2013 Digital PR Awards: Digital PR Campaign – $200-$500K

Winner: Cone Communications - National Parks Go Digital: Cone Communications launch of Nature Valley Trail View

Nature Valley Trail View (NVTV), created by agency McCann Erickson (McCann) in 2012, is a digital platform offering 300-plus miles of immersive content for three of America's most iconic national parks: the Great Smokies, the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone.

Cone was charged with developing the NVTV communications strategy and launch approach. Planning team research indicated that NVTV represented many technological firsts, including the first application of experiential, street-view style camera technology to the national parks. Cone seized the opportunity to unite two seemingly conflicting consumer passions: technology and the great outdoors. The team identified South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) as a perfect launching pad for NVTV because the iconic SXSWi festival is well-known as a place where new technologies debut. In addition, a SXSWi presence would allow Nature Valley—a granola bar maker—implied credibility in the consumer tech space.

Working with Mashable allowed Nature Valley to align itself with a reputable brand in the technology and social media space, and to leverage a heavily trafficked SXSWi venue; however, selling them on a sponsorship by a granola bar company was met with resistance. But perseverance prevailed and on March 11, 2012, guests poured through local Austin hot spot Buffalo Billiards, the venue Mashable rented to host the event.

Throughout the evening, guests experienced NVTV in real time—"hiking" the trails via interactive iPad and flat screen displays and engaging with the production crew and brand representatives. Interviews were held with Popular Mechanics, Backpacker Magazine and the founder and CEO of Mashable, Pete Cashmore, who commented on the brand's ambition and the impressive scope of the new technology.

Real-time, social media chatter was overwhelmingly positive—ranging from "It's so cool a company like Nature Valley did this" to "This is the best thing I've seen so far at SXSWi"—and influencers lauded General Mills as one of the only CPG companies making an impact at SXSWi.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Puget Sound Energy with Colehour + Cohen - Re-Energized by Design
  • Vanderbilt University - Vital Stats: Vanderbilt University Statewide Economic Impact
  • Weber Shandwick - MilkPEP "REFUEL | got chocolate milk?"