Inside Innovation: Plastic Mobile plays with wearables

Wristbands, created in the agency's experimental lab, are being used to reward people for making small talk.

StrategyDaily is peeking behind the curtains at agencies to check out their innovative projects. If you’ve got one on your mind, send it our way.

While the Googles and the Red Bulls of the world are in constant “play” mode, the rest of us, for the most part, seldom get to let our hair loose behind the traditional office walls. But things are changing, and ad agencies are some of the first to react, as they begin to introduce innovation labs that demand a full head of imagination the minute creatives step through its doors to play.

One such agency is Plastic Mobile, a seven-year-old shop in Toronto that works exclusively in mobile marketing. It’s CEO, Sep Seyedi, defines the Innovation Lab (a single, glass-encased room at the centre of the shop’s office) as a place to “experiment, play and really take a look at what kind of things our clients could potentially be doing two, three, four years down the line” in the mobile space. The Lab prepares Plastic’s staff of engineers, developers, creatives, analysts and strategists for the future, acting as a research and development arm that anyone can use, including clients, as the agency encourages collaboration meetings with marketers.

The Hyphen project, which Plastic staffers are particularly proud of as it sits in the office lobby, was born out of the Lab and includes a vintage 1983 vending machine that’s connected to a BLE device (Bluetooth Low Energy, which the agency prefers over NFC because of its usability) to transform the offline object into an interactive digital experience. Using the Hyphen app on a mobile device, anyone can browse the products in the vending machine, investigate their nutritional content and even purchase on the spot – all without the use of buttons or dials on the machine.

“This was just the first generation. Now we’ve bubbled it down to a small USB, which we can add to restaurant and store POS,” says Seyedi, adding that shoppers can use the BLE-connected device and app to browse items, accept offers and purchase while in the store to “create a sort of self-serve experience.” Everything Plastic Mobile creates in the Lab is experimental, but it does try to “pick technology that has legs and won’t have too many usability hiccups,” he says, which it can re-imagine and re-purpose for client use in two to three years from now.

More recently, the shop created wearable wristbands for a “Proximity: Connect” event that had gamified socializing (chatting, cheers-ing and high-fiving) for party-goers. StrategyDaily visited the office recently to speak with Seyedi about what went down that night. Here’s what he had to say.

Didn’t catch last week’s shop talk at Nurun? Click here

Interview and videography by Jennifer Horn, additional footage courtesy of Plastic Mobile