It’s a busy time of year for ad agency people, many of whom have to trek back and forth from Manhattan to Queens, schlepping clients out to the U.S. Open or checking in on their brand’s marketing presence at the event.
But as much fun as taking in some tennis can be–particularly as Serena Williams pursues the first calendar year Grand Slam in women’s tennis since 1988–some ad executives actually do have some work to do, believe it or not.
So this year, one agency sent a robot out to Queens so that its executives could be at two places at once.
New York-based Momentum Worldwide, which specializes in live events marketing and “experiences,” is helping its client American Express manage its presence at the U.S. Open this year. That meant the agency needed to have employees at the event every day for more than two weeks.
Sure, there are lots of ways that folks from Momentum could keep in touch with the team back at the office, like FaceTime or Skype. But the kind of work Momentum does requires the agency’s executive to “walk through” an event setup and see it from every angle like a person visiting the Open, explained Jason Snyder, the company’s chief technology officer.
So the company sent a “telepresence robot” out to the Billy Jean King National Tennis Center to help manage American Express’ marketing efforts at the tournament.
A person can log on from a desktop computer at one location–such as the Momentum office in Manhattan–and then talk to people at the tennis center through the telepresence robot, which they can also “drive” around the event using the arrows on their computer’s keyboard. People engaging with the robot see the person controlling the robot’s face thanks to a webcam.
A “telepresence” robot allows ad executives to attend events without leaving the office.
So far, Momentum has learned some lessons regarding robot etiquette: The person controlling the bot should always pivot towards the person talking. You should introduce yourself to everyone to put them at ease. And it’s not good form to sneak up on people.
To be sure, Mr. Snyder has made it out to the U.S. Open plenty over the past few weeks. It’s hard to completely replace real-life face time with clients, and American Express has multiple live experiences in place at the event this year, including a virtual reality game where fans could simulate returning serves from tennis star Maria Sharapova, as well as a full fledged tennis court where attendees can meet athletes and work on their games.
But since Mr. Snyder is constantly on the road (London, Atlanta, New Orleans, Croatia, Turkey and Greece over the past month alone), this way he can be at the Open and the office at the same time.
Plus, members of his team can also use the robot, including engineers from numerous Momentum offices across the country who can make sure everything at the American Express event is up to snuff. Beyond the Open, the company has employed the telepresence robot for numerous other ad events the agency has helped facilitate.
This particular robot cost $3,400. But it’s paying off in office efficiency and avoided transit time, said Mr. Snyder, so there will be more to come.
“We will be growing our robot army and plan on rolling more out across North American offices as standard for my team’s tool kit,” he said.
And no, the telepresence robot did not take the 7 train out to Queens. It actually fits in a briefcase, and one of Momentum’s staffers drove it to the event. But there’s always the return trip.