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    Oliver Beeston: The Impact of Combining Technology and Creativity

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    Oliver Beeston, Executive Creative Director and Creative Partner at independent agency REUNION, brings a completely unique level of creativity to the industry.

    Oliver brings his previous experience in the agency field and what he learned from his time as creative lead at Metaverse to his new position at REUNION. This approach is already paying off with REUNION's latest Red Balloon campaign and his seamless integration of AI imagery.

    During his time as creative lead at Metaverse, he learned a myriad of skills related to the link between virtual reality, mixed reality, and was designed specifically for the Oculus Quest Pro, which was announced at Meta Connect 2022.

    Oliver tells LBB's Casey Martin why human insight is the most important advantage within the industry.

    LBB> Firstly, as a child, were you a creative kid who doodled in the margins, or a strategic kid with a well-organized plan?

    Oliver> It's definitely the former. In fact, I draw anything I can get my hands on. As it turns out, I was a pretty average student in most subjects except art, but not in art. I went to college to study classical drawing and printmaking and majored in lithography. It seemed like a good idea to do what I like.

    LBB> Moving from the agency space to the Metaverse was a big leap, what did you learn while working as the creative lead for the APAC Metaverse?

    Oliver> The idea of ​​a metaverse has come under a lot of criticism in recent years, perhaps because most people expected it to become a reality within just a few months, when in reality it would take at least 10 to 15 years. Probably because it was. Also, people tend to think of it as a single virtual experience or product, which is likely a result of Meta's focus on the Horizon Worlds platform. In fact, the Metaverse is just the next phase of the mobile Internet. What comes next after mobile phones? And how will we experience what the Internet will become?

    Have you ever used Alexa to add milk to your shopping list? Have you used Google Maps' turn-by-turn navigation? Have you ever used IKEA's app to make virtual furniture fit your home? If you have checked this, you have experienced the Metaverse in your living room. Although unglamorous, these experiences all rely on blurring the lines between the virtual and physical worlds.

    Each stage of the Internet had its own original experience. Web 1.0 was one-way, non-interactive due to the lack of “write” functionality, and was experienced through desktop computers. Web 2.0 provided read/write capabilities and enabled interactivity, internet banking, social media, the Harlem Shake, and trolling in comments. Currently, we experience it primarily via mobile.

    The next phase of the web, called Web 3.0 or the decentralized web, is built on blockchain, and we're seeing early uses of blockchain, along with the trials and tribulations of cryptocurrencies, NFTs, and smart contracts. Masu.

    The big question is how will we all experience this next stage? Yes, we will continue to use smartphones, but something else will inevitably emerge. There is now a completely different group of nascent technologies that give us the opportunity to realize our ideas in completely new ways.

    Existing open source technologies like WebXR, pixel streaming through Unity and Unreal Engine, and real-time 3D capture technologies like NERF and Gaussian Splats increasingly enable interactivity in ways that feel frictionless and magical at the same time. You will be able to do it. The sum of all these experiences will ultimately be called the metaverse. It's more of a situation than a place.

    In terms of thinking about creativity, we have all moved from being viewers to being doers, experiencing content rather than just watching it. In fact, there is no such thing as an “audience” anymore, only participants.

    With this in mind, we need to rethink creativity in the metaverse. We need new ways of storytelling. As well as the rise of mobile-first video in short-form formats, from 16:9 to 9:16, we moved from linear story arcs to non-linear story arcs. We need to rethink how interactivity affects our ideas.

    How do you write a story of an experience that allows people to start where they want, choose the order of how they participate, and ultimately guide the outcome of their ideas? Three ways to guide creative thinking in the metaverse The basic principles are what we call the three “Cs.”

    coexistence – Ability to participate in shared experiences virtually with people who are not physically present

    continuous – Ability to take your experiences and assets with you wherever you go, regardless of platform or outside of the app

    co-creation – Ability to build and influence these experiences together

    LBB> What do you think about the combination of creativity and technology? Do you think both have a role in enhancing each other?

    Oliver> Simply put, technology should always support creativity. The long answer is that the term technology can be misleading. As creators, we are taught to think in tick boxes: TV, radio, print, OOH, digital displays, all of which are essentially technologies. However, social media is not a technology, it is a behavior. Once you start thinking about your work that way, the opportunities are endless.

    I originally moved to Facebook to learn how to function on a small screen. What I've really learned is to start by putting my smartphone aside and thinking about what people are doing, both online and offline.

    I think of social media as “ideas are born when they are placed in the hands of the audience.'' How do ideas survive or die with their participation? How do interactions stimulate ideas? Taking this perspective, Skinny Mobile's “Phone it in,'' “Best Job in the World” and even “Live AID”. It's an idea that's been in culture long before mobile existed. It was over the phone and on Instagram, but it was incredibly interactive.

    In essence, there is no point in adopting technology for technology's sake. We need to encourage action.

    LBB> What skills did you bring from the agency world to the Metaverse and vice versa, and what skills did you bring back to the advertising world?

    Oliver> One thing that will never change is the need for genuine human insight, truths that people can grasp and relate to. That's what I put into Meta, and all of my best work depended on it. You can't start with a small screen and work outward. We need to start with being human and work backwards.

    The biggest takeaway from Meta was the greater behavioral considerations mentioned above. What can you leverage that people are already doing offline or online? How can you help them? If you can develop an idea that exists at the intersection of existing behaviors, you don't need to create another ad to lead someone somewhere.

    We spend most of our time developing disruptive campaigns that ask people to take unexpected journeys to find work with us. If we do it right, we give people a reason to want to participate, and we end up with something like Nike's Chalkbot or Bunnings' Sausage She Sizzle.

    LBB> When it comes to traditional advertising formats like TVC, print, and radio, which one brings you the most joy?

    Oliver> I think there's something special about film from a craft perspective. I really enjoy the process from idea to production and the variety of collaboration.

    LBB> What do you think about using AI to enhance TVCs and print/social campaigns? And how can creatives leverage AI?

    Oliver> At REUNION, we embrace any tools at our disposal to develop and execute ideas. AI is just one tool in that suite. Redballoon's recent campaign used generative AI in part to develop a series of images that captured the feeling of an unforgettable experience, both in moment and memory. From a logistical perspective, AI was the single biggest factor in developing a campaign that would not have been possible on budget.

    Beyond execution, one of the most promising applications of AI is the way it complements the process of ideation and inspiration. I work with several creators who regularly incorporate generative AI into their workflows when brainstorming visual elements such as theming influences, abstract design elements, textures, packing, storyboards, and character and environment design. I know.

    LBB> Virtual production is still very new in the production world. LED light stages are increasingly being used in TVCs, do you think this trend will continue or will it start to die out as AI is on everyone's lips? Do you think there is?

    Oliver> We recently used Virtual Production to capture Redballoon's entire Christmas movie assets. We found that this gave us a level of control and flexibility that was not possible with traditional cinema.

    Virtual production is transforming entire industries, and AI is only accelerating this trend. The number of LED stages is exploding locally, most notably at Brisbane's SteelBridge and Melbourne's NantStudios, but the reality is that even without the physical aspect, the creative potential of virtual production The possibilities are huge.

    Consider last year's release of Unreal Engine 5 and the fact that Epic has created an entire division dedicated to developing virtual car content that is indistinguishable from traditional footage. Similarly, agencies such as Impossible Objects and Hidden Switch in the US have been using VP to blur the line between advertising content and interactive experiences for some time.

    Rather than developing a “matching baggage” suite of different assets for different formats, we use VP to create a single package that can be applied to different media in a truly integrated way throughout the film. I believe we are entering an era where you can create a single virtual project. , Social, Digital OOH, Web, Owned Assets, Interactive Activations.

    Imagine a car ad on BVOD where the color and trim style of the vehicle changes depending on how the viewer interacts with it on mobile. Chances are, the outfits, styles, and colors throughout a major fashion campaign change from moment to moment based on how your social audience is responding to the campaign. Or maybe a digital OOH tourism campaign always shows the same scenery, but the time and weather matches real-time data from Fiji or Hawaii.

    LBB> On a recent episode of Netflix's Glow Up, we saw designs created for Metaverse Fashion Week runway looks. Do you think this blurring between the real and digital worlds will become more pronounced as time goes on?

    Oliver> I think we'll see more of this in the future. In effect, we are talking about digital twinning, which is often used when trying to predict the behavior of physical objects or processes.

    The promise of the Metaverse and its supporting technologies is that the nature of digital ownership and identity will be expanded. So when you create or buy something virtual, you can take that virtual item, experience, or asset to different platforms wherever you go. It's a bit like buying a movie on Apple and watching it stream on Netflix. This openness should encourage people to participate more in the digital economy.

    Another aspect of this is that with blockchain we now have a secure ledger that allows us to manage digital ownership in ways that were not possible before. So not only can you apply your unique real-world skills to a virtual experience, but you can retain ownership of what you create in that space.

    It can be said that we have already entered an era in which advertising is adapting to this trend. Brands like Nike, Coca-Cola, Gucci, and Disney are all developing virtual versions of their physical products. Similarly, Australian digital artists like Michaela Stafford and Helena Don have blazed a trail as creators in collaborations with brands such as Mecca, Coachella and Dior.

    My take on this is that you don't need to replicate everything for digital platforms. In fact, the basic rule for brands is not to replicate a real-world presence, but to replicate a real-world promise.

    LBB> Finally, if you had to describe your work to someone outside of your industry, what would you say?

    Oliver> Our agency, REUNION, helps you use creativity to solve business and communication challenges in a collaborative way. My personal role is to manage and curate the entire creative output of the agency.

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