Virgin Mobile decided to harness our contempt for advertisements into nothing other than another advertisement: 25, to be exact. There is something different about this ad campaign, though. If you blink just once, you just might miss it. Using the power of your webcam and your eyes, the phone company created something called “blinkwashing,” which kinda sounds like some sort of psychological torture. As the final installment in Virgin’s “Retrain Your Brain” campaign, the ad’s premise is to persuade consumers to ditch their current “controlling” pricey mobile plans for Virgin’s no-contract ones.
Virgin enlisted the help of digital production lab Rehabstudio and YouTube production company Greencard Studios to produce the eye-teaser for Mac and PC computers.
How it works: you start up the YouTube video, which then prompts you for Virgin’s access to your webcam. Once it’s on and calibrated to your face and eyes, you are shown a series of different adverts. These include ones with a creepy, bespectacled bald-headed dude talking point-blank to the camera, one with a rabbi talking to a clergyman and a sullen-faced clown at a bar, and one with a Japanese guy in a lab coat talking to a gorilla in a kitchen. The possibilities and commercial combinations are endless, making for a snowflakes’ variety of different ad reels for each viewer.
As for responsiveness? The webcam sensor is actually fairly accurate. So, if you want to stay on a certain commercial, it’s tough. Once you blink, that particular ad immediately changes to another one. Each Virgin commercial viewing averages about 16 scenario changes, but rapid-blinkers could probably cycle through the whole 25.
The blink-cam utilizes a Flash-based mechanism that uses your computers’ camera to read a specific part of your face. The camera looks for two different colors when a user starts blinking, which then triggers the program to flip the video. In order to bypass the YouTube buffer crawl, three videos were queued up to play at any moment, waiting in the wings to be selected for the next lucky contestant. It’s the commercial of the future: look ma, no hands!