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Brand Strategy Agency Models Virtual Influencers

Ogilvy launches ‘digital human’ and experience studio called Reality


By Sam Bradley, Journalist

November 25, 2022 | 4 min read

The digital experience lab is the latest investment in virtual influencer tech from agencies.

Three faces of virtual influencer Lil Miquela

Lil Miquela, an early virtual influencer. Ogilvy has now launched its own brand avatar service

Ogilvy has announced the launch of Reality, a digital experience ‘lab’ dedicated to researching and creating new applications of technologies such as AR, VR and NFT.

The studio is to be led by Dickon Laws, Ogilvy’s global head of innovation, and will provide an “innovation translator, pathfinder and risk navigator” service to the network’s clients. Laws estimated that the wider market linked to the studio’s tech expertise would be worth $1.5tn by the end of the decade.

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“Although most brands have experimented with emerging tech, there is still a lot of IDK and WTF attached to AR, VR, AI, ML, NPC, NFT and web3,” said Laws. “When you think that the metaverse and its associated technologies are projected to be worth almost $1.5trn dollars by 2029, that’s either a lot of growth to miss out on or a lot of mis-invested budget for brand leaders to be accountable for through poor understanding and unfamiliarity.”

“Reality has been designed to de-risk that investment and unlock the value for brands by translating what these emerging and maturing technologies can mean for customers. Although we are emerging technologists, really we want to get technology out of the way and focus on needs based adoption.”

According to an agency spokesperson, the studio will focus on three principal areas: AR, ‘synthetic experiences’ including virtual humans and brand avatars and ‘decentralized experiences’ such as NFT design and web3 applications.

The announcement makes Ogilvy the second network agency to seriously invest in virtual brand avatar design. Though indie shops such as Virtual Influencer Agency and Californian firm Brud had produced virtual humans in the past, Dentsu Creative launched a ‘virtual identity’ service for brands in August, based out of its Singapore office.

Laws will report up to Clare Lawson, Ogilvy’s chief executive officer for experience in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Though Ogilvy hasn’t said how many staff will be attached to the lab, Laws will be joined by chief technology officer Michael Tidmarsh, head of strategy Chris Hilton, head of emerging tech Lorenzo Cardioli and senior experience director Maurizia Le Ro. Executive creative director James Ramsden will also be involved. Other staff members will be drawn from Coley Porter Bell, AQuest, BottleRocket and Jussi.

Clients that had previously made use of unofficial ‘innovation teams’ from Ogilvy include Gucci, VW, PizzaHut, Cadbury’s, Estée Lauder, Greenpeace and Lamborghini. The lab will make use of WPP’s formal partnerships with Snap, Meta, Epic Games and Soul Machines – a New Zealand firm that develops virtual characters for commercial applications, such as artificial bank tellers.

Laws added: “Emerging tech is not new, but businesses do not explore its potential. Reality will unlock exponential value that clients can’t access elsewhere. The industry is drowning in acronyms and umbrella terms that are confusing and misleading. Bringing the focus away from whatever the tech flavor of the month allows brands to focus on what is going to drive real business growth, something that is needed more than ever in periods of slow economic growth.”

Brand Strategy Agency Models Virtual Influencers

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