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Catering for the team's mental health with a virtual sheep and BBH Singapore

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When the whole office remains shut down due to COVID restrictions, you have two options: you wait and hope the webs won't become too ominous before you come back, or you build a gigantic Tamagotchi to welcome everyone back in the office when the time comes.

The second option sounded way more interesting to BBH Singapore, who partnered with Insert Coin over two months to build a giant virtual pet for everyone in the office. It has all the functions you would expect from a virtual office pet, including lunch recommendations, selfie features and, of course, feeding mechanics to keep the team entertained.

For this special Behind the Idea, we are taking a look at an internal office campaign which can certainly bring a smile to everyone's face – much needed and appreciated in these trying times.

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What was the brief? 

The brief was to find an artist to create a new piece of art for the office lobby. But instead, the team and I decided to take the budget and do it ourselves. We noticed that while we had some amazing commissioned artworks around the office, the novelty tends to wear off after a few months, so we set out to create something everyone in the office can own. 

How did the initial pitch/brainstorming phase go? 

Like all good ideas, it started with a silly joke. “What if we just use the budget to buy a black sheep?” But obviously, that idea didn’t fly because we couldn’t find one. Eventually, we landed on building a virtual pet sheep and explored various ways to bring it to life. And while it’s important to include basic functionalities like feeding, sleeping and playing, we wanted it to have a personality. It needed to capture the virtues and spirit of the BBH black sheep.

Tell us more about the concept. Why was it the right choice?

We did not want to trap our virtual sheep behind a cold TV monitor. That is why we decide to explore electromagnetic display technology like Flip-Dot panels, which gives an elegant tactile experience to the installation. Over 3000 magnetic dots brought our sheep to life and also inspired the name of our first office pet, Dotty.

Offices were opening back up after the government in Singapore announced it was safe to return from 5 October 2020. Dotty was right there. Ready to greet every single one of the team, in exchange for their love and attention.

What was the production process like? How long did it take, and what was the biggest challenge?

We partnered with local experiential production company Insert Coin and worked through the development of bringing Dotty to life. On our part, we came up with the design of Dotty and also the backend logic of how Dotty would work. Alongside the basic functions were various special features like lunch recommendations and our favourite selfie function. The entire process took about 2 months where the bulk of the time was just waiting for the Flip-Dot display panels to be shipped over to Singapore as they were made-to-order.

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

Amidst the crazy year of 2020, let’s not forget to be good and nice, and remember to keep the Black sheep spirit alive…  Quite literally.  

We wanted to show that amidst the pandemic and all that’s happening around the world, we have something that fellow Black Sheep can look forward to when they come back to the office

What do you hope it achieves for the team? 

The only ROI we hope to get out of this pet project is to bring a smile to the face of any BBHer and guest that steps into our office. And if Dotty makes you go “Awww…” Give it a treat!

How satisfying is it to see it out there after so much hard work?

It’s a wonderful feeling to see that our little creation has managed to bring a smile to many of our colleague’s faces. It was especially rewarding after knowing that some of us have been going through a tough year so far.

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