Excess snot? Mucinex mascot Mr. Mucus makes airport appearance to find out

McCann recently launched a real-time interactive display featuring Mr. Mucus at the American Airlines terminal at New York's JFK Airport.--Courtesy of McCann

Travelers don't usually expect to see a slimy, smart-mouthed booger on the way to their outbound flight. But last month at New York's JFK Airport, that's exactly who they ran into.

McCann New York and health unit McCann Humancare, along with Reckitt Benckiser's Mucinex brand team, recently launched a real-time interactive display at the American Airlines terminal, starring Mr. Mucus. The green snot ball has become Mucinex's brand mascot over the years, mostly to television fame.

For the agency's latest Mr. Mucus push, McCann wanted to bring the character out into the world and have him interact with people, McCann Co-Chief Creative Officer Thomas Murphy told FiercePharmaMarketing. The effort builds on the campaign that McCann helped relaunch a couple years ago, which tries to make the character more relatable to people suffering from a cold and flu.

"In television, we usually tell stories of people who are arguing and ready to boot Mr. Mucus out of their lives," Murphy said. "In this, we want to be more interactive and take him to a place where people don't want to deal with cold and flu symptoms, and that's the airport."

At a real-time billboard in JFK, Mr. Mucus made his presence known. The little green snot monster sneezed on passersby, made jokes about the flu and asked them if they had excess snot. Meanwhile, the agency and production teams watched people's reactions that were recorded on hidden cameras, Murphy said.

Even though Mr. Mucus' behavior was obnoxious, "people had a lot of fun with him," Murphy said. "It wasn't hard getting people to interact with him."

To create the billboard, the agency relied on motion tracking technology used by movie feature directors. Producers hooked up the actor playing Mr. Mucus to sensors, and had him move how the animated character would move. The sensors tracked the motions in real time to produce a lifelike character.

The process didn't come without obstacles, though. "There was a lot of troubleshooting that had to happen," Murphy said, especially to record the character's mouth movement. Mouth motions are complex, so writing code for the animated character to translate the movements was difficult. "You always had your fingers crossed that everything works, but thankfully it did."

Many drugmakers rely on animated characters to get the word out about a brand. But McCann's latest approach with Mr. Mucus wouldn't work for every mascot, Murphy said. "One of the fun things about having this icon who has been around for a while is that he's famous. There was a bit of recognition from people. You couldn't do this with any icon."

McCann declined to comment on next steps for the interactive Mr. Mucus billboard. But the agency "got a lot of great content on the day" of the display's launch, Murphy said, which could come in handy in the future. "We're looking at using that content as we head into next season." 

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