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Broadcasting the Mars rover landing with Ocean Outdoor - #BehindTheIdea

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How do you livestream the Perseverance Mars 2020 mission from NASA as it happens, to the big screens in Piccadilly Circus?

If it sounds like a daunting task, rest assured that it is. According to Ocean Outdoor, such feat was never attempted before – which goes a long way to explain how far technology has come in the past 4-5 years.

Today we are getting Behind the Idea to learn more about how Ocean Outdoor was able to stream a milestone in the history of space exploration from planets away, three times faster than the No 9 bus from Hammersmith.

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What was the brief?

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration approached Landsec, owner of the Piccadilly Lights in central London, to ask if the landing of the NASA Mars Perseverance rover could be shared on the large format advertising screen as it happened on February 18 2021. 

How did the initial pitch/brainstorming phase go?

A live stream from another planet to a digital out of home screen in the UK had never been attempted before. Landsec asked Ocean Outdoor, operator of the Piccadilly Lights screen, to explore the possibility of carrying a live broadcast of the final 60 minutes of the international mission as it happened.

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Tell us more about the concept. How did it come to life, and why was it the right choice?

Large format digital out of home is a world class platform for sharing moments of international importance and achievement. A live broadcast on this scale had never been achieved on the Piccadilly Lights until now. 

The production showcased to superb effect how brands can use the new live streaming feature in the patchwork of Piccadilly Lights as well as the full screen itself.

What was the production process like? What was the biggest challenge?

Working with the NASA team, Ocean Labs used new technology to live stream coverage of the entry and descent within the patchwork of commercial advertisers on the Piccadilly screen for 40 minutes using a feed directly from the NASA satellite. The Lights then switched to a full screen domination for the final 20 minutes, showing the first pictures from the surface of Mars as the rover began its mission.

NASA was unable to show footage of the landing itself because a camera on outside of the spacecraft would not survive the entry into Martian atmosphere.  Instead the live stream featured the landing team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California receiving signals from the spacecraft at each stage of entry, descent and landing allowing them to know and communicate if the spacecraft had successfully achieved each of these milestones.  

What is one funny or notable thing that happened during the production of the campaign?

From outer space to out of home, it takes just 10 minutes for Radio signals to reach Piccadilly Circus from Mars. 

That’s three times faster than the No 9 bus from Hammersmith.

What’s the main message of the campaign and why does it matter?

The NASA Mars Perseverance mission is of worldwide interest and yet another milestone in space exploration. The Perseverance rover represents NASA’s unbreakable spirit which perseveres even in the midst of a global pandemic.

For Landsec and Ocean Outdoor, the collaboration showcases the growing significance of iconic DOOH locations such as Piccadilly Lights in marking and celebrating moments of national and international significance.

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What is one unique aspect of the campaign?

How the Piccadilly Lights live simulcast captured the world’s attention. Everyone loves a space story, and this was no exception.

With lockdown restrictions preventing people gathering to watch the moment in Piccadilly Circus itself, Ocean organised a press call instead. Photographs from Piccadilly were syndicated around the world and used by hundreds of newspapers, generating a wider Earth bound audience reach of more than 426.66 million (source: Meltwater). 

Social media mentions for Ocean, Landsec and Piccadilly rose 243 per cent during the course of the campaign.

How long did it take from inception to delivery?

NASA’s most sophisticated rover to date had been travelling through space since launching from Cape Canaveral at the end of July 2020. When Perseverance reached the red planet it had travelled 292.5 million miles on its mission from Earth.

The Piccadilly Lights broadcast, from idea to big screen touchdown, took twenty days and 60 minutes.

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What do you hope it achieves for the brand?

Human missions to the Moon and on Mars. 

As the first leg of a round trip to Mars, Perseverance not only will collect samples of the Red Planet to return to Earth in the next decade, but also carries cutting-edge instruments and technology that will pave the way for future human missions into space.

Credit list for the campaign?

Landsec: Derek Manns Commercial Media Director

NASA: Maureen O’Brien, Cory Borst, Jim Wilson, Brittany Brown, Kenneth Erickson, Christopher Harris

Ocean Outdoor: Catherine Morgan, Director of Ocean Labs, Melanie Blood, Senior Project Manager
Ocean Outdoor Design: David Tait
Ocean Outdoor Communications: Susann Jerry

Jackshoot: Broadcast stream supplier

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