From VR to mobile, merging creativity and tech is a game of risk

Creatively driven brands must be prepared to take a step into the unknown.

It has been an incredibly exciting few weeks for EE, during which we launched the second series of the EE Wembley Cup. The YouTube footballing series, where we pitch the game’s biggest stars against each other, is one of the biggest and the most ambitious digital activations we’ve embarked on. Fortunately, it was a great success and I’m now looking back on what we can learn from it and how we can apply this to our future work.

Any project like this demands a level of bravery and an enormous amount of collaboration to be a success. That’s not to say that to collaborate successfully you have to be brave. But you do need to clearly recognise the unknowns of any ambitious idea and then assemble a team who can take on that challenge. The continual objective is how to mitigate risk, not maximise it. Mitigating risk demands you collaborate effectively.

Of course, risk is at the heart of creativity. To make something out of nothing – whether you’re a brand marketer, entrepreneur, film-maker, designer, developer or writer – is an inherently risky challenge. But as Mark Zuckerberg famously said: "The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks." What this illustrates is the need for processes to manage creative risk effectively.

To manage the creative risk on the Wembley Cup, we followed a "minimum viable product" process to some extent. Wembley Cup season one was the proof of concept that matured over time and with incremental developments to become Wembley Cup season two – a bona fide entertainment format. This whole process has inspired me to dive deeper into digital entertainment platforms and creative technologies, specifically those with mobile video at their heart.

So what is next? How can we tell rich, engaging and charming stories on mobile platforms? What is the future of mobile video and how can we be up close and personal with our audiences? Well, the obvious place to begin is where entertainment blurs with reality in a world of virtual or augmented personal experiences.

Google Maps is maturing rapidly from a must-have mobile service to an entertainment destination. Trek now allows you to take a Street View journey to sites of cultural, geographical and historical significance with a social layer that invites greater engagement with this rich content. This is a maturing service platform that is offering far more to end users and potential partners.

More embryonic services that are moving on from beyond the proof of concept are Google’s Tango augmented-reality environment and DayDream, the virtual-reality platform. I’d love to collaborate on these initiatives – what could the next iteration of EE’s Wembley app be like with an AR layer and how could the Bafta Awards be brought to life with a live VR experience?

Of course, it’s not all about Google – Facebook has made its own bets in terms of VR and the results are now surfacing. The Oculus Rift headset and peripherals are now readily available and alongside this a portfolio of growing content and applications.

Earlier this month, a VR journey titled "Through the Ages" was launched with Barack Obama narrating and guiding the viewer through the experience. The president remarks as you explore every angle of the surroundings of Yosemite.

Also, Henry, a charming animated VR film from Oculus Story Studio, is the first VR original narrative movie to win an Emmy. This is certainly a precursor of things to come. But as Ramiro Lopez Dau, director of Henry, explains, the creative process was loaded with risk and unknowns: "It was a step into the unknown world of making an emotional VR movie. While we didn’t know what the outcome was going to be, we were excited about the possibilities."

I’m really interested in these possibilities. How can we, for example, learn from this to drop our audiences into the world of sport with our BT parent? Could we work with handset manufacturers to produce unique mobile content experiences and are there new ways of developing retail experiences?

With limitless opportunities, there are also limitless things that can go wrong. So whatever we do next, it will be embarked on as a creative journey with collaborators we love to work with, we learn from and who allow me to sleep easily at night.

Pete Jeavons is brand director of EE

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