Switch United is an independent Canadian studio that passionately explores interactive entertainment wherever it lives, online and offline. Specializing in multi-platform campaigns for entertainment and lifestyle related clients, this self-described creative ‘sandbox’ amalgamated in 2009 with branding leaders Fleming Design (est. 1983) and the environmental designers of DfR, to bring together a multi-disciplinary team passionate about great storytelling across mediums.
Whether it’s work on an interactive digital surface and multi-touch story ‘cube’ for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, fan engagement strategies and executions for sports franchises, or immersive cross-platform and transmedia campaigns that bring the vision of TV and film producers to digital platforms, Switch United remains focused on working at the intersections of big ideas, sound strategy, bold design, effective execution, and relevant social media and promotion.
December 3rd, 2010
Seven minutes. That’s all we had to pitch our Measure of a Man multi-platform entertainment property (in partnership with Ed Brando) to a panel of international digital content broadcasters and buyers at the Whistler Film Fest. We were up against some very strong competition – four other teams shortlisted after the Merging+Media Master Class held in October. Projects were incredibly diverse and creative, from an iPhone app for a Food Network show to a drama that unwound on the Web and TV, and we are absolutely thrilled that Measure of a Man won the NFB’s development prize. Check back for details as we move ahead with this property that crosses platforms and offers exciting opportunities for branding, sponsorship, user-generated content, and international export.
September 29th, 2010
When you think ‘themed attraction’ Disneyland might be the first thing that jumps to mind. For TAA Canada, however, themed attractions extend well beyond amusement parks, encompassing Olympics and World Expositions, trade shows, conventions, museums, science centres, and more. TAA is a non-profit association of Canadian companies that provides a broad array of services for themed attraction projects around the world. As digital storytellers fresh from creating interactive installations at the 2010 Olympics (see our Digital Gateway and the Curious Tree projects), we knew Switch could complement TAA’s already impressive roster of capabilities. We also saw the value in belonging to an organization committed to fostering and promoting home-grown expertise in the planning, design, and execution of themed attractions. We’re excited to get involved at a deeper level as our Director of New Business, Mark Ross, joins TAA’s Board of Directors and takes on the role of Communications Chair.
June 14th, 2010
Vancouver’s Olympics might be a fading memory but the 110-ft.-long interactive installation we created for the 2010 Commerce Centre at the BC Showcase is still getting ‘buzz’ via blogs, video channels, online articles, and more. Whether it’s the green architecture community, motion graphics experts, or themed event companies, our ‘people powered’ installation based on animated illustrations continues to interest people across a variety of industries. Most recently, the Digital Gateway won Applied Arts’ Photography & Illustration Awards in the Motion/Animation category. Get a glimpse of it in the latest print edition of the magazine or read about it in more depth on the Applied Arts Wire.
April 15th, 2010
When it comes to the Banff World Television Awards (the Rockies), it really IS an honour just to be nominated. With over 900 entries from 43 countries, making the shortlist in this prestigious international competition recognizing outstanding creativity and innovation in TV is, in a word, humbling. Omni Film Productions and Switch United created a cross-platform strategy for Ice Pilots, Omni Film/History Television’s real-life series about Yellowknife-based Buffalo Airways, that builds on the themes of the show while incorporating new content and new ways for fans and flying buffs to engage. In particular, the website includes an interactive Storymap that lets visitors contribute their own stories, videos, and photos about aviation North of 60. Supported by a robust social media campaign spearheaded by our partners at FanTrust, our cross-platform initiative helped Ice Pilots Season 1 become History Television’s most watched Canadian series ever. Rockie winners will be announced in June…and while we’re thrilled to be a nominee, we’ll be keeping our fingers crossed til then.
April 1st, 2010
The big news: After 27 years under different names and different divisions, our eclectic little band of multi-disciplinary designers, writers, and programmers are coming together under one name. One common goal.
SWITCH UNITED (under partners Catherine Winckler and Blair Pocock) will continue on as a small experimental studio specializing in multi-platform campaigns for entertainment and lifestyle-related clients. We look to our recent work with interactive digital installations at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics (see videos for The Digital Gateway and The Curious Tree) .. our 20 year history with Nintendo of Canada.. our award-wining bicycle branding for MEC . and our ongoing work with TV and film production companies including Omni Film and Brent Butt’s Sparrow Media .. and we know we’ve found our ‘sweet spot.’ We love bringing our love of narrative and our passion for design to multiple platforms. As of April 1st we’ll be doing it under the Switch United name. Stay tuned …
Note: Why April 1st? We figured if it was good enough for Apple Computers who started April 1, 1976 in Cupertino, CA (and we know how that story turned out!), then it marked an auspicious start for us as well.
We made it! This year we were one of the five teams chosen from 50 pitches for the second annual Digital Development Lab sponsored by CBC, BC Film, and New Media BC. Designed to support the creation of new internet activities and original interactive entertainment, the three-day lab will give Switch the opportunity to further develop our game meets storytelling world of ‘Vomby the Zompire,’ a young vegetarian misfit with a Vampire mother, Zombie father, and human brain best friend, brought to life through animation and 3D glasses accessibility. If the three-day lab with top mentors and fellow producers wasn’t enough, they actually pick a winner and a $10,000 development prize.
To celebrate the 100th Grey Cup, TSN embarked on an ambitious project: the broadcaster became a documentary filmmaker by hiring eight award-winning directors to tell eight unique Grey Cup stories. The resulting films are a national treasure; and early in the process, they tapped Switch United to take it to transmedia. Enamored with the storytelling aspect, we saw an opportunity to expand upon the documentaries as well as tell the stories they couldn’t – the hundred that make up a century of Grey Cup games. A visually compelling interface, hundreds of hours of writing and research, custom interactive video content, and a responsive design built for desktop, mobile and tablet brought the experience to life. See Website.View Video
A darker, sleeker, sexier version of a UK favorite deserves a site to match. Omnifilm Entertainment’s Canadian spin-off saw a team of experts (and the dinoaurs they’re chasing) take to the streets of Vancouver. Switch United created a cross-platform destination for a huge international audience that introduces the new cast and creatures while letting fans take part in the experience. User generated content, exclusive extras, apps, and a top-secret non-traditional engagement campaign are tools we used to ramp up the frenzy for this soon-to-be cult hit.
Interactive Adventure Game for New TV Series
For Season 1 of Omni Film and CBC’s Arctic Air, a three-part adventure game launched by Switch United created more buzz around the new hit series. Designed as an interactive graphic novel, the game invites adventurers to test their arctic survival skills by jumping over ice flows, hunting with a slingshot, and flying a damaged Cessna. The game has attracted both existing fans and new viewers alike to journey through the Arctic with main characters Krista and Bobby, whose rocky interactions add a layer of intimacy to the experience.View Website
Fan Engagement Campaign
People love cupcakes. And they really love Cupcake Girls. For the show’s third season, Switch set out to grow a community while rewarding the existing loyal fan base. Experience taught us that the fans wanted more of Heather and Lori, the show’s exuberant stars, so Facebook was the place to deliver. On it, we challenged fans to spread the word about Cupcake Girls and unlocked exclusive content when certain ‘Like’ milestones were reached. To help build buzz, we also offered the ultimate incentive: a live video chat with Heather and Lori following the season premiere. Our tactics paid off, and with the help of a dedicated community manager sustaining engagement, Facebook ‘Likes’ grew by 134%.View Website
How much is a fan worth? What about millions of them? What if you could profit from engaging fans with premium and connected content on a year-round basis? At Switch United, we help pro sport teams, venues and sponsors create new revenue streams by engaging fans in a meaningful and measurable way, and putting their passion to work. From ‘smart’ stadiums with touch screens and augmented reality tools to premium on-demand multi-platform content, we rally fans around team-owned, sponsor-ready channels. Our solutions extend reach beyond the game, beyond the venue, beyond the season, and into the everyday – resulting in new opportunities for engagement and monetization.
As main characters in Season 3 of CAUTION: May Contain Nuts (airing on APTN and BITE), self-anointed couch psychics Delmer & Marta have been brought to life online in this fortune-telling website, On Love and Money. The blue-collar couple, played by Edmonton comedians Sheldon Elter and Howie Miller, created 650 unique comedy routines for web only, programmed by Switch United so that hilarious fortunes respond to user-submitted questions on the topics of love or money. Echoing the audience’s willingness to ask almost anything, the pair vent on topics ranging from getting laid to getting laid off. Producer: Mosaic Entertainment . Funding: Bell Fund, CMF, APTN, BITE , and the Alberta Multimedia Development Fund.
Multi-Platform Campaign for TV Series
Three seasons in and the multi-platform campaign for Omni Film’s Ice Pilots NWT docu-reality series on History Television continues to engage fans and flying buffs between (and even during!) episodes. With the foundation of a strong digital strategy from Fantrust, and thanks to funding from Bell and the Canada Media Fund, we’ve been able to bring a number of innovative online ideas to life, including Season 1’s interactive ‘Storymap’ and Season 2’s ‘Social TV’ and mobile website. Season 3 was accompanied by ‘Air Hunt,’ a next-generation virtual scavenger hunt that combines social networking dynamics with traditional game play. Exceeding network and producer expectations, the multi-season campaign continues to fuel fans’ passion online and grow audience across platforms. Season 4 has just been announced.View Website
Switch United, in association with Tangible Interaction, transformed a dark, dingy corridor into a 110 ft. long interactive installation showcasing economic success stories in Canada’s West. Fifteen short-throw projectors and 45 IR sensors triggering Flash animations ‘painted’ the wall with sector-based vignettes as visitors to the 2010 Commerce Centre moved down the passageway. Original music by composer Terry Frewer, a themed environment created in association with 3DS, and a 22-page souvenir booklet completed the fully immersive, ‘people powered’ experience.View Video
Multi-Touch Digital Art Installation
When industry organization DigiBC was asked to showcase digital talent at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, Switch United was delighted to join leading Vancouver-based companies to transform a 4′X4′ cube as a digital blank slate to help tell the story of the B.C. Pavilion. By touching the fully interactive panels, multiple visitors could bring each scene to life, making flowers grow, butterflies soar, kites fly, leaves fall, icicles drip, and creatures appear magically from the tree trunk. A whimsical soundtrack was custom-engineered to sync with each touch, bringing the kind of measurable ROI we love, such as a four year old’s comment, “Mum, can we go to the place where the beach balls grow on trees?”View Video
Season Two Portal Site
Just as Hiccups the TV show brought together a talented cast (led by Nancy Robertson as outburst-prone children’s author Millie Upton and Brent Butt as her befuddled life coach Stan Dirko), Hiccups the website featured an ‘ensemble’ of its own. For Season 2, we evolved the site to accommodate a growing cast of ‘characters’ – CTV video player, webisodes, Twitter feeds, contests, behind-the-scenes content, and a social Facebook game (created by Ayogo Games).View Website
Facebook anchored the online strategy for this second-season crime show airing on OWN Canada. A branded page, curated by a Community Manager, grew and nurtured an audience of true crime fans through episode teasers, conversation starters, show extras, and a custom ‘Ace Investigator’ game.
Force Four Entertainment’s fun, fast-paced real estate show needed to build its first-season audience – so Switch United turned to Facebook. The custom page paired show information with community-building tools, including a shareable ‘Are You Urban or Suburban?’ quiz. With a steadily growing audience and online fan base, Urban Suburban was renewed for a second season.View Website
Elegance with personality. Celebratory but not overly nostalgic. Branding the 25th anniversary Gemini Awards involved a new logo and a ‘Gemini Nights’ theme centred around a commemorative artwork inspired by artist/programmer Eric (Eeepmon) Chan’s ‘Citylights’ series. Built from past program covers and award-winning TV show titles, Switch created logo, motion graphics, web interface and print collateral for this special occasion.
There are just some clients you don’t want to rein in, direct or restrict in any way. We had too much fun introducing Canada’s #1 comedian, writer, producer, filmmaker, and actor to the ways of the web, creating a ‘cyber den’ for Brent Butt’s ramblings, cartoons, photos, videos, and more.View Website
Creating an overall design concept and direction for MEC’s new line of bikes was definitely a dream job. For the urban models – an illustrative, West Coast-style with hand-drawn graphics. For the road/mountain bikes, strong lines and contrasting colour blocks to accentuate the design and contours of the bike frames. Winner of a Judge’s Choice Graphex Award for innovative branding.
Whether amalgamating the Da Vinci properties into a single site, or working on the online/offline integration of multi-platform campaigns for the critically acclaimed CBC series Intelligence (Seasons I and II), playing off the genius of creator Chris Haddock was an honour for Switch.View Website
MRM Partners, San Francisco, challenged Switch to create a viral marketing program that would create buzz for Window Media Center Edition. We responded with the tongue-in-cheek international comeback story of Milkman Mike, former Guinness World Record holder for the longest milk squirt out the eye!View Website
For over 20 years, Nintendo of Canada has trusted us with its national point-of-purchase, packaging, and design campaigns. We’ve worked on all their hardware launches from SNES to Wii, Gameboy to DS, and the majority of their software launches as well.
An interactive advergame was our solution to spread the word virally and help build an audience for A&E’s Driving Force reality show featuring drag car racing legend John Force and his beautiful drag racing daughters. Our ‘Force Family Quiz’ game let players build their own car and race against the ‘Force’ himself.View Website
Peace it Together brings together youth from Israel, Palestine, and Canada for a unique peace-building program centred on dialogue, conflict resolution, and filmmaking. Several years ago, Switch made this not-for-profit its charity of choice, initially assisting with a rebrand and continuing to provide strategy and design services as needed.View Website
We’ve always done self-promo as a way to push our creative limits. Advergames, mash-ups, buzz, viral marketing, interactive installations…no matter what it’s called, we love to experiment. Inside Out alludes to our work at the intersection of environmental design, touchscreen technologies, motion graphics, and user-driven experiences.View Video
Our inspiration for rebranding the Richmond Olympic Oval, post 2010 Winter Olympic Games, came from its distinctive architectural features and riverside setting. A family of related identities was created for the Oval and its variety of programming, helping to position it as a legacy for the community and a tribute to the games themselves.