Rafael Rizuto, co-founder and CCO at TBD, on a boardwalk billboard that combines AI and AR to bring the flip-flop brand’s summer style to North America
Havaianas is one of the few Brazilian-founded brands to have – if you’ll pardon the pun – a truly global footprint. But despite its popularity on beaches and sidewalks around the world, its reputation in the US is minimal, so Havaianas approached San Francisco agency TBD to boost its brand presence in the country. The result is an AI-enabled art installation / digital store that popped up on LA’s Venice Beach boardwalk. TBD brought on board street artist Buff Monster to create a 100-foot mural covered in rubber material, incorporating Havaianas' vibrant colours and patterns and the artist's penchant for ice cream cones (which were all wearing Havaianas flip-flops). Visitors to the mural were invited to interact with the installation on their mobile devices where tech powered by Google AI guided them through the experience. When guests photographed different areas of the mural they were shown a curated style guide with style tips by celebrity stylist Tara Swennen along with a link to purchase the related flip flops.
In addition to social posts by Buff Monster and Tara Swennen, and live coverage of the event by Havaianas and visitors to the activation, a hero video will be created featuring an original song composed for the experience that embodies the essence of Havaianas: happy, summery, joyful, Brazilian.
LBB's Addison Capper spoke with Rafael Rizuto, co-founder and CCO at TBD, to find out more.
LBB> What was the initial brief like from Havaianas and what were you thinking when you first saw it?
Rafael> A couple of months ago Fernanda Romano, executive director of digital channels for Alpargatas (parent company of Havaianas), reached out to us with a challenge and an opportunity that everyone working in this industry would dream of. The challenge was that although Havaianas is the only true global brand originated in Brazil, and loved in many countries, it didn’t have much recognition here in the USA. And the people who know it in the US have a very narrow impression of the brand, they think it’s just to be used at the beach. The opportunity was, how can we (re)introduce the brand to this new audience, change their perception by showing them that Havaianas can also be a fashion staple for different looks and occasions (not just beachwear), make them sample the product, and ultimately buy it?
LBB> What were your starting points when developing the idea? Did you always know it'd be an installation of some sort in Venice?
Rafael> We started with an interpretation of the Havaianas global summer platform ‘Let’s Summer’. We wanted to create something that was more relevant for the US - to be an invitation, literally. So we came up with the ‘Step into Summer’ idea. Many executions came out of that, but the Boardwalk Store was the one that stood out. It was a perfect way to address everything we needed to accomplish. Doing it in one of the hottest beach boardwalks in the country was the cherry on the cake.
LBB> Why was Buff Monster the right artist to bring this idea to life?
Rafael> Buff Monster was the obvious choice. Not only is he Hawaiian (Havaianas means Hawaiians in Portuguese), but his colour pallet matches Havaianas’ summer styles exactly.
LBB> I feel like too many AR experiences offer up some kind of jazzy, moving image but rarely actually DO anything. In this case, it plays a significant role, directing users to actually purchase the shoes. Was this element of the project always important?
Rafael> Yes, it was a fundamental piece off the whole thing. Technology has been used most of the time as the idea, the solution to a problem. I believe that tech should be the enabler of it. The means to an end. The Google Cloud Vision (AI) tech we used had a key role in the whole idea. In addition to guiding people through the experience, it led them to buy the product. We constructed a simple, mobile web experience where attendees could snap a photo of a colour or pattern within the mural and be driven to a corresponding product & style tip by celebrity stylist Tara Swennen. Each link also contained an option to purchase.
LBB> Tell us more about the actual installation. What was it like and how did people interact with it physically?
Rafael> The installation was a visual spectacle. I was amazed at how people interacted with it. There wasn’t a single person from all demographics who didn’t smile when they encountered it. I was surprised by the number of people taking the time to explore the piece with their phones. The location couldn't have been better.
LBB> What were the trickiest components and how did you overcome them?
Rafael> The trickiest part was the logistics of the whole thing. There were many moving pieces. From the art side of it to the tech and location. It helped a lot having a very close relationship with the client. We all had the same ambition and speed. Without this strong partnership, the idea could have fallen apart on many occasions.
LBB> Any parting thoughts?
Rafael> Yes, only a certain amount of people had the chance to experience this installation live, but how can we bring the same joy to a larger audience? Instead of just making a video documenting the installation, we decided to tell the story in the form of a music video with an original song composed by a famous Brazilian artist composed just for it.
Fernanda Romano, Executive Director of Digital Channels
Bárbara Miranda, Chief Marketing Officer
Tifani Vernon-Yanyali, Marketing Director
Jennifer Houston, Brand Marketing Manager
Rafael Rizuto, Chief Creative Officer
Sara Uhelski, Copywriter
Leila Moussaoui, Art Director
Bruno Menon, Sr Designer
Jordan Warren, CEO
Robert Woods, Senior Account Director
Adrian Dagli, Account Director
Jeff Burger, Engagement Planning Director
Rob Lee, Executive Producer
Ben Latimer, Executive Producer
Salem Weresh, Assistant Account Manager
Production Company: Caveat
Artist: Buff Monster
Stylist/Fashion Consultant: Tara Sweenen
Director: Kelsey Sante
Photographer: Mark Epstein
Executive Producer: Joshua Evan Greenberg
Producer: Josh Goldberg
Associate Producer: Stephanie Lilly Smith
Creative Technologist: David Addison
Developer: Tajddin "TJ" Maghni
Technology consultant: Ben Priddy
Consulting Producer: Matt Walsh
Experiential: Block Party
Director of Photography: Darren Miller
Production Coordinator: Dalton Homolka
Sound Production: Jamute
Music Producers: James Pinto, Leck Gomes
Executive Producer: Alejandro Ramos Lepez
Singers: Lino Krizz, Wzy
Production coordinator: Julianna Zuppo and Cassia Garcia
Sound Engineer: Rafael Laurenti