How can brands unlock the emotional potential of creative technology?

The internet has changed the way we communicate and how we consume content.  We are no longer just passive consumers of media – we want to immerse ourselves in it.

And, thanks to relentless innovation in creative technology, consumers are certainly getting the opportunity to do exactly that. Whereas TV is restricted to people engaging on a passive viewing-only level, digital has the potential to engage on so many more dynamic and interactive levels.

Not only have the aesthetics of digital campaigns improved dramatically in the last few years (it’s now routine for creators of Oscar-winning visual effects to apply their top-end expertise to digital content), the ways that viewers can interact with digital content is becoming ever more sophisticated thanks to unstoppable advances in technologies.

Internet Week is currently debuting a unique combination of technologies in the form of a digital art installation called Vox. It’s a Karaoke style jukebox that throws out lyrics in 3D computer generated animation. But it’s given a killer level of engagement by combining a Kinect gaming camera so that viewers can control the CG lyrics’ movement by moving their own bodies as they visualise the lyrics’ meaning in stereoscopic 3D (true cinema-style 3D… the one that requires glasses). And it’s all done in realtime. This incredibly sophisticated level of viewer engagement opens up all types of opportunities for memorable brand experiences.

Packaging a brand in this way is powerful because the technology enables us to not just engage with a story, but to immerse ourselves in it… like a child at play.  And this, crucially, has a positive effect on our brains. So smart brands should be looking out for technological opportunities that are capable of evoking an emotional response.

Some brands are already tapping into this market by identifying opportunities for engagement that are made possible through technical and digital innovation. Audi, for example, recently created the world’s first interactive YouTube driving video where viewers can steer the car with a keyboard:

Earlier examples include Tippex ‘Shoot the Bear’ and Desperados beer.

These campaigns have generated an invaluable amount of brand buzz. Even basic technology is capable of hype, as illustrated by Google’s ‘Do a barrel roll’ stunt last week which caused a major sensation across Twitter (and even the mainstream media), despite employing some pretty primitive technology.

Even though these campaigns have all generated excitement, they’re relatively basic and don’t fully exploit the Vox-like capacity for emotional engagement. Is this because brands depend on their agencies for technologically innovative ideas, rather than talking to the technological innovators themselves?

In advertising, the creative idea has traditionally led the technology. But the ever-evolving digital landscape has now put us in a situation where the technology can – quite legitimately – lead the creative. So perhaps the best way for brands to ensure they create memorably show-stopping digital campaigns would be to open a dialogue with a new set of suppliers; suppliers that they can be sure are true technological leaders. Such a shift in protocol would truly open up a whole new world of digital potential.

Simon Whalley is Head of Digital at Oscar-winning visual effects & animation studio, Framestore (www.framestore.com). “VFX for any platform”.