We readily confess: “never a dull moment” would be an overstatement, but at B-U-T we experience on a daily basis that the world of B2B communication can be a fascinating one. Often seen as the non-creative ugly duckling in the world of communication, we are out to prove that media targeting business audiences can make an impression, both content-wise and visually.
Like B-U-T, DuPont believes some “fanciness” can add value to matter-of-fact messages. “We decided to go for more sophisticated and interactive marketing tools as this fits with the dynamic and innovative DuPont brand”, says Hubertus Devroye, DuPont Marketing & Brand Director EMEA.
With DuPont’s vision and B-U-T’s multimedia skills and creativity combined, together we managed to create four industry facing websites that all made an FWA gallery dominated by B2C websites. This is a rough - perhaps ever so slightly idealized in hindsight - account of how we pulled off four winning hands in a row.
The opening hand: DuPont in Building and Construction
DuPont is a company that “puts science to work to create sustainable solutions essential to a better, safer, healthier life for people everywhere.” Though DuPont solutions make crucial contributions to many everyday 0bjects, their role is often part of a whole that is not DuPont branded. Moreover, DuPont products are managed by a number of different business units, which makes it a challenge when it comes to presenting the integrated offering.
That’s why DuPont seizes opportunities like the Living Tomorrow exposition in Brussels, Belgium to promote its solutions to professionals and the broader general public. In the so-called House of the Future visitors can experience what the next decade has in store for their home and daily life. The science of tomorrow, including many DuPont solutions, is made visible and tangible.
In addition to their physical presence at Living Tomorrow, DuPont’s corporate marketing department had the clever idea of creating a virtual version of the House of the Future to showcase its construction offering to a global target audience. Enter B-U-T! Well, not immediately of course… The head office in Geneva was familiar with some of the work we had done for its DuPont Refinish division, but nevertheless our designs had to do the convincing.
We agreed to work with full screen photos as they would best convey the atmosphere of the house. In addition, we suggested a 3D model of the house as a navigation aid. Here we were very much left to our own devices, as no ready models existed.
We had the luxury of complementing any missing information with our own eyes. Only a 20 minute drive away from our offices, we got a personal tour of the House of the Future. Experiencing the house gave us a sense of its open and relaxed atmosphere which the site would have to convey.
With the input of the DuPont marketing department a script was made: the number of areas and hotspots were determined and the information was split up into easily digestible and thematic chunks: general product information, aesthetics, comfort and ingenuity.
Over to the development team then. With the clock ticking, programmers, Flash developers and 3D specialists had to work closely together to get the site ready by the official opening of the house. By displaying photos full-screen, the look and feel of every area in and around the house was mimicked. A slight drifting effect on mouse movements adds the suggestion you are in the room. The navigation allows a room by room tour of the house or a direct entrance to any area of choice.
All in all, the approach of this virtual tour is a classic one, with a 3D plan of the house and the appropriate product hotspots in every room. But at the same time this made it a success: the site shows what DuPont in Construction is about, how its products contribute to the House of the Future and is easy to navigate. The site received the FWA Site Of The Day Award for March 15th, 2007.
Round 2: DuPont in Energy
The excellent reception and convincing visitor statistics of the first site had given DuPont a taste for more. Next in line were DuPont’s activities in the energy sector. We were stepping outside of the confined House of the Future into the real wide world, a world of energy with very diverse products and applications for oil gas and renewable energy segments, which we somehow had to combine in a single appealing interface. The way to go was as clear as it was challenging: a 3D world of energy.
In most of our projects up until then, 3D had been a means to enrich other content, rather than the vehicle of content. Still the design team felt they were up for it, despite the ambitious deadline. The conceptual proposal was as good as spot-on for DuPont: a light and spatial world of small islands with various energy facilities. The surroundings would be lively, with impressive travel animations between islands, continuous movement like birds, clouds, or the sea, and realistic soundscapes.
Though the setting would be fictional, the 3D models would have to be 100% realistic and nothing less than perfect. The site would primarily target a specialized audience that would immediately spot any technical inconsistency. Close and frequent contacts with the team at DuPont were crucial to succeed in this.
Based on input provided by the DuPont marketing team, a script was made. It divided all the information across six locations with various hotspots focusing on applications rather than single products and services, featuring over 30 DuPont solutions at work. Next to product information, the hotspots also contain photos of the product or service in question.
Eager as they were to show off their 3D skills on the web, the designers worked quite a few late evenings to get a great result within the limited amount of time available. We managed to combine the strengths of Photoshop, Flash, 3D Studio Max, Vue and After Effects in a complex layered result that created a realistic setting.
In every detail, the site achieved what it had set out to do: to combine very diverse products and applications in a single sexy showcase. The site received the FWA Site Of The Day Award for July 3rd, 2007.
While we were on a roll: DuPont in Transportation
Next in the huge range of DuPont products was everything related to transportation, whether on road, rails, in the air or at sea. The challenge here, even more than for DuPont in Energy, was the broad scope and wide variety of almost 60 products and services in more than 85 applications.
DuPont in Energy had set a new standard for DuPont, so everyone was eager to see the birth of another impressive 3D world. But a group of fantasy-like islands wouldn’t do this time: we would need a world of movement, a bustling city with planes, trains, automobiles, boats in the harbour, we needed people in that city, we would need… an unrealistic budget…
That was one argument, but we also had a different vision of the right approach for this site. We suggested a more abstract world where every means of transportation was presented in its own right. Within an overall hi-tech and future-oriented user experience, much of the wow-factor would be in the build-up of trains, planes, automobiles and ships and the attention to detail.
Our initial proposal hit the right note with DuPont. Good thing too, because time was precious with only two months for the entire project. While we had gone for panoramic animations in the previous site, the designers could practice their attention to detail on this one. Every 3D model with hotspots is built up in elaborated, but nevertheless very fast animations.
As ever, there were some frustrations, compromises needed to be found, last-minute changes to be made,and DuPont was somewhat more reserved now than on the energy site. It goes to show how open for interpretation initial still designs can be… And how you need to be able to do better than the best you have done before on every single project. In the end, the reactions from visitors and the various awards made DuPont value the site in its own right and with its own qualities. The site received the FWA Site Of The Day Award for October 21st, 2007.
A final ace up our sleeve: DuPont & Food
The cards were entirely different again in the last hand we had to play: presenting DuPont’s activities in the food business, showing the entire trajectory from farm to fork. DuPont wanted something different, we wanted something different. Or more accurately: we hád to do something different: 3D settings would be a costly option as we would be including settings at the farm, the processing plant and the supermarket. What’s more, we feared the result would be too sterile, not lively and realistic enough.
From the start of the script to the delivery of the website, we had a mere four weeks. We made three conceptual proposals, all focusing on video footage as the dominant website feature. As a true multimedia company, we have our own in-house video crew and full infrastructure, so why not use that advantage here?
In the end we agreed on a mixture of DuPont’s own ideas and one of the B-U-T concepts, but the video idea was retained. One of the challenges would be to exclude food brands from the visuals as much as possible.
Different from the other sites, we decided to abandon the hotspot model as lots of the products to be included were hard to pinpoint on one specific hotspot. The video footage, together with the right soundscapes, would function as “scene setters” for the content categories, creating a somewhat different user experience, while still maintaining the look and feel of our previous work.
We managed to keep everything tightly under control. Video was predominant, both in stock footage and video from our own crew, so fewer designers had to be involved. The programmers were pushed to the (time) limit however, because this new concept required entirely new programming.
What’s more, we wanted to add a product finder. It allows users not only to browse the site, but also to search on product names directly. We had already planned this useful feature for the previous sites, but the idea had been abandoned then due to a lack of development time.
Were we happy with the result? In an ideal world, we might have done some things “differently” purely from a creative gut feeling, but considering the time-line given to execute the project, we were proud of a job well done. More importantly, our client was very pleased. We had managed to do something completely different and appealing, but still clearly in line with the previous work, in a very short amount of time. FWA agreed, as the site received the FWA Site Of The Day Award for January 3rd, 2008.
A new sensation
Working mainly in a B2B context, a happy client is usually the one and only measure for a job well done at B-U-T. Much of our work is used exclusively off-line and/or for limited audiences. Though the four DuPont websites still contain specialized content, they are out there for everyone to look at, and contribute to building DuPont’s image with a broader audience.
The off-line versions created together with the on-line tours are a useful sales tool for DuPont. In the course of 2008, probably about 10 language versions of the sites will be made. To draw in even more visitors, DuPont is playing with the idea of launching some further interactive multimedia tools and campaigns. B-U-T has made a number of conceptual proposals, so hopefully this story will continue in 2008.
The DuPont projects characterize the spirit at B-U-T: we try to use the potential of multimedia to the fullest and adapt it to the needs of each individual project. With DuPont, we might have decided to have four almost identical sites, but aiming to do something different and new - not for just the sake of it, but to add real value - is probably the best job satisfaction we can imagine. Oh… that and four FWA awards of course!
About the author, Wim Maris
Under the guise of copy and scriptwriter, Wim Maris tends to try to stick his nose in on any B-U-T project that requires the remotest form of content creation or revision. When the real work starts, he discretely withdraws and leaves the hard part to B-U-T’s specialists like project managers, designers, developers, programmers, cameramen or video editors.
About the client
DuPont is a science company. Founded in 1802, DuPont puts science to work by solving problems and creating solutions that make people’s lives better, safer and easier. Operating in more than 70 countries, the company offers a wide range of products and services to markets including agriculture, nutrition, electronics, communications, safety and protection, home and construction, transportation and apparel.