Agencies Agency Culture IPA

IPA president Julian Douglas: Why we should be adopting Unreal in 2023

By Julian Douglas | International chief executive and vice-chairman

December 16, 2022 | 7 min read

The use of Unreal Engine has the potential to revolutionize the advertising business, writes IPA chief Julian Douglas.


At the outset of my IPA Presidency I was delighted to announce a partnership with Epic Games. Working together with them and the global digital agency Collective, the IPA has run a series of sold-out training workshops for member agencies to explore how to use Unreal Engine real-time technology to unlock creativity.

One of the barriers for Unreal is expressed neatly by its own name: its potential feels Unreal. Sure, you can be told about how it can automate asset production, or drop your carbon footprint to nothing by removing the need for shoots, or that you can recreate the golden hour 24 hours a day - but until you see it, you don’t really get it.

That’s why we created our workshop - to show people exactly just how Unreal Engine can transform an agency, a marketing team or a shoot. Or a whole industry. It happened in Automotive, why not ours?

According to Epic games, its creators: “The adoption of Unreal Engine has given creators the freedom and control to deliver cutting-edge entertainment, compelling visualisations, and immersive virtual worlds in real-time, with no rendering time and hardly any production costs.”

Or put another way, in the words of Stephane Bourez, Collective’s Unreal magician from our latest event where he was presenting: “Unreal is creative at the speed of thought. If you’re looking over the controller's shoulder, you can do stuff on the fly, find happy accidents, and just try new things, all in real-time. What would have taken days is now taking seconds, you can have a golden hour all day long and you can play God with the weather. Using Unreal is like playing again. When you show people it's like when you were a kid and you’d say to your friends, come to my room and I can show you my toys.”

But this doesn’t just mean creating immense genre-defining executions like the latest Matrix Awakens ad from Epic.

It can be this work from McDonald's – which was all done in virtual production. Only the actors are real.

Or even just making a host of print images on different mediums, from VR to interactive posters to the Imax, all based on one image, all based on one universal asset. And it’s the universal asset that will make Unreal, real to us as an industry.

In advertising, Unreal delivers photorealistic renders for print, film, motion graphics design, interactive experiences, ads on touch screens or mobiles AR, VR – the list goes on. But it does this in real-time without the need for rendering. Which saves not only days of time, but tens of thousands of pounds. Once you have your first asset, you can do anything with it.

Suggested newsletters for you

Daily Briefing


Catch up on the most important stories of the day, curated by our editorial team.

Ads of the Week


See the best ads of the last week - all in one place.

Media Agency Briefing


Our media editor explores the biggest media buys and the trends rocking the sector.

As evidenced at our talk. We decided that the best way to make Unreal seem less unreal was to eschew the example with the glitzy supercar or the photo-real 30-second film, but instead through a simple everyday item that everyone has used, and most marketers have marketed.

Introducing the Bubble Buddies: a reusable, sustainable, refillable toy for the bath. A whole new brand and product that was created entirely in Unreal just for this presentation – the beauty of which, is that with them Steff can create a whole print campaign using the Bubble Buddies at the same time as presenting to a room full of people. It’s that easy once you know how.

So, as we head towards the Christmas break and a bit of potential thinking time, this is what I would urge you to consider. How much do you spend on rendering? How much time do you waste waiting for your ads to come back? How much carbon are you spending on shoots? What are the inconsistencies and issues within your production process?

Then consider this - all of them can be allayed with the acceptance and adoption of Unreal.

It saves time and it saves cost. It keeps the brand identity when you’re working with different agencies. It's sustainable because there is no need for render farms and you don'tdont need to go on shoots. You get to focus on the creative, not the production elements. All of which contribute to richer experiences and lead to more brand affinity leading to more purchase.

Julian Douglas is international chief executive officer and vice-chairman of VCCP and president of the IPA.

Agencies Agency Culture IPA

More from Agencies

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +