What started out as an idea for a company holiday card turned into a much bigger initiative for Real Chemistry, one that involves AI and an immersive experience for cancer patients.

The 2023 MM+M Agency 100 honoree’s Hopefall: A One-of-a-Kind Visualization of the Sound of Hope launched this week in partnership with the American Cancer Society (ACS) to put a unique spin on a holiday campaign.

Hopefall is supported by the ACS Hope Lodge communities, which are locations across the country that cancer patients can stay for free during treatment courses. At these Hope Lodges, patients ring a “Hope Bell” when they’ve reached remission.

For their campaign, the Real Chemistry team wanted to build something around the literal sound of hope coming from the bells — and came across the idea of cymatics, or the study of the relationship between sound vibrations and physical space.

That’s where AI came in, according to Javier Piñol, a copy supervisor at 21Grams, part of Real Chemistry.

“We’ve been looking to leverage AI and tech in the most cutting-edge, interesting ways to make a difference in patients’ lives and people’s lives in general,” Piñol said.

By using generative AI, Real Chemistry analyzed the frequency, tone and duration of the sounds of bells rung by cancer-free patients at Hope Lodges and developed geometric shapes based on each unique ring. 

The goal, according to Piñol, was to translate the vibrations of the Hope Bell into beautiful shapes and inspire these cancer patients on their road to recovery.

“As we were looking at different images of cymatics, we said, ‘Huh, those kind of look like snowflakes — that’s a happy coincidence,’” Piñol noted. “So we decided to digitize the process.”

The resulting product is an interactive website in which users can click on unique soundflakes to learn about each patient’s story. Given the personal experiences that patients have on their care journey, there are parallels between soundflakes and snowflakes.

“Just like every snowflake that falls, there’s not one [soundflake] that repeats itself,” explained Max Gold, senior art director, creative development at 21GRAMS. “Each patient came and went through this cancer journey to remission in different ways. Now they have a unique visual that represents the next chapter of their new life after treatment.”

Recognizing the ability to scale this project, the agency sought to expand the idea further and add an in-person component to it. 

Beyond the immersive digital piece, the team launched a welcoming event this week at the Hope Lodge on 32nd Street in New York City where they could “make it snow literally,” according to Kate Ebert, SVP, group creative art director at 21GRAMS.

“We wanted to marry that digital activation with something physical, because we know those things get a beautiful reaction,” Ebert noted. “When you think of snowfall, you look up. That feeling of warmth and hope is instant with snow. We wanted to bring that to New York City.”

Open to the public starting Tuesday, the event is drawing patients, family members as well as the general public to contribute their own messages of hope and support to people living with cancer.

“For the patients specifically, it’s about gathering as many messages of support and hope as we can for them to receive in the holidays, which is probably a bittersweet time for any cancer patient who doesn’t get to spend the holidays with their families as they usually would,” Piñol said.

Gold noted that while the idea originally started out as a holiday card, it evolved into something much bigger that the team hopes they can build upon. 

They want to continue expanding the Hopefall library of soundflakes going forward, inviting patients to submit their own bell ring sounds even beyond the holiday season.

“Now it’s sort of become a holiday card that’s so much bigger,” Gold said. “We were able to produce something so much bigger than the cards and so much bigger than the sound.”