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Kelsey Schwenk from Studio Thick agency talking virtual reality

Virtual Reality: how we’ll use it, Kelsey from Studio Thick

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Kelsey Schwenk is Engagement Director at Studio Thick. Thick partner with progressive businesses and organisations to reimagine their strategies, products and services for a brighter future. Kelsey leads client partnerships, guides innovation, and ensures we’re having a diverse impact on the world. We got excited with Kelsey recently talking about our experiments in virtual reality, so we spoke over Hangouts about how the world will use VR, why agencies like Thick will utilise it, and how creatives like The X Gene will execute it.

Simon J Green: Thanks for joining me Kels! So first, tell me about the exposure you and Thick have had to VR so far, even if it’s only a little. It is an emerging comms channel, after all!
Kelsey Schwenk: In our office we have an Oculus that we’ve been playing around with, but we keep up to date on what’s going on in the world with it, mostly. At the V21 Conference this year, it’s all anyone was talking about. It’s interesting – most people were looking for ways to use the tech to do something cool, not the other way around. I’m thinking it should be, “Here, I have this problem, I wish I had a way to solve it” and have VR be the solution.
S: So at the moment VR is an answer to a question no one’s yet asking? That’s why I think relationships with agencies like Thick are important. You are finding the problems businesses have. Being aware of VR’s limitations and opportunities means you can see if those problems might be solved by VR.
K: One group wanted to simulate off-roading in a truck, so they created this elaborate experience… when it probably would have cost less to just drive the truck off road in real life. It is like creating a really elaborate kids ride, and gaming was the big push, obviously.
S: Seems like the easiest way to get people aware and inside the experience. I’ve seen a VR rally driving experience. You sit next to the driver as he goes nuts in the dirt. Virtual Reality Ventures, our VR partner, always use the rollercoaster demo to quickly give people an idea of the tech.
K: One of the best examples I’ve heard of is actually not “customer” facing though. It was an agency using VR to show their clients what their designs would look like in a concept store that didn’t exist yet, so they could ‘feel’ what the space looked like before committing to the design.

Meeting Robert Redford

S: Ivy League universities have been moving those globe-style live-action cameras through their campuses, to give newly admitted students the chance to walk through before they actually get there. Tours of places and sites seems like the most obvious application – do you think it’s crucial for increasing the public’s awareness of the tech?
K: Awareness isn’t the issue… it’s access. And finding the right application that is going to make everyone out there download the app or get Google Cardboard. Tourism is an easy application for the tech, particularly for experiences where photos and videos don’t sell the experience enough. I think it has a ways to go before it becomes mainstream though – it’s almost a novelty at the moment. I could actually see it being more beneficial to having remote meetings where interpersonal exchanges are key. It’s just not the same on a web-cam.
S: What does the virtual reality space give: or more, what do you want from remote meetings, that you don’t get with today’s experience?
K: It allows you to be/move naturally, as you would in real space – you don’t have to alter your natural behaviours (other than wearing a headset). So conversations would flow more naturally, I think. And seeing reactions and emotions. When you’re giving a presentation to a blank screen, it’s impossible to know if you’re doing a good job.
S: So you could turn to someone and speak, and that would be a cue to everyone else, a cue that’s missing from today’s remote meetings?
K: Exactly! But I see entertainment as the driver – that’s where the innovation will come from.
S: True! In movies, meetings are always held with VR figures, but really it’s for the exact same reason we’re discussing: so the viewer (and the fake people in the SHIELD Security Council) can see who’s talking to whom, and convey meaning beyond a face and words.

Stories That Explode in Virtual Reality

S: Facebook is bringing in the live action, globe camera video style. What do you think that will do?
K: So is YouTube. I think it’s going to change the types of videos we see… just like GoPro did a few years ago. Hopefully, by democratising the technology, we can allow the innovative creators in the world a new vehicle/medium to show their stuff.
S: When we’ve been playing with VR, we’ve been pushing the live action(moving cameras through a space, and letting the user move through that, instead of 3D models, environments and animations). Experimenting with how the  viewer will experience the content, how we get them to look where we need them to look to tell story. But when we think as producers or for business development, we’re acutely aware that the browser-based, flattened version of interaction is most likely.
K: It’s a whole new level of cinematography. I think that’s the difference between a GIF and a movie. Both are valid forms of entertainment, but for entirely different purposes… (and budgets).
S: Almost like arthouse cinema and blockbusters – a smaller selection of dedicated audience will take up the full virtual reality experience. But when we want lots of people to see it, Facebook and YouTube will be our besties.
K: Yup. As long as they can make it easy to access and understand and create.
S: Telling stories through this VR medium: we’ve been pointed to some excellent white papers by the video game industry on how to direct stories in a sandbox world.
K: They’ve been playing with it the longest, I think. I remember seeing demos of it at PAX years ago

The Creative Struggle

S: So for those creators you’re talking about – agencies like Thick will be the ones making use of us to find solutions to client problems. What do the creators need to know, and what do the clients need to know, to make that work best?
K: The biggest thing is to find the problem to solve. Not invent a problem just because you want to use the tech. Finding an experience or a story that you want to tell that you just can’t do any other way. Otherwise it’s just playing to a fad. In the work we do at Thick, it’s finding the right channel to communicate your insights, or testing something out that would be too expensive to build otherwise! That’s probably how I see us using it in the future: using it as a tool, not the end experience.
S: Testing in a Virtual Reality sandbox. With VR audiences.
K: …and then translating that into ‘real life’, yes. Like a prototype.
S: You’d get the global audiences of the internet in a more ‘real’ appearance.
K: Well, you can test context. So you know what it’s like to be searching on a mobile phone on a busy tram. Or how you walk through a concept store, or at a construction site. It all depends on the context of your solution.
S: We could test movies in a virtual cinema, and build into the program the ability of the audience that logs in to still play with their phone – and see how bored people get of the movie. How much time is spent actually watching the screen.
K: The context in which we use our screens is very important (and often overlooked) in design and testing.

Wrap It Up Kids

S: Well thank you very much Kelsey. This is all excellent, juicy stuff. Anything you want to add in summary?
K: Just that I’m excited to see what the masses do with this tech – I have a feeling we won’t know the real potential until we make it super accessible to everyone.
S: We need the VR version of what the iPhone did for smart phones.
K: Or GoPro for video, yes.
A lion asking you for bravery designed by www.freepik.com

Fear and Bravery in Agency Land

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I’ve been thinking about creative bravery. I’m on my way to an event to launch a fun fashion initiative by Porter Novelli. Hosting the night is Mandy Griffiths (who, incidentally, is one of the speakers at This Digital Life). At the event, a collection of communications and agency folk will be there. These are the people that create and execute the marketing, advertising and general communications strategies big brands need to make you know them and choose them.

These people are the key to groundbreaking, clever, brave, innovative, creatively thrilling content. We need those strategies and influencers to tell their clients to be BRAVE, try new things. Another fantastic woman, Richenda Vermeulen, said a very similar thing in her company’s birthday blog post.

Richenda is right: brands in Australia need to take risks, try different things, seek to be different. Digital is excellent for that because it can shift and change. Best of all, you can measure the success of a brave digital campaign with real numbers and clear pathways from the creative to the BUY NOW button.

I implore our strategy aunts and uncles – please keep pushing your clients to embrace the exciting world of digital. Work with specialists in their fields, find channel suppliers who can give you bold new ideas, then sell them with vigour up the chain. That’s what I’ll be asking the people I meet tonight – how are you guys pushing your clients to be BETTER. Different. Brave.

CBS Twitter Freewheel Weather CHannel logos

CBS, Twitter, Weather Channel and FreeWheel Talk Video Content

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From Brightcove:

Recently, we brought together several of our media customers and partners for an excellent networking breakfast in New York City that included a panel discussion on how to maximize the performance of video content, as well as a session of case study-driven best practices shared by Brightcove’s CTO for Media, Albert Lai.

On the panel, CBS, Twitter, The Weather Channel and FreeWheel weighed in on opportunities for broadcasters in the year ahead, as well as how to measure the performance of video initiatives as it relates to advertising, user experience, reach and engagement across devices. Their thoughts seemed to resonate with many Brightcove customers in the room, some of whom contributed their own 2014 areas of focus in the video below after the sessions.

Cover image from old BandT

Cannes: ‘Move over Grandad’ (reblog)

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The following is a rad article we loved and got us juicy. We’re one of the creative agencies nipping at the heels of the bigguns, and our work is changing the way video is done in Australia.
The article reblogged here with permission from Kevin Macmillan’s The Works, Sydney and was originally posted on B&T.com


I was very excited heading to Cannes 2013. As I pack my suitcase to head back to Sydney, I’m even more excited.

I don’t remember a time in our industry when young creative entrepreneurs have been more at the forefront of marketing.

The ordered approach to marketing we all know from the past few decades, the approach we all understood to be the correct way is crashing down around us. It was so evident in Cannes throughout the week.

Media is going through the ringer. Research is going through the ringer. Strategy is going through the ringer. And Creativity is thriving. The young creative entrepreneurs up on stage at the talks and the seminars spoke with conviction and were wide eyed about the future.

The older speakers from the old marketing world often appeared like rabbits caught in the headlights. Whether it be the boss of a big corporate organisation or the boss of a big agency, I somehow got the vibe they were merely warning us about the changing approach to marketing, rather than actually being part of it.

It’s always more interesting to hear from the creator of something. The person who made something. Not the person who was there when it was made.

Around the world, technology is allowing young creative entrepreneurs to make more ideas, deliver them quicker to market and use real live testing. So instead of “here’s what the future looks like” the Cannes festival was much more “look what I made”.

Cannes did not feel like an ad festival. If felt like an ideas festival. A place where young creative entrepreneurs could come and share creative stuff. There was a ‘Move over Grandad, you ain’t getting this shit’feeling in the air.

It confirmed what I already thought; that the marketing world would be a better place without all the marketing bullshit.  A better place if we were all brave enough to accept what marketing really is – a simple creative idea to make people love your product.

If I’m going to take one thing away from Cannes it’s going to be this; we are in the age of making ideas, not talking just talking about them. As a creative, that is unbelievably exciting.

Kevin Macmillan is founder and creative partner at The Works Sydney

Data on how audiences react to video content

DIY + Professionally Produced = More Sales, More Happiness

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Sales and happiness aren’t necessarily one in the same, and conversion is the preferred industry term, but isn’t happiness better than sales or converting? Yeah, agreed.

At The X Gene, we produce videos to make people happy, but ultimately to get our clients sales, conversions or just getting a thumbs up. We’re completely aware that with technology advancing and prices for that tech falling, folks can make videos at home or in the office. Obviously, we’re really good at it and would prefer to do it for you, but ignoring the growing trend of DIY would be insane. Our producers actually come out and consult with companies around Melbourne, giving them hints or showing them even more cool stuff out there.

It turns out, when you combine us with you, the results are even more impressive than just DIY or pro video production on their own. That’s marriage, baby, and it’s happy.

This study by comScore and EXPO found that offering viewers and potential customers both a user-generated video along with a professionally produced how-to video, the sales, conversions and happiness increased way more than just one or the other, alone.

So, chat with us to combine your DNA with ours, and we’ll make a beautiful conversion sales happiness baby.

LINK: comScore Study Finds Professionally-Produced Video Content And User-Generated Product Videos Exhibit Strong Synergy in Driving Sales Effectiveness

Effectiveness of video and ads online

Length, Placement & Rolling Over: How Do You Perfect A Video?

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We know video is the best one of all the ones. Radio is audio. Design is static images. Copy is reading word. Video combines all of those, and moves! C’mon!

Still, proof is better than jabbering unfounded, so we’re gonna show you some examples not only of the effectiveness of video, but how to achieve the optimum effectiveness. (Hint: it’s half science, half art, just like The X Gene)

The Interactive Advertising Bureau is like our mothership. Their research council undertook a study to see just how long a video should be, and where the best place to pop it is. Here’s a quick overview, but click the link below to see the gritty details:

  • 15 seconds appears to be an optimal length for digital video creative in the pre-roll position. 5-second spots had trouble conveying a message; while 30-second spots risked turning off a viewer waiting to watch something else.
  • 30-second spots do well at conveying a complex or emotionally resonant message, but work best in user-initiated placements (where the user must take an action, like clicking on an ad or rolling over an in-text link, to begin playing the ad) where viewers display more patience for long messages.
  • Pre-roll, in-text, and in-banner video ad placements can all contribute to achieving the goals of a campaign; however, different placements may perform optimally with different creative lengths.

LINK: IAB Digital Video Ad Effectiveness Case Study