One of the people behind the Dolmio Pepper Hacker device has said it was not just created to win awards, but admitted it is a “prototype” and will not be available for consumers to buy any time soon.
Yesterday Clemenger BBDO Sydney released a video showcasing the device, created for client Mars Foods, which it claims is able to power down TVs, shut off Wifi and mobile apps in an effort to end dinner time distractions.
Some Mumbrella commenters questioned the legitimacy of the campaign, and whether it broke Australian laws by blocking mobile phone signals.
Brendan Forster, head of creative technology at Clemenger BBDO, told Mumbrella it was a “brand campaign” based on the insight of bringing families together at meal times, and aimed to “build conversations on social networks”.
“It’s got some pretty good television coverage on The Project and the Today show so that debate has certainly started,” he said. “If that effectiveness of the campaign leads to recognition that’s a great thing for us and Dolmio and the conversations around the ideals the brand stands for.
“This is a brand premise that Dolmio sits behind, understanding how Dolmio can help families come together in the home and aid that family environment.
“Dolmio has always had this position and we think technology is potentially an inhibitor of that, and raising light to that issue through the Pepper Hacker social experiment is a good way to communicate that and the debate has already started.”
Forster was coy when asked if the agency expects to enter it into awards programs such as Cannes Lions, saying it depends on how the campaign continues to be received.
“The campaign just launched two days ago, we certainly have to monitor all the conversations going on around it and seeing whether or not it’s successful for the brand,” he said.
“But we certainly hope it is, and if it is it’s a great message we’d like to share with the world.”
How it works
The device is not an electromagnetic pulse, but rather has an effect similar to one by shutting down pre-programmed devices around the home when it is activated, Forster said. It was designed and implemented by Pollen.
It works by employing “a couple of different units that employ the technology to disable the TV, the Wifi and disable the mobile device,” Forster explained. “It’s actually a really innovative tech solution to come up with.”
The Pepper Hacker uses home automation elements to switch off anything that is plugged into the home automated switch, a device which controls certain elements around the home, for 30 minutes.
To shut down the mobile devices it uses a remote device management system which installs a profile on selected devices allowing commands or messages to be sent to it from the grinder.
“Think of it like as when you’re at an organisation – they install a profile on your phone so that they can back up information or allow authorised apps, we’ve used that in a really creative way,” said Forster.
When the Pepper Hacker is twisted an SMS command is sent to the devices on which the profile has been installed and removes all non-native apps such as Facebook and Twitter and games.
“It removes them for a period of 30 minutes but everything is re-installed after that 30 minutes,” he said. “We knew the rules around cell phone blocking and this is a really great solution that works in a home.”
This means the product is not able to be bought in a local supermarket, admitted Forster.
“At this time it’s a limited number of prototype devices that we’ve built just to basically experiment to see what happens when you remove tech from the family room,” he said.
The case study
According to Forster the experiment was “conducted within the houses of real Australian families who were unaware that anything was going to happen, only the mother of the household was in on the experiment.”
However, he admitted one Clemenger staff member was involved in the experiment.
“She asked to be a part of the experiment after hearing about the campaign, as technology affects her family’s ability to connect around the dinner table. Again, no one else in her family was aware the experiment was taking place.”
When quizzed on the comparison to an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) device, which short circuits electronic devices, Forster said the sensation is like an EMP but the technology used is not.
“Paul (Nagy, Clems Sydney ECD) said it was something like an EMP, it’s certainly not an EMP in terms of the technology but the sensation for the kids in the home is similar to that,” he said.
Pushed on if Dolmio and Clemenger BBDO Sydney was being disingenuous by presenting a more simplified device in the video Forster said “that’s part of the magic” of the campaign with the “mystery” part of what makes people watch it.
Asked what the experiment achieves for the brand, Forster said it ties into its “core premise” of bringing families together by generating a debate about the impact of technology on family life.
“The dinner table is one of those moments where the family should be together, and by using the Pepper Cracker in this way, hopefully it starts a bit of a debate about what technology is doing in the home. If Dolmio is part of that then that’s a great thing,” he said.
And on if the Pepper Hacker even cracks pepper, Forster said it was key to the design for the Pepper Hacker to do both.
“That was one of the key things of the design. It’s hollowed out. The chip is real, the batteries are real but we made sure there’s also pepper kernels in the pod so it does season as well as break down technology,” he said.