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Dunkin' Donuts Offers Up Some Special Views in VR Videos Created With Discovery


"Boats run on diesel and coffee."

That pearl of wisdom comes courtesy of Glen Miller, a tugboat captain who stars in "The Harbor That Never Sleeps," one of several new 360-degree videos from Dunkin' Donuts.

The brand's "Always Running" film series begins rolling out this week across Discovery's online platforms in a deal fashioned by Hill Holliday media agency Trilia. Produced by Discovery's creative team, with agency input, the content focuses on average folks whose busy lives are powered, at least partly, by coffee.

Despite that perky premise, the campaign's first two installments are a decidedly mellow brew, with muted, moody imagery and subtle storytelling being the flavors of the day.

In the clip below, Miller takes us on a tour of New York Harbor, the towers of Manhattan rising through the morning mist as the tug's prow parts the waves:

"The Discovery audience aligns nicely with the naturally curious and adventure-seeking segment of our broader target demographic of 18- to 49-year-olds," Nick Dunham, Dunkin's director of media, tells AdFreak. "With the emergence of virtual reality, we have been testing this technology as a means of conveying product and brand messaging through immersive storytelling. Knowing that Discovery has already done a terrific job at producing content using VR, we felt that this would be a great canvas to engage their audience."

In a second video, cell-tower worker Sean Gilhooley climbs high above the Florida Keys to share the heady view from his "office" in the sky. (Watch that spot, which is not yet public on YouTube, over on Discovery's site.)

Dunkin' wisely limits its presence to a trickle, more or less. Gilhooley takes a sip as he arrives on the job, there's a cup in Miller's wheelhouse, and the brand's logo flashes on screen to illuminate some fast facts. Still, over the course of the ads, which run about two minutes apiece, the branding never feels intrusive.

The stark visuals enhance the 360-viewing experience. You really get a feel for Miller's eerie a.m. harbor routine, the cityscape a distant gray jewel dividing sea and sky. Likewise, the rugged dirt roads and scrubby terrain leading to Gilhooley's tower, where a single concrete-block structure stands guard, lend his vignette an air of poignant isolation. As he ascends the steel rungs on his mission to facilitate connection among the masses, the desolate expanse of land and water below seem to stretch into infinity.

"We wanted to transport the viewer into the daily lives of these individuals to give a first-person perspective and feeling for what they do every day," Dunham says.

It's easy to empathize with these men and appreciate what moves them most deeply about their chosen professions. In that context, the washed-out land- and seascapes seem apropos. Scenes crammed with bright vistas and excess motion would have been gaudy distractions. (Dunkin' launched a far more caffeinated flight of fancy a few months back with its "Wingsuit" spot from Digitas LBi.)

"We also wanted stay true to our brand, which is grounded in positive energy, by selecting and featuring individuals who love and are very passionate about what they do," says Dunham. "These characters have some pretty amazing views they experience every day, so we wanted to be able to showcase what that looks like using VR."

Indeed, the Dunkin' brand seems just right for a tugboat captain and cell-tower technician. No frou-frou designer lattes for these hard-workin' Joes!

In both clips, the gritty approach is refreshingly real, evoking the texture and aroma of the meaningful moments we savor during our daily grind.

Client: Dunkin' Donuts

Production: Discovery Communications

Trilia Media:
Cynthia Glasbrenner – Group Media Director
Jeff Zannella – VP AMD
Lindsey Hagopian – Associate Media Director
Jacqueline Klein – Associate Media Director
Cam Nekoroski – Senior Media Planner
Kyle Vascovitz – Assistant Media Planner
Carlo Pugliano – Media Buyer Supervisor
Allison Scharf – AMD Media Buyer

Hill Holliday Account and Creative:
Mike Rubenstein – Integrated Producer
Luke Higgins – Account Director
Chris Damico – Creative Director
Brittany Passafaro – Account Supervisor

Dunkin' Donuts:
Nick Dunham – Director of Media
Mike Lucas – Media Manager
Kimberly Vollono – Ad Manager

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