Bridging the digital and physical worlds, one Hot Wheels car at a time

With its soaring, twisting orange and blue pieces of track, arcing around to allow tiny cars to surge down its plastic freeways, it’s easy to imagine why Hot Wheels Canada’s new Ultimate Track is a jaw-dropping exhibit for kids who love cars.

On display at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in Toronto, the exhibit is made up of more than 1,000 pieces of track and connectors, as well as 79 boosters, measuring in at over 190 meters against a backdrop that’s made to look like the average house. All told, the project took three months to design and 15 days to build, plus a round-the-clock 24-hour session when it had to be taken apart and then rebuilt at the AGO exhibition site.

The Hot Wheels Ultimate Track is on display at the Art Gallery of Ontario until March 16. (Image: Hot Wheels).
The Hot Wheels Ultimate Track is on display at the Art Gallery of Ontario until March 16. (Image: Hot Wheels).

There’s a tech aspect to the project as well – all alongside the side of the tracks, the builders have mounted a number of GoPro cameras, customized microcontrollers, and Livestream Broadcaster devices, allowing people who can’t visit the AGO to check out the exhibit online instead. They can even control parts of the track remotely, either by tweeting with specific hashtags to turn a porch light on and off, or by using the exhibit’s website to launch a car on the track or to get the cars to switch lanes.

Plus, there’s a contest challenging kids to build their own tracks and upload pictures on the site, with the winner getting a track party where Hot Wheels will send builders to make a giant indoor track in his or her house.

While the Ultimate Track is a cool project for the kids – and maybe some of their parents – it’s also a great example of melding digital marketing with the physical world, says Danielle Minard, senior manager of consumer engagement at TrojanOne Ltd., the Toronto-based marketing agency behind the campaign.

“I think the environment has changed so much, that the digital world and the physical world have to come together,” Minard says. “If we’re driving kids from that experience to online, their experience could also start online and they could be driven to come and see us [at the AGO]. It just makes it full circle.”

That means TrojanOne has been investing more heavily in technology to drive its clients’ campaigns. It’s a core part of promoting Hot Wheels’ brand, as well as the brand of its parent company, Mattel Inc., she adds.

The Hot Wheels remote car launcher. (Image: Hot Wheels).
The Hot Wheels remote car launcher. (Image: Hot Wheels).

“I just think that when we look at client priorities as well, [digital] has become such a focus for everything that we do,” she says. “In order to be fully integrated on a campaign, it’s important for us to invest in those areas. There’s no client brief anymore that you get a quick, one-off event. Everything is so integrated these days … so the digital piece is very, very important.”

In November 2013, TrojanOne was working on building out its digital subsidiary, Wondermakr, by hiring Garrett Reynolds, who comes from an engineering background.

The Hot Wheels Ultimate Track play tables. (Image: Hot Wheels).
The Hot Wheels Ultimate Track play tables. (Image: Hot Wheels).

Reynolds, who was the chief technologist and lead builder of the Ultimate Track project, says he never imagined himself working in marketing – after all, his last job was in automation engineering, something that is much more standardized.

But he says he feels his new role is one that makes sense, given how tech and marketing now work together.

“I think [tech in marketing] gives us a new avenue in being able to interact with the people passing by, as opposed to just entering contests and giveaways and stuff. But everybody now in our generation is much more tech-savvy, and much more interested in interacting with things, now they all have smartphones,” he says.

“You can harness that capability so that they can use their personal device to do something cool that they wouldn’t normally be able to do. It adds another level of involvement for the user, which just makes it much more interesting.”

The Hot Wheels Ultimate Track exhibit runs until Sunday at the AGO.

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Candice So
Candice So
Candice is a graduate of Carleton University and has worked in several newsrooms as a freelance reporter and intern, including the Edmonton Journal, the Ottawa Citizen, the Globe and Mail, and the Windsor Star. Candice is a dog lover and a coffee drinker.

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