Most of us can relate to the image of kids looking outside the window letting their mind wander into imaginary worlds as they travel along the road. But the back seat of most family cars today looks quite different: children sucked into screens, disconnected from what surrounds them. Research shows that 7 out of 10 kids are handed screens during long rides.
That is why we created Road Tales, a location-based audiobook app that brings highways to life. Parents can play the interactive stories through the car’s sound system and then put the phone away. The app contains multiple dynamic story chapters that are triggered by objects along the journey, like windmills, lakes and bridges. Through a mix of good old storytelling and the game ‘I spy with my little eye’, we turned screen time into family time, and thus quality time.
Describe the execution
The biggest challenge in executing this idea was to find a scalable solution that allows users to start a story at any point on the highway. Instead of creating fixed linear stories on limited segments, we created a story engine that detects objects along the road. To populate the engine with objects we used a combination of existing data points and manual research on Google Streetview, which was partly supported by a tensorflow computer vision engine. This process included scanning the entire Dutch highway system (5000 kilometers) to identify thousands of bridges, windmills, lakes and other things along the road.
We partnered with the CPNB (Dutch books authority) and worked with several illustrators and award-winning children’s book writers to make the experience feel both innovative ánd handcrafted. This way, we made sure the app felt more like magic than just a smart tech system: qualitative children's books, rather than just an ad campaign. And that's crucial if you want to grab kids’ undivided attention.
The Road Tales app can be downloaded from both the App Store and the Google Play store. Our campaign was aimed at creating awareness for Road Tales and encouraging parents to download the app. It consists of a social campaign, influencer strategy, and online video. Moreover, word of mouth amongst befriended parents (based on their positive experiences with the app) proved to be a strong and relevant driver for the campaign.
To make the story stick, we made car-stickers of the characters that were given to schools and were handed out at dealerships. Because in the end, there’s no better way to keep the stories alive than stickering ‘your’ window with your favorite characters.