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How Ad Agency Wieden+Kennedy Uses Emerging Tech As A Marketing Tool

The Portland-based agency harnesses VR, AI, robotics, and more to create cutting-edge products and experiences.

How Ad Agency Wieden+Kennedy Uses Emerging Tech As A Marketing Tool
Nilesh Ashra, left, brings an engineering background to the Lodge, while co-lead Paulo Ribero is a veteran marketer. [Photo: Chloe Aftel]

In September, Nike unveiled a new retail experience that reduces the time it takes to customize shoe graphics from eight weeks to less than two hours—short enough that it can be done on demand and in-store. The project, which combines video-game-style motion capture and projection mapping, was developed by the Lodge, a five-year-old tech-focused division of the Portland, Oregon–based ad agency Wieden+Kennedy. Led by managing director Paulo Ribeiro and director of creative technology Nilesh Ashra, the Lodge’s 25-person staff harnesses emerging technologies, such as AI and robotics, to help W+K create products and experiences for major brands. “Everything we’re doing is in a new format in some way,” says Ribeiro. Here are four recent projects that signal the future of brand marketing.

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Nike’s Live Design experience

Nike debuted its Star Trek meets sneakerhead customization platform at its test lab in New York: Customers slip on a pair of Nike Presto Xs, and a series of images and patterns are projected onto their feet; they can adjust the graphics by simply talking to a screen.

A sci-fi intro to Samsung Gear VR

As Samsung pitched its Gear VR headset to Galaxy users earlier this year, it wanted a creative way to introduce neophytes to the capabilities of the technology. The Lodge came up with an interactive experience set in an Avatar-like world that acquaints users with a range of VR features—including sight-based navigation and touch activation—by guiding them through a fantasy story. “It doesn’t hit you on the head with product features,” says Ashra. “It just takes you through.”

Immersive employee training for KFC

KFC had a problem: 70 years after Colonel Sanders developed his fried-chicken recipe, new employees of the fast-food chain had no sense of the company’s history. The Lodge responded with a game-style VR experience that invites users to virtually prepare the chicken (and slyly introduces them to the company’s founder, who appears throughout as a ghost). It’s now being used in KFC’s employee training program.

A social game for Anki’s Cozmo robot

To raise awareness surrounding Anki’s palm-size smart robot, Cozmo, ahead of its global launch in No­­vember, the Lodge developed a Reddit-based interactive game. It asked the Reddit community to help actual Cozmo robots solve a series of increasingly complicated puzzles, such as navigating a room filled with puppies. “We essentially built a video game that is controlled through a social platform and played in the real world,” says Ribeiro.

About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.

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