By Grant Hunter, Regional Creative Director at iris Worldwide
Firstly let me set the record straight. I am NOT a member of the Illuminati. I’m the creative lead of the team at iris Worldwide who created the mascots for a certain sporting event going on in the UK. And like a proud parent, who has dropped off their loved ones at the school gates for the first time, I worry about the bullies. In the blogosphere those who shout loudest get heard the most. Being negative is always easy than seeing the positive. After all at school it’s ‘cool’ to not like anything. But that all said and done I’m loving the debate online. Wenlock and Mandeville will be the most talked about mascots in the history of the games. Bring on the naysayers who say they are creepy. Bring on the conspiracy theories that claim dark forces are at play. They are all entitled to their opinion but they all miss the point. The characters were designed to inspire young people to get involved with sport. And the simple fact is – kids love them.
I believe that Britain is best represented, by those who dare to think different. Those who aren’t afraid to fail. From the logo to the Olympic Park to the mascots themselves the organising committee could have played it safe but they didn’t. Those decisions, in my opinion, reflect a dynamic forward-looking nation. With the mascots we wanted to celebrate the diversity and richness of modern Britain. So we asked ourselves why have one or two mascots when you could have hundreds of thousands or even millions?
The worst possible outcome from our point of view would have been for the characters to have been ignored. In what will be the most social games ever, the characters had to be fit for the digital age. They needed to be able to live in many places and spaces. They already have significant followings on Twitter, their website has over 750,000 likes and more than 110,000 customised mascots have been created. And you’ll also see them animated on your TV screens on a daily basis as they explore the various sports, as the games play out. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTJqjZjWdOw&feature=youtube_gdata_player
Their singular eyes have become the main focus as some adults have called them ‘creepy’. There have been rumblings about CCTV and an Orwellian Britain. Yes, cameras are everywhere in the UK and across the world. They are in your pockets (or bags) incorporated into your smartphone. Having a camera on you at all times has become the norm. But since when has that become a negative? Cameras allow us to capture precious moments and that’s exactly how Wenlock and Mandeville use theirs. There’s no sinister sub-plot.
You only need to look at the growth of Instagram and Pinterest to see how important the sharing of those visual moments can be. Over the next few weeks countless people will have posed for photographs with the various customised Wenlocks and Mandevilles across London. Instagram is full of pictures of them already. USA Swimming world champions have posed with them . Mascot pictures of the day are popping up by the minute as people are on a mission to discover all 84 life-sized statues spread across the UK’s capital. And many more kids will go online and create their own mascots at https://mascot-games.london2012.com/
Sure, we could have created a bulldog or a pigeon. We could have given them two eyes and a mouth, but you know what? That didn’t work. It didn’t feel right. The one eye conveys ‘focus’ and as a camera lens it gave the characters a way to capture the great moments on their journey to the games. But more importantly it made them iconic and young kids love their quirkiness (and isn’t that a very British trait?). They are the first customisable mascots in the history of the Olympic and Paralympic games.
The chatter and banter will continue online as the games progress. I don’t expect everyone to love them but I do ask that you accept the two for the innocents that they are. Go and bounce around in front of your webcam with them. Customise your version of them online and rediscover your inner child. But don’t take it from me, listen to some of the people who really matter –
“I LOVE these mascots. They’re really funny and I wish they could come to my school.”
Jack, 8, Devon, England
“I think the mascots are really cool because they look like amazing robots.”
Sunil, 9, France
“It was strangely random but we thought they were really funny. They are different from other mascots and that is why we like them.”
Class 3/4, 7-9, Leeds, England
“I love them! I think they’re really different and kind of cute!”
Holly, 10, County Durham, England
“The new mascots are mad and colourful. I like the way they move and they are funny.”
Lewis, 11, London, England
“Weird but wonderful!”
Emma, 12, Sussex, England
“COOL and CUTE.”
Bob, 10, Texas, USA