Defy All Challenges Campaign

Client: Microsoft | McCann SF

Studio: Exopolis

Defy All Challenges was a campaign designed to promote Microsoft’s newest release of Visual Studio, a suite of software used to develop games and other applications. Using a virtual filmmaking technique known as Machinima – the use of captured videogame footage along with voice-over and music to create a story – Exopolis created a series of spots centered around humorous office and development scenarios viewed through the lens of fantasy and sci-fi games.

The spots were made in the same way any traditional animated spot would be — scripts, boards, editorial, voice-over. Instead of hand-animating 3D characters and compositing them into an environment that looked like a game, we actually built an entire 3D game, complete with characters and environments which became our actors and sets respectively. The studio was transformed into a multi-player gaming environment, and avid gamers were brought in to control our ‘actors’ while simultaneously capturing every take from each character’s point of view. Additionally, two free roving in-game cameras captured any additional shots, from ultra close-ups to overhead crane shots.

The site itself was based on the two main environments created for the spots, and allowed usersto navigate through a virtual world. In addition to the spots, the site featured interviews with the software suite’s real-life key engineers, product features, and a Machinima remixer, allowing site visitors an opportunity to create their own stories with additional voice-over, sound effects and B-roll from our spots. A view and vote system allowed visitors to cast their votes for the best user-generated short.

The campaign for Microsoft Visual Studio had a good amount of advertising support. Print ads ran in technology-focused magazines and developer-centric publications. Banner ads were placed where developers hang out online.

The site and campaign was remarkably well received, and was nominated for several awards, including the Webbys and SXSW. It has garnered press in traditional and online publications spanning a multitude of genres, from Advertising and Design to Machinima and Filmmaking. In addition, Microsoft used the campaign at an internal presentation to show what an effective campaign should look like for their brand going forward. A television show featuring the site content and characters created for the campaign is currently in the works.