Case Study — Orange Balloonacy

The world’s first balloon race across the internet

At a

The world’s first balloon race across the Internet, in which dry product information became a rich, immersive and truly unique gaming experience.

What happened

players took part in the race
worth of free media
waves and chats took place within the game
industry awards
Project Details
Back end platform dev
Technology innovation
Launch Date
November 2010

The Challenge

Communicate information about Orange tariffs to easily distracted, digitally savvy 16-24 year olds.

Our Approach

Balloonacy 2008

The game began at, where racers chose their balloon (shaped like Orange’s ‘animal tariffs’). Using simple controls, they could boost their balloon from website to website as they battled to win a holiday in Ibiza.

The racecourse was formed by ‘stitching together’ hundreds of websites using some clever behind-the-scenes coding. Any website owner (host) could be part of the course by copying and pasting a simple line of code into their html. It was effectively a networked Flash overlay, which created a linear course out of disparate websites and blogs – from individuals and global brands.

This was a media first, made possible through some smart programming and incentivising site owners with the promise of new traffic as players raced across their site. Of course, racers didn’t need to think about any of that stuff – they simply whizzed across the web, learning about the animal tariffs in the process.

Nothing like Balloonacy had ever been attempted before. 

Balloonacy 2010

Two years is a long time online. For Balloonacy’s sequel we had a far more social web to utilise. This time, Orange wanted to communicate all the extras its customers get, like free cinema tickets, free music and unlimited Internet.

To do this, we introduced new layers of gameplay in which racers completed Orange challenges to get ahead. As well as communicating the Orange extra stories, these challenges awarded racers with badges that they could brag about in their social networks.

Also new was an in-game messaging system, a social ‘wave’ function to encourage teamwork and a mobile app that enabled players to use it alongside their laptop to boost forward several screens. The physics engine was also far more sophisticated than the first Balloonacy, ensuring players enjoyed a richer, more engaging experience. 

The entire game was tweaked to maximize engagement, allowing light players to dip in and out, but giving serious players exponential reward and hidden extras. We also created fresh incentives to big-name brands to be part of the course, incorporating themselves into the game and further rewarding players. We could go on and on about the game engine, moderation processes, social media management, social network integration and generally tweaking a complex ecosystem. But we won’t. Needless to say, everyone needed a lie down at the end.

The Results

We managed to pull off the most ambitious idea that Poke has ever presented (twice), winning 14 awards and earning millions of free impressions as a result of doing something that brand, customer and website owner all got something out of.

The highlight was watching players ‘wave’ to each other; an interaction we invented to replicate the way people wave when hot air balloons pass overhead.


  • Webby Awards
    Winner ‘Telecommunications’
  • Creative Annual Review
    Winner ‘Best in Book’
  • Art Directors Club
    Gold Cube ‘Innovation’
  • Cyberlions
    Bronze ‘Innovations’
  • BIMA
    Double Winner ‘BTC & Websites 'Technology & Innovation'
  • IAB
    Winner ‘Campaign of the Year’ and ‘Best Campaign’