Double the Engagement, with Live Avatars

The Challenge

Large companies are always looking for ways to improve engagement in their trade show booths, so they can accomplish other goals. In this case, our client had vouchers to give to the show attendees, but they were concerned that the attendees didn’t know the vouchers for the important offer were available. And the client couldn’t directly advertise it. So they needed to start with solving the attention problem.

The Solution

Ogilvy Healthcare of NYC was the lead ad agency for this client, who had used avatars at a trade show event in Europe the year before. They turned to CHOPS to create two custom characters that were to be placed on opposite corners of the booth, catching traffic in both directions. CHOPS provided our brand ambassadors, Avis Wrentmore and Dana Stamos to be out front, interacting with the attendees and the avatars, demonstrating how much fun it all was, and getting people to come inside.

Working with Gary and the CHOPS team was an incredible experience. CHOPS exceeded our expectations, increased traffic to our booth and made the overall experience fun and exciting. Can’t wait to do it all again.

Karissa Laur

Product Marketing Manager, AstraZeneca

Ten to fifteen times more unique leads were collected in three days of exhibiting than the previous year, and the 30x40-ft. booth was constantly crowded with visitors during the event at Moscone Center in San Francisco in May.


The first line of attraction started with a pair of custom interactive avatars that greeted and welcomed the doctors into the booth from flat screens mounted on towers near the aisles. The avatars resembled funny cartoon characters and were developed and performed by CHOPS & Assoc. Live Animation of Carson City, NV.

Daniel LearningsworthGary Jesch, executive producer and developer of the original Digital Puppeteer technology, was chosen by Ogilvy after a long search around the globe for a company that could provide professional performance animation services at the level required by AstraZeneca.

The USA-based brand managers and marketing directors of AstraZeneca heard that their European counterparts had also used live animation at a big tradeshow in Europe and wanted to make it part of their own presentation this year.


The actors performing as the avatars were able to see, hear and speak with the doctors in attendance, and promoted their visits into the booth, where the next stage of interaction came alive, in the form of a passport-sized booklet. When an attendee attended a patient detail station presentation from a live iPad connected to a large flat screen, he got his “Passport” stamped. Three stamps later, one for each patient scenario, and the attendee was given a voucher for his or her own copy of a desk reference version of the industry-standard guidelines which was due to be shipped out about two weeks after the convention.

The guidelines were a coveted trade show item costing more than $125 online, so there were many doctors anxious to get on the distribution list.


The buzz on the trade show floor started with the interactive avatars and drew hundreds to the booths, making it challenging for the booth staff to keep up with demand. One of the bigger problems of the first day was having enough stamps and lead recorders to process about 1400 visitors in 6 hours, and it seemed like the two days following were just as active.

Kira Gurnee at controls of Digital Puppeteer

Kira Gurnee at controls of 3D Digital Puppeteer

Gary Jesch, who performed as “Daniel Learningsworth” on the avatar screen, worked with his lead 3D artist, Tom Knight, to make the two virtual characters as visually appealing as possible. He collaborated with OCH’s creative director Jeff Bratteson and developed a male and female character that are now owned by AstraZeneca and can be used by other product divisions at other trade shows around the world, backed by Jesch’s performance animation services. The female character was “Beverly Sweetwater,” performed by Kira Gurnee of Los Angeles, who constantly engaged attendees while working from inside a 5x5-ft. closet in the back of the booth. She was assisted by Dana Stamos of CHOPS & Assoc., who also served as a “front-person” during much of the trade show.


CHOPS Staff at workHaving a “front-person” was one of the keys to the success of the avatars, so that the show attendees could see that it was OK and fun to interact with the cartoon characters. Even then, there were some doctors who just weren’t too comfortable with the first-ever experience of talking with a character on a screen and having it talk back. Those who saw Stamos or one of the front-persons interacting got the idea that it was interesting and that the avatars had an important purpose and message for the attendees – that they could obtain a free desk reference by taking the journey in the booth.

AstraZeneca’s booth builder, Expotechnik out of Suwanee, GA, and their AV specialists from 4Productions were a little amazed that so much animation could be happening from such small workspaces. Jesch had managed all the intricate details in preparation for the three-day performance, including his sound-proofing materials, extra cables under the carpets before the booth structures went up and enough staff to keep the show going for six hours a day without interruption.

The characters never interacted with each other because they were shown on screens at opposite ends of the booth. Gurnee’s character, “Beverly,” met attendees at a busy intersection on the aisle, while Jesch’s character, “Daniel,” greeted them on their way to and from a coffee set-up and break area. And even some of AZ’s neighbors got into the act – fellow exhibitors enjoyed the extra attention the avatars provided and how they engaged the doctors and industry specialists.

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