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Last Thursday afternoon, LG hosted a battle of thumbs, assembling 26 competitors—in two-person teams representing 13 countries—at Gotham Hall for its first international texting competition. Designed to highlight the technology-driven culture and showcase the Korean mobile phone producer's latest gadgets, the LG Mobile World Cup also included an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for fastest texting.
The taped, two-hour contest was coordinated by LG's U.S. mobile phones headquarters in San Diego and the global mobile phones headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, who brought in Barkley Kalpak Associates to design broadcast-friendly scenery and, in collaboration with Korea's Eastos Marketing Communications Group, produce an event that could accommodate various technological needs.
“The LG Mobile World Cup is the direct result of the successful evolution of the LG U.S. National Texting Championship. The decision to host the international event was executed by LG as a whole but driven by the texting phenomenon. According to [the Cellular Telephone Industries Association], as a country, we sent 1.36 trillion messages in 2009. Something as common and relatable as texting deserves a 'best of' competition,” said Tim O’Brien, senior director of marketing communication for LG Mobile Phones.
To pull it off, LG wanted something that matched its messaging of aesthetics and functionality while showing off the brand's technology. “First and foremost, as much fun as the event was, the LG Mobile World Cup was a legitimate competition determined to find the world’s fastest and most accurate texters. The technology to determine the winners had to be perfectly synced to a team of monitors behind the stage,” O'Brien said.
Indeed, a back-of-house room typically used for catering prep became the base of operations for a squad of technicians who controlled the images shown on the screens and synchronized the information sent to and from the contestants' handsets and monitors with the game server. Backstage also held soundproof booths for the interpreters, who LG provided to ensure a fair playing field for the non English-speaking participants.
Up front, the producers looked to create a visually appealing set that could incorporate large video screens, displays for the contestants, and LG branding, and still have room for 26 individual competitors and more than 200 spectators. Based on the staging of television game shows, Barkley Kalpak designed a two-tiered, half-round platform with lecterns for each competitor and a central landing for the two M.C.s. Imagery of the contest was projected onto three large screens overhead and scores were posted on small LCD panels on each of the lecterns. To tackle another visual obstacle, the production team tapped Atomic Design to provide wraps to camouflage the stage's lighting truss columns and blend with the overall decor scheme.
Adding to the event's complexity was the presence of staff from Guinness World Records, who judged the attempt to break the world record for fastest texting. “During planning for LG Mobile World Cup, it dawned on us that we would have the fastest texters from around the globe in one central place. We invited Guinness to participate and by regulation, join the competition for judging,” said O'Brien, adding that the handsets used had to be supervised and never out of the sight of the Guinness staff. Additionally, LG filmed the attempt to confirm that each participant adhered to the guidelines. Pedro Matias, a competitor from Portugal, broke the record, typing a 264-character text in 1 minute and 59 seconds.
The competition itself involved five rounds of furious texting—cheered on by a rowdy crowd armed with inflatable noisemakers—after which the Korean team emerged as the winners, with 18-year-old Yeong-Ho Bae and 17-year-old Mok-Min Ha taking home the title and $100,000 prize. Americans Morgan Dynda and Kate Moore placed second, while Juan Ignacio Aufranc and Agustina Montegna from Argentina came in third.