By The Drum, Editorial

November 27, 2023 | 7 min read

Tool was named Production Team of the Year at The Drum Awards for Experience. Here we find out why...


Over the last decade, Tool has been at the forefront of experiential and creative technology. To deliver the next generation of experiential to our clients, we firmly believe our team needs to be made up of hybrid creatives: the technologists and producers who are equally as proficient in explaining new tech such as AI and AR to our clients and describing user experience, fabrication and spatial design. Our team is equally proficient in traditional design tools (Figma, Photoshop), as they are in highly advanced AI and Game Engine systems (MidJourney, ChatGPT, Runway, Unreal). And in a year fraught with economic challenges that led many in our industry to cut corners and downsize, we have further expanded our senior-level creative direction, technology, and design development staff. Our global footprint grew as well, with new operational teams established in Belgium, France, and New York to bolster our Los Angeles headquarters.

We are proud to submit this application for the Experiential Production Company of the Year award. The diverse range of our projects—and the accolades they've garnered—stand as a testament to our ongoing commitment to innovation, collaboration, and leadership that this prestigious accolade celebrates.

Collaboration across all categories

We believe that integrating creative technology into experiential events, activations and online experiences results in unforgettable moments for both B2B and B2C attendees alike. We transcend the traditional client-vendor relationships by working across client teams: event, legal, marketing, product, communications and IT. This combination is rapidly becoming the new “modern” client team that is supporting innovation at the event level. In a landscape where event-goers crave fresh experiences and clients look to stand out, our team is actively encouraging our clients to adopt creative tech as an essential component of their experiential toolkit, revolutionizing how they engage with their audiences.

Embracing the AI Revolution

Since 2016, Tool has embraced the potential of Artificial Intelligence in all aspects of production, pioneering the technology with distinguished clients such as Toyota and New Balance. In 2023, we played a pivotal role in enabling Coca-Cola to launch its first experiential activation powered by Generative AI.

In this time, we’ve made strategic investments in the AI space. We’re allocating 20% of our core team's time and significant capital to the development of a custom AI pipeline. This proactive investment, outside of paid client projects, allows us to break new ground and offer unique, high-value solutions to our clients.

A Year of Setting the Pace

Throughout the past year, Tool has collaborated on experiential projects which have raised the bar for everyone involved. Here are a few of our favorites.

Coke: Coachella Activation

For Coachella 2023, Tool worked with Virtue Worldwide to create an immersive experience on the festival grounds. Featuring a performance from an entirely virtual popstar—Yameii Online—Coke Studio’s 360° activation space transported attendees into a virtual world of light and animation, and created a "live" music performance for an artist who exists wholly in the metaverse. Our vision was to transport the audience into a vibrant cloud world, interwoven with Coke metaverse-inspired architecture, brought to life by a delightful cast of Yameii and their friends.

Tool was the lead in the design, creative tech and animation process, ensuring every detail reflected Yameii’s and Coke's vision. We designed and directed the immersive music video through a collaboration with our team that consisted of a 3D designer and animators, UX/UI designer, front end developer, and creative technologist.

Coke: Summer of Music

For this project, we invited festival-goers to create their very own music video, made possible by our custom AI pipeline (ChatGPT API + Stable Diffusion + Custom trained models + Deforum Animation) game engine layers, and virtual production. This IRL experience traveled across the country to 16+ music festivals.

We asked fans to answer fun questions (generated using ChatGPT), and used those prompts in our AI pipeline to generate their band’s personality and name, along with AI-generated album art, with the user selecting their favorite options. We then fed these options and a music video animation into a video game engine. All of these elements coalesced into the band’s first music video. All fully automated, in minutes.

Our collaboration with Coca-Cola for the Coke Studio project extended beyond marketing and events teams. We worked in close partnership with their legal, brand, communications, and IT departments, recognizing the intricacies surrounding AI. This due diligence also extended to existing artists and musicians around the world. We only trained our engines with music we licensed and artwork we owned. Then we used smart prompting and trained our AI with oversight to make sure that our fans created wholly original band names, original art and original music. In doing so, we created a new AI methodology for Coca Cola North America that will safeguard artwork and music everywhere.

LinkedIn B2Believe

With LinkedIn, we didn't just up-level B2B marketing; we rewrote a page of the playbook. With a team consisting of creative technologists, production design and logistics, we helped LinkedIn usher in a new way to position B2B marketing events. This ambitious project encompassed everything from spatial and content design to user experience, fabrication and creative technology. We transformed San Francisco’s Pier 27 into a space where attendees were inspired to collaborate with a number of interactive art installations–and with one another. Our hero installation was a community-based digital graffiti wall that allowed the B2B community to show off their "inner creative beast” and propel B2B marketing beyond the “boring”. The setup was a blend between creative tech and physical installation: We used the HTC Vive Pro 2 headset and base stations together with five Vive 3.0 trackers to create the technical setup, then integrated it seamlessly with our custom developed software, made in Unity. To create a realistic feel of painting, we developed custom made hardware to mount onto the trackers, paintbrushes, markers, paint buckets and paint rollers. This installation was recognized by the ExAwards as the "Best Use of Creative Tech" for B2B in 2023.

Kindness Campaign with Starbucks

At a grand scale across 16,000 cafes, we brought Starbucks' authentic message of kindness to life through an immersive experience. We built an Augmented Reality experience to show customers and partners that a little kindness is never really little. In collaboration with Edelman, we created an in-store experience that leveraged tech to create a new way for customers to show their appreciation for baristas at Starbucks. Working with Starbucks’ Kindness Campaign toolkit, we expanded the design to the mixed reality realm. We added texture and depth to the original designs, created assets to celebrate baristas, and animated elements such as the iconic Starbucks cup. Accessibility was also a big focus for this project. Utilizing the same React-based toolkit, we then mirrored the experience to allow all users to have similar engagement through means other than using AR—including traditional website navigation, keyboard controls, and voice over technologies, giving the site WCAG AA compliance.

In Closing

Tool’s diverse and talented team enables us to lead our clients into new frontiers within the experiential realm. Our extensive portfolio of projects ranges from groundbreaking AI- powered activations to immersive experiences that defy the boundaries of reality. As evidenced by our collaborations with Coca-Cola, LinkedIn, and Starbucks, our ability to seamlessly integrate creative technology into experiential events has resonated with both B2B and B2C audiences. With all of these accomplishments, we're confident that Tool is the ideal candidate for Experiential Production Company of the Year.

Read more award-winning stories over on The Drum Awards Case Studies hub.

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