Just came across this story. It’s from September 2011, so after Burning Man announced their non-profit vision, but just before I started this blog. Exhibitor Online has a piece on how Burning Man was the inspiration for an Intel corporate stand with product demos, a merger between the two cultures. The result was a huge hit, bringing nearly 40,000 new Twitter followers. They smashed their goal of glow stick wielding attendees at “The Big Reveal”, the high point of “the world’s biggest geekfest“.
They spent $50k to create SiMan (uhhhh…how is that pronounced, again?). First, from Intel’s SiMan Release:
No one would ever confuse the Intel Developer Forum with Burning Man, but the upcoming tech industry event in San Francisco will boast at least a hint of the annual counter-cultural festival in the Nevada desert.
The completed SiMan towered over attendees at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco.
He’s called SiMan, short for Silicon Man, and on the second day of Intel’s big geekfest, he will stand an imposing 18 feet high inside Moscone Center West. While that height pales in comparison to the 50-foot-tall effigy that burned to the ground earlier this month to the delight of some 50,000 desert-dwelling self-stylists, some wearing nothing but a free spirit, SiMan promises to be a behemoth impressive in his own right.
Besides being regaled by a fully clothed crowd and remaining indoors, SiMan isn’t destined for a fiery end. Rather, he will be gloriously illuminated with 1,500 LED bulbs strung together with 180 feet of wiring. And his masters plan to let him live on to serve as a beacon for an embedded future.
The SiMan Masters are un-named. Was this entire affair in fact a symbolic beacon for the future of our culture, in its new *cough* “non-profit” *cough* structure?
Keep a lookout for SiMan Feather Flags on the Playa.
Re-blogged from Exhibitoronline.com. Emphasis and comments ours; interpretation of the Tin Principles, theirs.
he merger of Burning Man and corporate America is about as likely as Lady Gaga and Warren Buffet hooking up. For while corporate America is driven by a relentless pursuit of the almighty dollar, Burning Man is based on the idea of creating a radical, spontaneous community absolutely void of commercialism.
Drawing upwards of 45,000 people to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, the art-festival-slash-self-expression event culminates in the burning of a human effigy that towers 80 feet above the masses. The weeklong affair challenges visitors (aka burners) to contribute to the pop-up populous, be it by building the human form, sharing their creativity, and/or ensuring that the experience leaves nary a trace upon the desert after its completion. What’s more, Burning Man is based on 10 guiding principles, including complete inclusion (as there are no prerequisites for “community” membership), participation (attendees must be participants, not spectators), and “decommodification” (commercial sponsorships, transactions, and advertising are strictly prohibited). So as you can see, in the eyes of dollar-driven corporate America, Burning Man is pretty much the antichrist.
Nevertheless, Intel Corp.’s Intelligent Systems Group (ISG) made a deal with the devil at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF). Held Sept. 13 – 15, 2011, at San Francisco’s Moscone Center [note – next to BMHQ at the time – Ed.], IDF is an annual trade show and educational conference that hosts roughly 5,000 developers and programmers, i.e., the people that dream up the whiz-bang software, hardware, and applications that run on Intel architecture. Here, the ISG hoped its booth would fulfill traditional corporate goals, such as generating awareness and fostering Intel’s position as a technology and thought leader. But according to Len Klebba, who oversees event marketing for the ISG, it also wanted to nurture creativity and cultivate a sense of community between the ISG and attendees. [with glowsticks! – Ed.] And given these atypical aspirations, Burning Man and the ISG were a match made in exhibit-marketing heaven.
To further comprehend why the ISG’s mismatched marriage made sense, it’s important to understand a little bit more about the ISG and IDF. Simply put, the ISG sells microprocessor technology that’s embedded within devices or components to enable smart connectivity [blah blah] … “The ISG came to us and said, ‘Give us your craziest out-of-the-box ideas that will make us the talk of the show,'” Trompeter says. “We tossed out a few concepts, but before long, Burning Man trotted to the forefront.”
So how does a seemingly impossible union between Burning Man and corporate America avoid a Romeo and Juliet-style demise? “If you think about it, Burning Man is actually a perfect analogy for the ISG,” says Kristin Veach, Live Marketing’s senior vice president of marketing and business development. “Our idea was to allow attendees to embellish and assemble a Burning Man-style human form during the show and to pair this activity with product demos, giveaways, and a show-stopping reveal.”
The Burning Man concept, then, would expose attendees to Intel products, and foster creativity and a sense of community as people added their artistry to the project. And like the real Burning Man festival, the show-floor activity would culminate in a buzz-worthy event – but instead of burning the effigy, the ISG would reveal what had by then become an 18-foot-tall behemoth to the crowd. The theatrical reveal would hoist the humanoid form to a “standing” position to tower over the show floor like a pissed off Optimus Prime.
Needless to say, the ISG fell in love with the Burning Man idea, so Live Marketing forged ahead. Its first chore: Renaming the Burning Man concept. After all, this wasn’t a Burning Man event; it was an ISG event. After running into myriad copyright and corporate-communications issues, the Live Marketing and ISG team named their human effigy SiMan. The team admits the name is a little twisted, as it was concocted by reversing the “I” and “S” from ISG and giving a nod to the same letters in the ISG tagline for the show – Intelligent Connected Solutions. But despite its somewhat warped state, SiMan has a better ring than IsMan. [SiMan has a better ring? Oh dear – Ed.]
Next up was finding a company to craft SiMan’s components, including a core, a head, and various limbs, to which attendees would attach artistic embellishments. In addition, attendees would also help connect these elements (to play up the Intelligent Connected Solutions tagline) and essentially construct SiMan on site at IDF. For that, the team turned to Taylor Inc., an exhibit house based in Brampton, ON, Canada. “We started with the basic concept of a Burning Man-like structure, but with a high-tech twist,” says David Hunter, account director at Taylor. “Ultimately, we created multiple components comprising a metal frame sheathed in wood and skinned with a vinyl, multicolored computer-chip-like motif. Strings of LED lights ran throughout the elements, and tiny LED fixtures were used to create SiMan’s facial features.” [errr…and the high tech twist is? – Ed.]
With SiMan under construction, Live Marketing crafted various complementary activities and messaging. The resulting SiMan-based program – which comprised everything from the SiMan activity to partner promotions to a Will.i.am booth visit – not only exceeded the ISG’s goals; it also impressed our judges. “This idea wasn’t just cutting edge,” one judge said. “It was a unique traffic builder/integrated program hybrid that certainly must have sparked developers’ imaginations.”
With This Glow Stick, I Thee Wed [!!! – I would’ve titled this section “it’s glowtime for SiMan” – Ed]
Day two culminated in a theatrical production the likes of which IDF had never seen: Glow Time. Modeled after Burning Man’s flaming finale when the human effigy goes down in a fiery blaze of glory, Glow Time was SiMan’s moment in the sun – although to keep the fire marshals happy, the flames were replaced by glow sticks, and SiMan wasn’t reduced to a pile of ashes.
Throughout the first two days of the show, staffers and partner exhibits promoted Glow Time. In addition to handing out glow sticks, they encouraged everyone to come back to the ISG booth at the end of day two for the big reveal and grand-prize drawings. By roughly 6 p.m., more than 400 glow-stick-wielding attendees – 100 more than the ISG’s goal – swarmed the now-darkened space (achieved by turning off several overhead light fixtures in the venue). Dramatic music played in the background while the Assembly Zone’s presenter acted as the Glow Time emcee, reinforcing ISG’s “connected,” “embedded,” “community” verbiage.
With a theatrical flourish, featuring special-effects fog and spotlights, the 700-pound SiMan was raised to his full height of 18 feet and lit via his internal LEDs. Awestruck by the towering creature they’d helped create, attendees pulled out their cell phones to capture the moment and share their pictures and videos with family and friends. After a few words from the emcee and a round of applause for SiMan, the fog dispersed and the lights came up. But before attendees left, the presenter plucked two cards from the Plexiglas bin for the grand-prize netbook drawings.
When attendees returned on day three, they discovered that SiMan was still fully suspended in the Assembly Zone, sans spotlights and fog. During the day, staffers and partners encouraged attendees to decorate SiArt Pieces, but instead of attaching them to a component in the zone, attendees could attach them directly to any part of SiMan (or rather those areas they could reach without a ladder). All told, the ISG estimates that more than 700 people participated in the Assembly Zone activity, adding more than 1,000 SiArt Pieces to SiMan – a number that surpassed the ISG’s goal by more than 45 percent.
…the program’s social-media efforts garnered more than 43,000 impressions on Twitter and approximately 9,000 impressions on Facebook. Additionally, its YouTube videos scored more than 1,000 views.
“From Will.i.am to Glow Time to the Assembly Zone activity, the ISG’s Burning-Man-based program was a tremendous success,” Klebba says. “SiMan truly got attendees involved in his creation, fostered developers’ creativity, and generated amazing awareness.” So it just goes to show, despite the naysayers and the cultural (or corporate) taboos, even an unlikely marriage of polar opposites can sometimes turn into a long-term love affair.