McCann Erickson Worldwide, is a leading provider of marketing solutions for brands and businesses. One of McCann’s clients, an Australian chain of jewellers, wanted to drive brand awareness and association with diamond engagement rings in the North American market. The centrepiece of this campaign was an online contest using social media to engage customers and raise awareness of the jeweller’s brand.
McCann developed a promotion to give away a much sought after 22ct diamond. This promotion revolved around a competition called the Search for the World’s Best Couple. Participants had to complete 16 challenges over a 6 week period, uploading videos of their efforts and encouraging their family, friends and other site visitors to vote for their exploits. The couple with the most votes would be the winner. McCann were confident such a large diamond and interesting competition would generate excitement and momentum.
The project was in full swing, dates for media appearances by a notable celebrity to promote the contest were being locked in. McCann planned to use Facebook to host the contest. But it became difficult to resolve the way Facebook manages intellectual property ownership across countries, so they decided the only way around it was to create their own platform. McCann needed a global platform that enabled:
The technology challenges associated with developing their own global platform that had the scale to handle large traffic spikes meant they needed an experienced partner who could help them deliver. ThoughtWorks agreed to take over the building, testing, and deployment of a fully functional contest site with less than 8 weeks till the launch date.
A combined ThoughtWorks/McCann team analysed the requirements and the platform work to date. The existing code base had not yet taken into account some of the key scalability and availability requirements. The team concluded that it would not be possible to complete all desired requirements within the time left to launch, and had to make difficult prioritisations. Furthermore, because McCann had no prior relationship with a hosting company, it was also up to the development team to work out how to deploy, host, and maintain the website and streaming content over the 6 week duration of the contest. Clearly, the project could only be successful with some very pragmatic outcome-driven thinking. Given the tight timelines, ThoughtWorks chose to build on the code base started by the previous team even though the platform was less than ideal for the task at hand. The development team took a highly iterative approach, working in one-week iterations and delivering tested, production-ready code at the end of each iteration. This allowed the McCann designers to quickly see the results of their ideas expressed in working software, giving them the feedback necessary to revise their designs and prioritise features for future iterations.
One of the key challenges facing ThoughtWorks was the need to create all environments for hosting this solution from the ground up. Because McCann had no previous hosting solutions, the team chose to host all their environments in the Amazon Web Services cloud. AWS provided all the infrastructure necessary to host such a site, including
Because the team did not have the luxury of a lengthy User Acceptance Testing and integration test period following development, it was imperative that they continually test in a production-like environment as the software was developed. AWS made this easy since all environments were hosted in the cloud: development, showcase, staging, UAT, production. The continuous integration builds were performed on EC2 instances, and after each check-in the environments were updated so that automated acceptance tests could be run. Since all AWS configuration was easily scripted, it was simple to start up a completely new environment for testing, complete with load balancing, application server, database, and mass storage.
The team maintained a privately accessible environment on AWS that contained the latest, up-to-date build of the contest site at all times. This allowed anyone from the McCann team or from the client to log in and see the progress of the system as it was under construction. One further advantage of the AWS model is that once the contest is finished, the servers used for this can be turned off or cut back to the essentials necessary for ongoing maintenance.
The final contest site made heavy use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter to promote the contest and connect users. This presented some complex authorisation requirements and the need to access data from other sites using the OAuth protocol.
ThoughtWorks enabled McCann Erickson to deliver a high profile brand and marketing solution to their client, complete with a full-service, scalable and reliable infrastructure, on a challenging fixed deadline. Coming into the middle of the project, ThoughtWorks worked with McCann to re-prioritise the requirements and get the solution to market within a timeframe that met their business needs. This pragmatic attitude is essential for successful software delivery, particularly under such challenging deadlines.
To learn more, visit http://www.thoughtworks.com/ .
Added July 15, 2011