According to the Food and Drink Federation, there is a need to attract 109,000 new recruits into the food industry by 2022. As one of the largest customers of British agriculture, McDonald’s UK looked to lead the way with the ‘Follow Our Foodsteps’ campaign in kick-starting a new recruitment drive needed to safeguard the future of farming. The deployed experiences had to be installed within a 14m articulated lorry, to be driven between nationwide events, expected to be in operation for 3+ years.
The campaign was designed to champion British and Irish farming and agriculture industries, to attract and inspire young people into thinking about opportunities afforded to them within the sectors, by raising awareness of different skillsets required. This would be achieved by having a physical presence at a series of countryside and agriculture-focused events nationwide. VR was used to convey one challenging element of the food supply chain as an attractor and realistic experience of potato farming, with a fun, gamified element.
Research, conducted by YouGov among 2,000 consumers, reveals that the public’s love of eating out hides underlying questions about food sourcing and production, which is fuelling a skills gap across the food and farming industries:
The main, hero VR experience, ‘Top of the Crop’ was deployed using high-end gaming Windows-based PCs (running off either an event electrical power source or via on-truck generator) driving the PC VR serious game on Oculus Rift headsets. Input was via ‘Farming Simulator’ steering wheel and pedals, installed within a physical mock-up wooden-shell tractor, complete with real seats.
The VR headsets and sensors, steering wheel and pedals were used outside of the truck, with all USB3 and HDMI signals extended over 10m from the high-end gaming PCs located within the truck. A single 100-inch 4K TV was mounted on the side of the truck to allow the audience a bird’s eye view of the harvesting action.
The other component, a series of 360º films, were shot with dual Kodak PixPro SP360 cameras mounted back-to-back and delivered on Samsung GearVR headsets at launch, later upgraded to Oculus Go headsets for improved operational ease of use.
The product was co-created with progressive young farmers with three young female farmers who were undertaking the 12-month McDonald’s UK training programme. Onsite location visits to potato farms by the development team ensured realistic sensation of being in a tractor cab, in regards to layout, space and sounds, was conveyed by the experience. In-cab voice-over for instructions and guidance was provided by a McCain’s potato farmer for authenticity.
To create the 360º films, Make Real worked with local immersive studio FutureVisual to capture and edit the footage onsite at five locales; a meat processing plant, a chicken McNugget factory, a dairy farm and an egg farm. Initially deployed via Samsung VR media player, a bespoke app was later created that contained all 360º films and additional 2D content for easy selection with the Oculus Go input controller.
Design was kept as simple as possible in order to accommodate the expectation that each event would have additional operators supplemented from local McDonald’s restaurants with unknown technical abilities.
For the initial media launch day in early 2016, Make Real was able to make use of our close relationship with Oculus in order to ensure Oculus Rift VR headsets were available, ahead of the global consumer launch of the device.
The initial campaign generated a considerable volume and quality of media coverage, with 42M unique insights across the 60+ press articles published in print and online, where ‘Top of the Crop’ was the standout asset, including The Guardian, Huffington Post, Farming Weekly and BBC Radio 4.
The campaign overall increased positive public perception of McDonald’s UK as a campaigner for quality ingredients and career opportunities within the food and farming industries.
The VR installation remained operational for three years across approximately 10 events per year, with only annual content updates being required or added, without breakdown or maintenance being required.
The Oculus Go devices are regularly used at skills fairs to attract young farmers to working with McDonald’s.
In 2018, the Top of the Crop experience was localised and deployed in Italy for McDonald’s IT events and in 2019, deployed in the US for the annual global meeting of McCain employees.
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