Pop-Up Playground: Reimagining A Space Now and Into the Future

ENGAGE successfully delivered…the playground activation with giant games, colour blocks, mod grass pods and blocks for kids to draw on with chalk.

Kate Pearce
Project Events Advisor, City of Port Phillip


Positive retailer feedback, strong social media reach and increased foot traffic were exactly what we were after when asked to create a pop-up playground in one of Melbourne's iconic urban spaces.

Brief

The City of Port Phillip had come under fire from local retailers when they decided to close busy Acland Street to vehicle traffic in mid-2017. They came to us looking for a brand activation that would deliver positive interactions and goodwill from retailers. Like many of our clients, they were facing a challenge and saw activation as a real-time, cost-effective way to change mindsets. 


Execution

Overcoming a challenge requires a real solution. In developing brand activations, identifying the solution is best done by going to the root cause of the issue. Obtaining data is a challenge; the solution is to provide a relevant reward. Creating community engagement is a challenge; local partnerships will build strong community ties. Acland Street retailers had not been backward in expressing their dissatisfaction with the closure of the famous promenade to traffic, resulting in a sudden decline in retail sales. The council had a serious PR problem, even if only in the short-term before awareness grew and the warmer months brighten the St.Kilda sands again. The solution was more people. Activity. Life. Shoppers! And more than just the presence of bodies, it was necessary to build the character of the space and create a new identity for Acland Street in the mindset of locals and retailers. 

As an experiential agency, not only do we know how to create life and draw people in, we also own the means to do it. Our warehouse holds a range of event-ready furniture, display devices, props, games, décor and styling gems. So when our event designer set about making a pop-up playground, the means were close at hand. A series of coloured shapes at various heights were strategically placed along site-lines to interrupt passers-by and create interest. Once they were in the activation space - a newly paved area joining the two sides of the now defunct road - the options to be creative, interact and while away the time were plentiful. Giant versions of chess, Jenga and Connect 4 created friendly rivalries and the chance to make new friends. Art blocks - over-sized white cubes with coloured chalk in arms reach - were an instant hit, allowing the activation to become a record of itself over the duration. The space was layered in key locations with astroturf, which managed to soften the abundance of concrete and provide additional places for kids to sit and just be. Parents were happy to sip coffee (from a local retailer!) whilst sitting on a coloured cube - exactly as we hoped they would. As this activation took place during the school holidays and across the AFL Grand Final weekend, kids and families were not in short supply, hence the need to supply materials with the dual purposes of décor and seating. 

Being a community event in a public area with a strong skew towards younger patrons, we stationed a supervisor at the activation across the 4 days. This also enabled us to maintain the cleanliness and order of the infrastructure and facilitate a speedy pack-down each night into a vacant storeroom adjacent to the site. The onsite ambassador was also able to promote the council's involvement in the project and manage 'story time', which was provided by the local library each day at the site. 

The City of Port Phillip Acland Street pop-up playground was conceived out a simple desire to be visible and attractive. Simple techniques - colour, size, interactivity - played their part, along with community integration and effective time-planning. 


Result

Aside from delivering 4 days of increased foot traffic and dwell time, the pop-up playground gave everyone a peak into what is possible. Given imaginative activations such as this one, a space will develop its own personality, which in time will create a unique desirability among people looking to benefit and align with the lifestyle on offer. Integral to building that brand is a strong showing on organic social media, which, pleasingly, was one of the strongest outcomes from our activation. Retailers, local influencers and parents were among the many post generators - one Instagram post generating 1,161 Likes. Total interactions were almost 1,400. Suffice to say the visual quality of the content was a key driver in this area - a fact we anticipated and played to. Positive feedback was also provided to staff from retailers and families, many returning multiple times. And in the ultimate salute to our playground, the inspiration for the project - the retail group - were amongst those most active on social. It just goes to show that when you overcome a challenge by offering a simple and direct solution, everyone is likely to become an advocate.  


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