Off the scale excitement at Crowd DNA as we open for business in the US...

With Hollie Jones – formerly associate director and New York office lead at Flamingo’s Kiosk agency – appointed as US director, we’re very proud to have now launched Crowd DNA in the US, bringing our unique mix of cultural insight and innovation capabilities to New York City.

A significant number of our strongest client relationships are via brands’ stateside offices, and we’re well versed in conducting work on the ground in the US, so launching an office in New York is as logical for us as it is, of course, highly exciting. Hollie brings great experience of working in the US market; something she combines with an excellent understanding of new methodologies and a true sense of alignment with Crowd DNA’s view on the world.

Moreover, we’re highly encouraged by how well our blend of innovative approaches, cultural and behavioural frameworks, and focus on socialising insight through powerful outputs and deep immersion is resonating with US clients.

Anticipated workstreams include trends and need state exploration, audience understanding, brand and comms development, user experience, journey mapping and product/service innovation.

To discuss Crowd DNA in the US further, please contact Andy Crysell or Hollie Jones

The World In Ten Blocks

We love fresh ways of sharing narratives and building empathy with people, and this work from Lost Time Media, an immersive journey through Toronto's multi-cultural Bloorcourt neighbourhood, gets a major thumbs up...

To borrow from the website: The World In Ten Blocks arrives at a time when documentary makers are creating immersive online experiences that explore different territory from traditional narrative films. Situated somewhere between the cutting edge of virtual reality and the old-school elegance of point-and-click adventures, Ten Blocks drops users right onto Bloor Street on a sunny afternoon and allows them to navigate a curated tour of the neighbourhood.

A plethora of videos, photos old and new and text are all woven together by the stop-motion-esque experience of taking your own walk up and down the street, stopping in on shop owners and absorbing the ambience of being there.

Enjoy! The World In Ten Blocks

Oculus Nights Out

Crowd DNA associate director Eleanor Sankey didn't think she was a gamer until she played with Oculus. Now she wants to use it in her day job...

Last week we attended an event hosted by Oculus to showcase the new content landing soon on their Rift and Gear VR. Rubbing shoulders with premier league footballers, tech and gaming bloggers, and Jonathan Ross, I wasn’t convinced it was going to be my thing.

I swore off computer games in the 90s, when SimCity 2000 saw it fitting to destroy Eltown with a hurricane, and it was going to take a lot to make me reconsider.

Kicking off, we coordinated our troops in real-time strategy game Brass Tactics before singing our hearts out in a virtual stadium in SingSpace and finally slashed our way through zombies on Killing Floor.

The experience was exhilarating, if not a little overwhelming at times! With our senses seamlessly transported into these virtual worlds it took no time at all to forget our audience and become unselfconsciously immersed in the physicality of the game. I was hooked.

2017 looks to be a pivotal year for VR with anticipated growth evolving the technology from a curiosity to a tangible tool. Transcending the gaming market, we’re already seeing it used in sports and film with the NBA broadcasting one game a week via VR headsets and Amsterdam establishing the first VR cinema in 2016.

Moving beyond the entertainment space, the technology is being used by the military to replicate conditions of real world combat when training soldiers in bomb disposal and piloting drones. Equally, in the healthcare sector, it’s proving vital for educating staff but also has the potential to revolutionise how we treat pain and physiotherapy.

At Crowd we’ve already been using VR to help immerse our clients in the lives of consumers across the globe in an intimate way that they would otherwise never have the opportunity to experience. And given my experiences last week, I’m very excited to see what we can do next.

 

In this long read, Crowd's Joey Zeelen considers how big business sustainability goals will impact consumers and political parties...

In recent years, we’ve seen more and more multinational corporations committing to make their organisations fully sustainable, while the geo-political trend (Trump et al.) is attempting to backtrack on the Paris Agreement on climate change. I find myself questioning why this progressive takeover of the private sector is happening right now? And how does this affect the consumer zeitgeist? When it comes to sustainability, are ‘progressive’ consumers still best led by governments and politicians or are they perhaps better off shifting their gaze to the corporate world?

To understand why corporations are making the sustainable switch, we need to go back three years to the desert 50 kilometres south of Dubai, where a giant solar panel project called DEWA left a tremendous mark on modern history.

There in UAE – a state paradoxically largely known for its oil reserves – a company called First Solar managed to produce renewable electricity at 5.84 USD cents per kilowatt hour. For the first time in history, thanks to this unsubsidised solar park project, it was possible to produce renewable energy for less than natural resources. Since then, projects in China, Australia, Chile, California, Italy and Jordan have followed suit, after reaching the same energy tipping point.

The simple laws of manufacturing economics are that the more you manufacture with a renewable resource, the cheaper products will become versus the more you deplete fossil materials, the more expensive products will become. The crossing of the fossil and renewable energy cost curves in Dubai opened the financial floodgates for corporations and financial institutions around the world. It sparked a revolution that according to Deutsche Bank ‘will make solar energy cheaper than fossil energy in 80% of the world in only a few years’.

By the end of this year, all Google’s offices and data centres will be powered entirely by renewable energy (from 44% to 100% in one year). The internet giant is the world’s biggest corporate buyer of renewable electricity. “We are convinced this is good for business, this is not about greenwashing,” says Marc Oman, EU energy lead at Google. “This is about locking in prices for us in the long-term. Increasingly, renewable energy is the lowest cost option. Our founders are convinced climate change is a real, immediate threat, so we have to do our part.”

Another example is Unilever; CEO Paul Polman is even known as ‘the Bono of the corporate world’. The company produces 97% less waste from its own production compared to 2008. Unilever is also aiming to reduce its water usage and CO2 emission by 50% compared to 2008 levels. In total it’s saving around $200 million a year due to less logistical, packaging and energy costs. And because investing in sustainability strengthens Unilever’s business plan, its targets are anchored into all layers of the company, even employees have to hit yearly sustainability targets.

And then there is the mighty IKEA that plants a tree for every one it cuts down. 50% of its furniture is sustainable right now and in three years this will be 100%. Last year IKEA had an annual revenue of close to €30 billion and it’s investing €2.5 billion a year in the development of renewable energy and resolving climate issues. IKEA chairman, Peter Agnefjäll, told The Financial Times that since the end of 2015, the company has continued to invest €600 million a year in the further development of wind and solar energy, and another €400 million in helping regions that are hit hardest by global warming. Incredibly, this $1 billion comes on top of the €1.5 billion that IKEA has been investing in renewable energy annually since 2009!

Obviously, this is all good publicity but it also makes perfect business sense. Since renewable production has decreased so substantially in price in the last few years, investing in renewable energy means short-term and long-term growth. Getting involved in sustainability will give corporations a leap over their future competitors that fail to do so now. Take these short-term and long-term business cases and mix them up with an incredibly unstable political climate (which means energy uncertainty) and a lot of consumer expectancy (from the latest Ubiquity Global CSR Study we know that 9/10 consumers expect companies to operate responsibly and address environmental issues) and it seems obvious that more companies will join the sustainability cause in the immediate future.

Now back to our original question: where does this leave the ‘progressive’ consumer? Strangely, but surely, I think that the contrast between the exponential growth of sustainable businesses and the eroding landscape of climate politics will account for a real paradigm shift for consumers. I expect the more ‘progressive’ consumers are let down by governments with short-term solutions for long-term problems, the more they’ll put trust in corporations to lead them forward. Consequently, in the forthcoming years, brands are going to be increasingly taking over responsibility for the future of the world in which consumers live in. This will have major implications on the relationship between consumers and companies in terms of trust, loyalty and salience, and ultimately, it will drive sales.

 

Our next Rise breakfast event in Amsterdam sees Crowd DNA director Anna Chapman lift the lid on superfans...

Date: May 11, 2017

Time: 8.15am-9am

Location: Crowd DNA, Sarphatistraat 49, Amsterdam

This is the story of fame, obsession and social currency.

Once upon a time no one cared very much about fans or their opinions. Then along came the internet and a powerful group of superfans emerged. Soon everyone wanted to be their best friend.

In our latest Rise breakfast session, we map the evolution of fandom from undesirable outsiders to impassioned influencers. We’ll answer questions like: what turns people into Beliebers in the first place and what do they get from the experience? Most importantly, what are the implications for brands and where’s this whole superfandom thing heading?

Contact Judith Lieftink if you’d like to channel your inner fan on May 11.

Warning: this trailer isn’t suitable for people of a nervous disposition.

Crowd DNA filmmaker Tom Eccles explores the latest broadcasting tech at BVE 2017 in London...

BVE is one of the UK’s largest entertainment and media tech events. It’s a metaphorical sweet shop for filmmakers, broadcasters and tech addicts – with over 300 exhibitors showing off the latest film equipment, and a packed programme of seminars exploring the world of entertainment.

We kicked off the day with a talk from none other than national treasure (and personal favourite) Louis Theroux. Known for his irreverent, innocent and playful interview technique, he offered plenty of practical advice for budding documentary makers that can also be applied to research. One of his first tips (made slightly awkwardly at a tech-obsessed event): don’t obsess over the technology. The story is key – and tech should enable you to tell that story, rather than entirely driving it.

Louis spoke about the changing patterns of video consumption – pointing to long-form documentaries like Making A Murderer as evidence that on-demand platforms are creating new opportunities and formats for filmmakers to take advantage of. One interesting audience question asked for the three ideal qualities of a documentary maker. His answer: curiosity, the ability to get on with people without being too imposing, and tenacity – that journalistic edge, allowing you to take the interview to an uncomfortable area. All of which can be as equally important qualities for researchers.

Advice from Louis Theroux
Advice from Louis Theroux

Next up, Peter Collis from Inition, London-based VR and AR specialists, gave valuable insight into editing 360-degree video (something we’re branching into here at Crowd). His first lesson centred around the creation of a VR performance of the Philharmonia Orchestra. Initially, the film was intended to be based solely in the middle of the orchestra – but the team wanted to add more insight and storytelling to the experience.

To achieve this, they went back and filmed other environments building up to the performance – the backstage corridors, the entrance, and the pre-show practice. This builds up to the eventual grand performance and, coupled with an interview with the conductor, gently eases the viewer into the VR space.

Peter’s second example was a 360-degree film produced for Unicef. Without the use of traditional film techniques, such as close-ups or focus shifts, the challenge was to direct the viewer through an experience in which they can look in whatever direction they like. Inition used animation to bring the viewer into the VR world, and having viewers all starting at one specific point (termed the “north point”) helped to provide a clear point of focus from the beginning.

Our next event was a panel asking whether VR is a fad, or here to stay – surprisingly, the latter! Catherine Allen, who has produced a range of VR content for the BBC, believes that VR should only be used when there is a genuine purpose; for example an experience or place you wouldn’t normally have access to – incidentally, one of the reasons we think VR is perfect for research. Some stories, she argued, are simply better told through traditional film.

Matt Graff, co-founder of VR City, wants to see VR escape the confines of the headset. He gave the example of a giant projection dome created for a whisky client, giving a virtual distillery experience. In a similar vein to Louis Theroux, he made the point that technology shouldn’t get in the way – it’s about how you can use that technology to bring people closer to an experience.

Francisco Lima, VFX technology supervisor at Gramercy Park Studios, pointed to studies having shown that people recall VR experiences like real life memories – as if they actually happened. Once headset/projection technology improves, it will be less virtual reality, more teleportation – which then raises ethical considerations.

All valuable insight for exploring further VR and 360-degree film work at Crowd DNA.

 

Rise event: Superfans

At our Rise breakfast event today, Anna Chapman, director of Crowd DNA's Socialise division, talked about superfans - mapping their journey from hysterical outsiders to a brand’s best friend. Below are some key takeouts...

Fandom has existed in some form or other for centuries. The composer Liszt drove crowds wild with his brooding artist’s good looks and sweeping hair. So wild, in fact, that at the time the collective excitement around the famous composer was described as ‘Lisztmania’.

The very thought of fans prompts visions of screaming, hysteric devotees — teenyboppers reaching near dog whistle frequency on airport landing strips as John, Paul, George and Ringo step off their plane; or Elvis sending waves of swooning through his audience of adoring fans with every sway of his glittering hips.

Beatlemania
Beatlemania

Before the internet, the relationship between a fan and an idol was entirely one way. But that’s changed now that fans can interact directly with stars on social media.

In the age of the superfan, brands can directly engage with fan communities on social media, disrupting the traditional route. And in this ecosystem, superfans can join the likes of vloggers and even celebrities in becoming influential brand ambassadors themselves.

The ‘mania’ of fans of old has been channelled. Now, the superfan has agency, the power to share their passion amid their networks. And as more and more stars appear in celebrity-land’s night sky, the superfan’s power continues to reach new celestial heights.

We love talking about superfans, influencers, their passions and how these relate to brands. Please get in touch if you want to find out more.

Crowd DNA’s Julie Bréthous went to the Whitechapel Gallery to see how the Guerrilla Girls used research to challenge European museums and give a louder voice to women and non-western artists...

For their latest show, ‘Guerrilla Girls: Is It Even Worse In Europe?’, the Whitechapel Gallery invited the American activists to share their re-evaluation of diversity in European art institutions, 30 years after their first campaign. I was curious to discover how research could be used as a thought-provoking method within the art world to offer different perspectives on gender and racial diversity.

The Guerrilla Girls were founded in 1985, following MoMA’s ‘International Survey Of Painting And Sculpture’ (1984). Aimed at offering a comprehensive overview of the world’s best artists of the time, the exhibition failed to present a diverse portrait of the art world, only showing white artists – 90% of whom were men. A group of female artists quickly realised that, to expose the issue and shake up opinions, they’d have to find a new and unique approach. Using the language of their time – advertising – the now masked girls developed a strong visual identity, relying on outrageous statements, a dose of dry wit, and cold hard statistics.

“If you can make people laugh, you have a hook in their brain. And once you’re there, you have an opportunity to change their minds” – Guerrilla Girls for The Art Assignment

 
1985, Guerrilla Girls
1985, Guerrilla Girls

Owning the public space by stamping their findings and complaints all over the city walls, the Girls fought their battles in a true guerrilla style, aiming at the general public, artists, art institutions and investors. Not afraid to call out decision-makers, they fiercely denounced museum curators and their tendency to be dictated to by a handful of art buyers, whose vision of art remained limited to their own tastes.

In 1986, the anonymous group members were invited to speak in Europe. They came back with an implacable statement:

It's Even Worse In Europe, 1986, Guerrilla Girls
It's Even Worse In Europe, 1986, Guerrilla Girls

Twenty years of impromptu activism later, the Guerrilla Girls asked: is it (still) even worse in Europe?

Trying to determine whether museums are today presenting a ‘diverse history of contemporary art or the history of money and power’, the Girls sent out a questionnaire to 383 museums and kunsthalles in Europe.

Researchers know there’s no such thing as a perfect sample, and the Guerrilla Girls were soon to find this out… the hard way. Only one out for four institutions responded – a statement in itself on their reluctance to address the issue. Their answers have been on display at the Whitechapel Gallery since last November and the collection has achieved its objective by showing how the art world continues to be dominated by money, rather than cultural accuracy.

2016, Guerrilla Girls
2016, Guerrilla Girls

Even better, they’ve opened new avenues by showing that some institutions have managed to offer refreshing perspectives on art history, like Rotterdam’s Witte De With. The Uffizi Gallery in Florence now seeks to redress this imbalance by working with the Girls on how to include more female artists within their permanent collections. Uffizi director Eike Schmidt asks: ‘Where did this all start and how did this evolve? I think we are overdue and ready to put great female artists of the past back on view.’

‘Guerrilla Girls: Is It Even Worse In Europe?’ is at the Whitechapel Gallery until March 5

Part of GenderShift, a series exploring how identity is changing in modern times