The premise of the “More to See” theme was that, just as the television was the most powerful device for storytelling (perhaps hinting at the hat for the movies), Sharp’s Aquos product line offered the most advanced televisions, giving viewers a more vivid experience. experience through its superior color, detail and sound. One of the campaign’s five television ads featured people (a mother dressing her daughter, a man cooking, an audience in a movie theater) living their lives with their eyes closed. Finally, a woman opened her eyes in an art museum in front of the Battle of Guararapes painting by Victor Meirelles. Then a voiceover said, “The Sharp Aquos LCD TV. Suddenly there’s more to see.” Some critics objected to the underlying concept. Writing in Brandweek, Barry Janoff commented: “Taking the ad’s premise literally means implying that people can’t really see or appreciate their lives unless television is there to help them. And, furthermore, they won’t really value their own lives.” . unless they trade in their regular TVs for an Aquos. Of course, Sharp can’t tell people to go out and enjoy life by turning off their televisions.”
The “More to See” message may have been simplistic and even illogical, but the method by which the centerpiece of the campaign was delivered was as innovative as Sharp’s LCD technology. The campaign was more than multifaceted; it was in many ways an example of interactive fiction, using the different elements (TV spots, print ads, websites, and an “alternate reality game” contest) to engage the audience and keep them engaged in the campaign for months on end. This approach was intended to counter the resistance consumers had built up to 30-second commercials after years of being bombarded by them, not to mention the ability of DVR owners to skip commercials. The pioneering effort at this type of promotion was the independent film The Blair Witch Project, which created a stir by hinting in the media that the film was a student documentary project gone terribly wrong. Onlookers were led to the producer’s website, and a large number of people began debating among themselves whether the film students’ “found footage” was real or fake. When the low-budget film was released, it became the surprise hit of the summer of 1999, generating an impressive $150 million in domestic box office sales.
Sharp enlisted the services of Blair Witch producers Haxan Films to help create the mystery story around which the “More To Watch” contest and marketing campaign would revolve. The resulting tale was called “The Legend of the Sacred Urns” and consumers were invited to solve the mystery of where an eccentric millionaire had hidden three prized urns. The three television commercials that developed the plot – “The Key”, “The Pool” and “The Tooth” – wove together a “cinematic mystery”, in the words of Shoot magazine’s Bill Dunlap, “set on an estate, involving a beautiful woman, an older man in a swimming pool and a reckless driver in a Volkswagen Karmann Ghia. Marcus Robinson, writing for Boards Magazine, offered his own summary of the setup: “A guy, Peter Lindeman, is swimming in the pool of his big French chateau, and his girlfriend goes outside to meet her lover. Unfortunately, he’s massaging a toothache and had his eyes in the rearview mirror, forcing him to swerve to avoid hitting her. He ends up throwing his red sports car into the pool.”
All three ads showed the same incident from a different point of view. In “The Pool,” for example, a woman from a bedroom window watched Lindeman swim in the pool when a car suddenly flew through the air and landed in the water. A Sharp television was then shown and on its screen viewers were directed to the campaign website, Moretosee.com. The site provided audio and visual clues, and featured blogs, allegedly written by the three characters involved in the search for the three mysterious urns. Chat rooms were also available for people to ponder the mystery together. Once viewers were on the website, they had the opportunity to learn more about LCD technology and Sharp’s Aquos line of televisions. Participants were also directed to other websites to discover clues. The spots were directed by award-winning documentary filmmaker Errol Morris, whose credits include Gates of Heaven, The Thin Blue Line and Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control.
The television spots began airing in September 2004 and were shown on a variety of network and cable programming, including ABC’s Monday Night Football and CBS’s 60 Minutes. The “More to See” campaign also included print ads, executed by the Amsterdam office of Wieden & Kennedy, which also attempted to drive people to the website. After starting in the United States, “More to See” spread to 18 other countries. In an ancillary component of the campaign, Sharp opened a store in New York City, where consumers could experience the Aquos product line and where more tracks were made available. The campaign ran for four months, during the critical Christmas season, with mystery bits scattered over time. In the end, Ken Floss from Ohio solved the puzzle and won the grand prize, an Aquos TV and other home theater equipment.