What went behind making #TheUnfilteredHistoryTour

It is the most successful Indian campaign in the history of the Cannes Lions, with a Titanium, three Grand Prix, one Gold, four Silvers, and three Bronzes, as well as the title of Agency of the Year.

What went behind making #TheUnfilteredHistoryTour
The initial idea was to create a website where the museum visitors could check whether the artifacts were stolen or not.

By Gurbaksh Singh

Technology gave us the courage to dare. It made #TheUnfilteredHistoryTour (UHT) possible without ever visiting The British Museum; and India’s biggest Cannes Lions Winner!

Let me take you on a journey to uncover technology, its influence, and its link with ideas in today’s world before diving deep into the tech of #TheUnfilteredHistoryTour.

All great pieces of work indeed start with an idea, but it is also true that technology can be the difference between a good and a great idea. For instance, a horse carriage, jet plane and supercar are three different executions of the same idea – mobility. While all three of them take us from one place to the other, you just cannot compare a supercar to a horse carriage. 

The Unfiltered History Tour: Genesis

Saturday is one of those days when I find myself fidgeting and playing with my drones and other ‘geek stuff’.

Tring-Tring, Hey Gbax! Free for a quick chat? PG Aditiya had just watched a documentary about colonialism and how the British stole artifacts from across the world. And we started talking about how the British Museum stands as a symbol of a dark past in which communities were robbed of their cultural symbols and rich history. As the discussion progressed, we even brought in Gautam Ragunath to provide a wider perspective. 

The initial idea was to create a website where the museum visitors could check whether the artifacts were stolen or not. So you walk into the museum, visit the site, point your phone towards an artifact, and boom, a stamp appears which says ‘stolen or not stolen’!

However, it was that discussion which inspired me to make the visitors at the British Museum aware of the real origins of the artifacts on display.

The Execution

When you have a brilliant concept, you must figure out the best way to execute it. Execution has the power to make or break an idea. The website did not feel organic to me as it is not social, which means that visitors need to cross-share their experiences separately to arrive at the stories they wanted to tell.

The Next Stop

The obvious next step was Facebook. We planned to deploy an interactive post that would let visitors scan the artifacts via a mobile camera. While Facebook offered a great advantage of being a social platform, it threw a set of challenges too. We still needed to explain the steps to visitors since interactive posts are not a norm on the platform. While this execution was better, it was not the best.

The Final Destination

Once the idea of Facebook was rejected, I went into what I like to call ‘Tech-Hibernation’ mode. I spent the day looking for a technology that could make the idea accessible to every visitor. I firmly believe that technology should be simple, and an organic extension of human capabilities.

After several hours of brainstorming, a lightning bolt struck and I arrived at an ‘Instagram (IG) Filter’ execution to teleport the artifacts back to their origins. Everyone instantly loved it! The first early-stage prototype was ready in a matter of days, reinforcing our faith in the Instagram filter.

Instagram Merits

AR filters are immersive and highly engaging.

Organic to use.

A widely used platform worldwide.

Most people have prior experience using the filter.

IG filter lets you record your POV and hence, makes the experience personalised and customisable.

Now I was confident that we would carry out the brilliant concept. Everyone appeared to find it exciting.

The platform was set. It was only a matter of time until the brilliant brains at Dentsu Webchutney began to create an experience around it.

The Scale

We faced a lot of challenges when the execution began, however, we also discovered many possibilities. All of this helped us add scale to the idea.

Podcasts, for example, were never intended to be a part of the original concept. Thus, the first

Instagram prototype filter had no audio.

Since IG filters have a limit of just 4MB, our key focus was to build a seamless visual experience. After we made a few versions, we optimised the size without any compromise on the visual quality. So, we added a dummy 60-sec audio track. Initially, the track was just a part of tech testing.

But then it led to another Eureka moment. AR Filter + Audio. This opened the flood gates of creative thinking. We added an audio narrative and then evolved it into a podcast series. The initial idea would have never won the Radio and Audio Grand Prix. In fact, we would not have even entered it into that category. However, it was technology optimisation and exploration that led us to podcasts and eventually to our very first Cannes GRAND-PRIX. And I would greatly like to thank Vice for believing in the concept and creating fantastic podcasts.

The Challenges and Outcomes

The technology execution began in a pandemic world and took more than 500 days to finish. All of the tests were done remotely by non-technologists, and the entire operation was carried out covertly.

Detailed Tech Dope is Available Here:

There were times when the project appeared unattainable, and we wondered why we had taken such a dangerous route with so many possible failure points. But we dared, committed to our mission, and persevered in finding solutions to every problem that arose.

Kudos to the team ‘Pixel Party’ for keeping their calm despite the hundreds of revisions I asked for. It was fortunate that we encountered so many technological challenges since it forced us to incorporate extra technology to improve the concept, which would not have been possible otherwise.

Since UHT utilised many technologies, it was able to qualify for multiple tech categories and win on such a large scale. We also received another GRAND PRIX in ‘Use of Mobile Devices – Touchpoints & Technology’!

Creating History

No other Indian campaign has gone as far as #TheUnfilteredHistoryTour has. It is the most successful Indian campaign in the history of the Cannes Lions, with a Titanium, three Grand Prix, one Gold, four Silvers, and three Bronzes, as well as the title of Agency of the Year. It is a source of immense pride not only for our team but for the entire country. UHT is truly INDIA’s voice!

I am grateful to the entire team who are also my very close friends. They are the ones who worked together on this onion peeling process, imparting flavor to the execution layer by layer.

As I wrap up, Godard’s famous words echo in my head, “It is not where you take things from, it is where you take them to.” This campaign is a story of how technology can enable you to dare BIG and create history.

Here is the link to the ones who have contributed to this extraordinary campaign:

The author is chief innovation officer, Dentsu Creative India

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