It’s a poor workman who appears in a new reality-based campaign for Craftsman. And, if things go wrong, he won’t be blaming his tools.
The new Craftsman "Screw*d" campaign revolves around Alan Weischedel, an acknowledged un-handy man who today will be dropped deep in the Louisiana bayou to navigate a series of hands-on challenges. He’ll be assisted by some Craftsman tools and an online community of people who know their ball peens from their dead blows. Weischedel’s immediate goal is survival. Craftsman hopes to inspire a new market of DIY-ers to grab some new tools and get to work. Along the way, producers of Screw*d are getting their own lessons in real-time, social media-enhanced storytelling in the middle of nowhere.
The campaign, created out of Y&R Chicago and produced (coincidentally) by Tool, is equal parts branded content, reality series, and interactive live-action adventure; think of it as The Truman Show meets Survivor. It’s a community-driven participatory adventure, where the crowd is partly responsible for the outcome.
After putting a call out a few months back to the carpentry-challenged, Craftsman selected actor and independent film-maker Alan Weischedel as the star of the campaign, both because of his overall lack of tool know-how, and because he had a compelling story that speaks to younger Americans who haven’t put in a lot of hammer time. While his grandfather was a clock maker, and his father was a tinkerer, Weischedel says he used to practice his trumpet in the workshop while his dad completed projects. "My dad showed me stuff," he says. "I just never paid attention long enough to do that type of thing."
To prepare him for his first "drop," Craftsman put Weischedel into a two-week boot camp near Chicago, where he learned basic tool usage through a series of tasks, such as building a bed frame, crafting a paddle, and fashioning a desk from scratch. From August 30th through October 23 he’ll be dropped in several remote locations, and presented with increasingly difficult tool-assisted challenges. He’ll get access to Craftsman tools such as a circular saw, hedge trimmers, and a digital level, as well as to tool enthusiasts who are following the campaign on the campaign site, Twitter, and Facebook. In the first segment, for example, Weischedel will have to find a drop point where food and tools await; the audience will be tweeted a terrain map to help him. He then has to build a raft, again, with the audience providing tips. After each drop, which lasts two days, Weischedel will be brought back for another boot camp. If he gets through the challenges, he'll win $50,000.
Dustin Callif, executive producer, digital at Tool, says the production relied on leveraging the best of existing technologies with a completely novel approach to film production on-the-fly.
Viewers will be able to follow Alan’s adventures through a continuous feed that will capture the action from as many angles as possible. Footage from a crew with hand-held cameras will be supplemented with a stream from a LiveU backpack—a portable video transmission pack that Weischedel will carry.
"Kind of like Survivor, they never want production to be part of the story," says Callif. There will be only two or three people in the field with the subject, including a producer and director. All other crew will be on a houseboat nearby.
Callif says that the team in place is equal parts technical and theatrical, with live-action director Matt Ogens and interactive director Grant Skinner combining their talents. Where typically a live-action director and a tech specialist will work on a project sequentially, weeks apart, here Ogens and Skinner are co-directing. Ogens is responsible for creating the overall story arc. On location, he’ll receive the live tweet stream from the audience and communicate with Weischedel, and ensure all the on-the-fly shots are framed correctly. Skinner, an accomplished developer, is ensuring the best story comes through, on location and in all audience interfaces.
It was Skinner who developed the mechanisms that allow maximum engagement between the subject and the online audience. For example, built into the Screw*d website is a sketch tool that will allow audiences to share drawings and diagrams with Weischedel through a series of tweets, or in a chat box; handy when it comes to explaining how to use a tool properly. A real-time data feed will share weather information and other vital facts with the community, which they can then relay to Weischedel.
Web viewers will be receiving all of the same materials and clues that Weischedel does, and so will be able to work through challenges at their leisure, or tackle small chunks. There are also social media analytics tools that will help the interactive production team gauge audience sentiment, and surface the most helpful tweets that come in, and bring them to Weischedel’s attention. It’s a machine with a lot of moving parts, and there’s significant risk that something could go wrong. "With everything that we have planned, there’s a very good chance that a lot of it could change," says Callif. "Being flexible is key."
Having a noob running around in the woods with its tools seems like a risky approach for Craftsman, the 80-year-old in-house tool brand of Sears, but the brand’s VP of digital media Ryan Ostrom says, "Not knowing what to do is part of the process." Beyond tinkerers and Craftsman loyalists, Ostrom says the campaign seeks to strike a nerve with first-time home buyers, and people who are getting swept up by a re-emerging DIY culture in the U.S. "We’ve all had those projects where we don’t know what we’re doing, and we wish we had someone to teach us," says Ostrom. "Tool guys love to share their knowledge."