Decorate a Christmas tree online with help from Pittsburgh-based company
Toys for Tots will benefit from The Communitree
November 20, 2012 3:15 PM
Actors Alexi Morrissey, left, and Patrick Jordan host a live Web broadcast at www.thecommunitree.com from the Strip District. During the broadcast, Internet users are able to remotely control decorate a Christmas tree -- and raise money for Toys for Tots.
By Deborah M. Todd Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A local studio is using a robotic tree decorator, the Internet and the lure of charity to get holiday enthusiasts around the world to decorate a Christmas tree in Pittsburgh.
Deeplocal, an East Liberty-based innovation studio known for interactive media, has teamed up with Redwood City, Calif.-based artificial tree company Balsam Hill and Atlanta-based scented ornament company ScentSicles to launch The Communitree.
Reminiscent of a reverse claw game, Communitree is a live-streaming website where users operate equipment suspended from a ceiling in a Strip District studio to drop ornaments onto a rotating tree. Users also can drop the ornaments onto items in the living room-style set or onto actors Alexi Morrissey and Patrick Jordan, who are hosting the three-day event that began Monday.
Deep Local CEO Nathan Martin talks about The Communitree. (Video by Michael Henninger; 11/19/2012)
For every decoration attempt, ScentSicles and Balsam Hill will donate $5 to the Pittsburgh branch of Toys for Tots. Over the course of the event, Balsam Hill also give away trees to the Toys for Tots Foundation. Officials are expecting to raise $20,000.
Deeplocal did not disclose the cost of running the event.
If all goes as expected, officials say this could be the start of a new holiday tradition.
"The goal is to have this become a tradition that's done every year, like the lighting of the Rockefeller Center tree," said Kristin Petty, Deeplocal account director.
Amy Sleep, ScentSicles vice president of marketing, said the company was looking forward to the attention it could gain from the unique marketing event, but said the chance to help Toys for Tots, a Marine Corps-affiliated program designed to provide toys to less-fortunate children, was a top priority.
"The holidays are about tradition, and there's nothing about the holidays that's more pure than helping kids. That really meant a lot to us," she said.
Scott Prindle, partner and chief digital officer of the Boulder, Colo.-based marketing firm Made Movement Agency, said he turned to Deeplocal for the project because of the company's reputation with interactive events.
Founded in 2006, Deeplocal burst onto the scene in 2009 with the Nike Chalkbot, a hydraulic robot that wrote inspirational words sent via Twitter along the roads of the Tour de France for the Livestrong Foundation. Last year, the privately held small business won the Small Agency of the Year, Northeast, award from Ad Age Magazine.
Besides letting users operate the robot, the website is set up for both high- and low-tech interactions, Deeplocal CEO Nathan Martin said.
Users who log into Communitree can have an image of where their ornaments landed on the tree sent to Facebook, Twitter or as an email. Each "like" that a picture receives on Facebook raises an extra 25 cents for Toys for Tots. Additionally, bored users waiting for their turn to drop an ornament can send improv actors who are on the set a Tweet or can even give them a ring on a phone installed at the studio.
"This is designed for people to watch and enjoy or to actively participate, and at the same time is designed to demonstrate real products," Mr. Martin said.
Users can log on through www.thecommunitree.com for more information or to participate in the event, which runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Wednesday.