Deutsch’s dental dosh-generator started out life as an April Fool’s Day prank… but it actually works, writes Laura Swinton
A toothbrush that mines bitcoin while you brush… if the Bitbrush sounds like an agency prank, then that’s because that’s what it is. Or was. The whimsical piece of oral hygiene tech from Deutsch LA started out life as a bit of a lark for April Fool’s Day, until the agency’s tech and production got involved and figured that they could turn a joke into a working prototype.
Toothbrushing and cryptocurrency may seem like a fairly random combination – but not so for Mike Frank, SVP, Creative Director, who drew from his childhood to come up with the idea.
“We were kicking around the idea of mining for cryptocurrency because it’s a thing right now, and a lot of people are talking about it and trying to get into it. So we were like, ‘what’s the most ridiculous way someone could mine for bitcoin?’. My mother’s actually a dentist and a professor of dentistry and so when we were growing up she was always trying to motivate us to brush our teeth,” explains Mike.
“We thought it would be funny, that the motivation to brush our teeth is not only for great oral health but being able to turn that into a money-making enterprise every morning, so I’m earning while I’m brushing.”
Soon the whole agency was involved and invested in bringing Mike’s dental dosh-generator to life. The tech team and the production team at Deutsch’s inhouse facility Steelhead figured out how to make the thing – parts were 3D printed and the USB-powered processor fitted in the handle. In order to link the brush to users’ cryptocurrency accounts, a mobile interface was also created. But this wasn’t just an innovation project – there was a brand to create, a web platform to build, imagery and video content to produce. Even the models were recruited from within the agency.
“We’ve been moving like lightening on it,” says Mike, who notes that the whole process from idea to finished product took just two weeks.”
Since revealing the Bitbrush, the team have seen responses from all over the world. And it’s not just ad nerds and tech enthusiasts who’ve been showing their interest – they’ve also seen engagement from the growing international cryptocurrency community too. But while they’ve had a few dentists commenting, they’d like to see more. As for Mike’s mother, well, the ins-and-outs of cryptocurrency are not a particular area of expertise, but Mike says that she is ‘ecstatic’ that he’s working out how to motivate toothbrushing behaviour.
The Bitbrush has gone from being a playful idea to a fully operational prototype, but what does the future hold for it? Mike says that he and the team have been thinking about the social good that could be done with such a tool – mining cryptocurrency to raise funds for those without access to dental healthcare, for example. But although the prototype works, it may not be the most efficient way to mine.
What’s true though is that the recent high profile fluctuations of bitcoin’s value have brought cryptocurrency to mainstream attention, which has helped the project grab more attention than it might have done a year or two ago.
“It’s definitely been something really fun and timely with all the conversation that’s happening right now. What we found was that a lot of people we spoke to while we were doing the project said ‘I’ve just figured out what bitcoin is’,” says Mike of the terrific toothbrush timing.