics were too challenging and expensive," Carter says. "But we mitigated those challenges by opting to choose a single location from which to connect consumers in San Jose with a Lufthansa flight attendant at Frankfurt Airport – two variables we knew we could control." And to incentivize locals to take part in the gamified activation, the agencies proposed awarding some lucky participants with two free tickets to Frankfurt.

Lufthansa approved the campaign concept and name, #MoreConnected, a social-media-friendly title that aptly referenced the company's and Silicon Valley's capacity to bridge people and places. With the broad parameters set, it was now time for MMGY and Department Zero to formulate a more complete flight plan.

Now Boarding
One of the marketing agencies' top priorities was to find a venue that aligned with their targeted consumer, namely well-to-do, international travelers who reside in San Jose. "Ideally, we wanted an outdoor venue that would have both high foot traffic and a large percentage of affluent locals," says Paul Soseman, CEO of Department Zero, who quickly set his sights on Santana Row, an outdoor shopping center filled with high-end retailers, restaurants, spas, and salons that attract around 15 million visitors annually. After a site visit, the teams chose to stage Lufthansa's event in the shopping center's central courtyard for the highest possible visibility.
To inform Silicon Valley residents about its new nonstop service between San Jose, CA, and Frankfurt, Germany, Deutsche Lufthansa AG staged its #MoreConnected activation in the courtyard of Santana Row, an upscale, outdoor shopping center with significant foot traffic.
The venue was set, but another dilemma arose: Although the Lufthansa launch had a prime location, how could the marketers reach shoppers who might not pass through Santana Row's courtyard? Handing out leaflets and plastering signage across the shopping center would undoubtedly spread the word, but would do little to position Lufthansa as a premier airline or foster any meaningful, personalized connections. To accomplish both of these objectives, then, Soseman and Carter opted to use the best brand ambassadors available: Lufthansa's own polished, poised flight attendants. The idea was to have "street teams" of flight attendants in full uniform walk through Santana Row, interact with shoppers, and encourage them to visit the activation.

Soseman, who was responsible for overseeing logistics, then turned his attention to designing the event's physical components, which would include two freestanding columns, a touchscreen kiosk to facilitate the activation's gaming element, and a larger structure to house a flatscreen monitor and other equipment needed for the live-streaming experience. Meanwhile, the public-relations team at MMGY got to work on generating media buzz. Targeted pitches were distributed to local news and lifestyle outlets four weeks before the event, with additional communiques sent out in the days leading up to the launch in hopes of garnering publicity.

Ready for Takeoff
While some shoppers who visited Santana Row during the three-day #MoreConnected event came upon the activation serendipitously, others did so after being invited by one of the roaming teams of flight attendants – flown in from Germany to provide an on-brand experience – who presented them with faux 3.25-by-8-inch boarding passes. The front of the passes were designed to look very much like the real deal, with a barcode and information about the specifics of the event presented in air-travel lingo, such as the departing gate (Santana Row), flight dates (May 11 – 13), and boarding time (2 p.m. – 9 p.m.). Copy on the back outlined the event details in a more straightforward manner and included information on how to enter a Facebook contest for an Oculus Rift virtual-reality headset or Lufthansa-branded swag. Flight attendants then explained that the recipients could go to the shopping center's courtyard and scan their boarding passes at the kiosk for a chance to win a prize in a digital version of a well-known game – and possibly walk away with two free tickets to Frankfurt.

Boarding passes in hand, shoppers headed to the courtyard, where they lined up with those who wandered into the area on their own and had been given passes by professional brand ambassadors – also dressed in Lufthansa uniforms – supervising the activation. As they waited, participants were encouraged to tweet about the experience using the #MoreConnected hashtag and don one of three Oculus Rift headsets to be immersed in Lufthansa's first-class cabin on a Boeing 747 and explore its many amenities.

When it was their turn in line, eager participants stepped up to a mock ticketing kiosk with a built-in 25-inch touchscreen monitor and laser-break sensor. The kiosk was placed in front of an 8-by-16-foot structure branded with Lufthansa's corporate colors and outfitted with an 85-inch monitor, video camera, and two speakers. The action started once participants' boarding passes tripped the kiosk's sensor, which initiated a series of short videos that ran on both the touchscreen and the larger monitor. A clip of a Lufthansa flight attendant introducing the new nonstop service to Frankfurt was followed by an animation of an airplane flying from San Jose to the German transit hub. A second video featured another flight attendant who welcomed players to the game and explained its parameters – namely that they would have 60 seconds to identify as many differences as possible between two nearly identical photographs depicting any one of 21 European landmarks, such as the Colosseum, Notre Dame, and the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. After another animation of an airplane taking off from Frankfurt to the location of the specific landmark, a set of photos appeared on both monitors, and players used the touchscreen to indicate where they noticed subtle differences in the images. Prizes were awarded based on how many differences each participant found and included branded rubber ducks, water bottles, and model airplanes.

Those receiving tickets to Frankfurt were chosen by a software program that randomly selected four winners each day of the three-day event. These lucky players' experiences took a different path following the second flight attendant's video, after which they saw an animation with text reading "Welcome to Frankfurt." The large monitor then cut to a live video and audio feed with a Lufthansa flight attendant at Frankfurt Airport. A brand ambassador assisting near the kiosk quickly produced a microphone, and the transatlantic interaction commenced.

The Frankfurt-based flight attendant initiated an informal dialogue with the participants, talking about topics such as the local weather and the nine-hour time difference, before asking if he or she knew any German phrases. The flight attendant then segued into a brief language class, during which she asked players to repeat simple sentences in German and then gave them the translation in English. After a few bilingual back and forths, the flight attendant asked the winning participant to say, "Ich fliege mit Lufthansa nach Europa." Once the phrase was repeated, the flight attendant asked, "Do you know what that means? It means 'I will fly with Lufthansa to Europe!'" Bewildered players, who recognized that their #MoreConnected experience was vastly different from those ahead of them in line, were then told they'd be receiving two premium economy tickets to Frankfurt. When the applause and cheering in the courtyard died down, the gleeful winners posed with Lufthansa flight attendants for a photo op – complete with a Publishers Clearing House-sized boarding pass – before leaving Santana Row to start planning their European vacations.

A live video stream connected winning participants with a Lufthansa flight attendant at Frankfurt Airport who informed them they'd be receiving two free tickets to Europe.
Cleared for Landing
Of the roughly 2,500 Santana Row shoppers who received Lufthansa's faux boarding passes, roughly 1,500 participated in the activation, resulting in a conversion rate of 60 percent. And while that's an impressive metric, it's somewhat dwarfed by the fact the company garnered a total of 15 million in-person, social-, and local-media impressions. Roughly 3.4 million of those impressions came from coverage in eight area newspapers, including the San Jose Mercury News, the Santa Cruz Sentinel, and Metro Silicon Valley. What's more, the #MoreConnected hashtag generated almost 262,000 social-media engagements, while the Facebook contest gathered contact info for more than 5,400 consumers. Corporate Event Awards judges understandably lauded the company for its results. "Lufthansa did an incredible job of leveraging social and traditional media to amplify its story," one judge said. "For a relatively small event, it generated big-league buzz."

Just as travel is capable of connecting people of varying cultures and beliefs, Lufthansa proved that it could plug into the culture of Silicon Valley with an event that was both high tech and highly personalized. "I think the most successful activations are simple in function and easy to participate in," Soseman says. "This was exactly that." And following these core principles resulted in both Lufthansa and the residents of San Jose feeling a little more connected. E

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