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Future of Creativity: What's Next and How to Stay Ahead

The creative industry is growing at an incredible pace, from new software, advancements in technology, plug-ins, and creative tools. If you don't continue to think towards the future and utilize these new tools available, you'll surely get left in the creative dust.

So we're constantly evolving and constantly teaching ourselves new things. It's fun to play anyways, isn't it?!

Here's a look at the future of creativity:

The metaverse is here, and it is already making huge waves. From art to gaming to sports collectibles, several industries are seeing seismic shifts in how communities interact, how creators get paid, and how brands can engage with their fans and customers. Much like how the advent of both the internet and social media radically redefined our digital lives, the metaverse has the potential to have a similar impact on how we interface with each other.

The event industry is a prime sector to see the positive impact of the metaverse in action. Here are a few ways we think the next wave of internet technology will have a transformative effect on events, both in-person and virtual.

Enhanced Virtual Events

As 3D digital spaces are a major component of the metaverse, virtual events leveraging the metaverse promise to be more engrossing and engaging. Rather than a series of streamed presentations and Zoom calls, virtual events can offer a space for attendees to explore and interact. This can mimic the experience of going to an event, and lead to more spontaneity for the event-goer. But, there’s so much more potential than recreating the experience of going to an expo hall. Virtual 3D spaces can give an event a unique presentation that would be impossible just through video streaming or financially impractical if done in the real world. A 60 foot tall Ariana Grande performing would definitely be out of scope of most events’ budgets. But it happened in her wildly popular Fortnite...

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Right now, we are building the infrastructure for the metaverse. Not just the hardware and software infrastructure, and not just the economic infrastructure. Perhaps most importantly, we are building the cultural infrastructure. A new type of community is emerging through an ‘ownership economy’, where brands, celebrities, and fans commingle and share, sometimes equally, in the success of a project. A theme of decentralization is changing the way consumers think about the brands and entertainment that they love, where everyone has a chance to shape the story.If we are building the metaverse, these communities are its town squares, and it’s a good idea to jump into the conversation.

Is this the new social media?

Social media is generally considered the primary communication layer of the internet. If Web 1.0 gave us information, then Web 2.0 gave us communication. But, while early internet bulletin boards and chat rooms connected small groups of like-minded people, social media is a fire hose of information that sometimes struggles to generate real connections. Perhaps worse, there is no incentive for people to get along on social media. Of course, there are many social media groups that create a positive experience for their communities, but the overall social media landscape can be overwhelming and lacking in coherency to many.Before we get too far, it’s worth mentioning that the size of the NFT and metaverse community is still relatively small, so it will face many...

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The rise of the digital age has brought with it massive growth in countless industries and generated wealth for millions of people in its path, from software engineers to social media influencers. The e-commerce sector saw $4.2 trillion in retail sales last year, according to Statista. But, for as much time as we spend online, we don’t spend nearly as much money on digital goods. All of this is beginning to change. Technology advancements are accelerating. We’re just starting to get a picture of the next version of our digital selves, and this time, there’s a possibility for a massive digital economy to thrive. This is the metaverse. And, even though it’s in its infancy, it’s becoming more real by the day. I won’t claim to know what the mature metaverse will look like or what bumps, à la the dot com bust, it might face. But, the groundwork for the metaversal economy is taking form already, thanks to blockchains, cryptocurrencies, NFTs, and gaming. If gaming is the only word that makes sense in that group, I’ve got you. Let’s talk about commerce in the metaverse.

Isn’t there a free version?

A lot of people over a certain age complain about paying $1.99 for a mobile app when they’ll pay $6 for a cup of coffee. I think this is in large part due to the fact that many digital goods are so freely available and copyable. In the Napster era, all music was free. Whether that was ethical, or good for artists, it didn’t matter, it was free. A lot of people under a certain age have...

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Welcome to the first installment in our 4 part series on the metaverse, and how it’s already affecting brands in some profound ways. If you’re sick of hearing about the Metaverse, I’d encourage you to find and replace all “metaverse” references in this article with Cat Cafe. 

The reality is, a lot of people are talking about the metaverse these days. It seems we’re entering the metaverse era without fully understanding what it actually is. Over the past few years, we’ve seen the pace of innovation increase at such a rate that we are building a whole new digital world faster than we can even define it.

What is the Metaverse

The Metaverse isn’t a single platform, technology, or community. And, it won’t be built or owned by one company. Instead, it’s a somewhat loose concept that encompasses the latest and future innovations in computer hardware, internet connectivity, virtual platforms, digital currency, and content. Some might define it by the level of immersiveness in a VR virtual world -  something like the virtual world and namesake for the Metaverse envisioned by Neil Stephenson in his 1992 sci-fi novel, “Snow Crash.” Or, like the limitless Oasis from Ernest Cline’s “Ready Player One.” Others would say we are already in the metaverse - that the amount of time we spend in the digital realm, from virtual meetings over Zoom to chasing around AR Pokemon characters in mobile games, is enough to classify us as metaverse residents today.I believe we’re somewhere in between....

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This post written by Elevation's Director of Strategy, Brett Rakestraw, was originally published on Branding Magazine in the article linked here.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about Web3. Maybe you’re in the same boat. Or, maybe Web3 just looks like a typo. If you’re in the latter camp, and I was until recently, let’s start with a quick overview.

The first generation of the web, now known as the “static” web, was composed of basic websites existing to pass along information to visitors. This was the predominant site format from the early 1990s to the early 2000s. Then, a combination of web technology advances and broadband internet adoption ushered in the Web 2.0 era. Web 2.0 brought us social media and user-generated content, along with ad retargeting and influencer marketing.

We’ve actually been living in the Web 2.0 world for about 15 years now. But, we are starting to see a new web emerging. There is a paradigm shift happening as our lives continue to become more digital and as many web users become fed up with the “surveillance economy” and with the big tech players holding all the cards. This shift in technology and power is pushing us towards Web3 (or Web 3.0). And, its foundation is based on blockchain technology and decentralization.

Does any of this matter to brands?

Well, when Facebook was being developed in a dorm room, were brand stakeholders worried about how they would get attention on the platform? Probably not. But, as history has taught us, the longer...

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It seems like “virtual” has become the most ubiquitous adjective of the last year. Virtual learning, virtual conferences, virtual weddings, and even virtual tourism have become common activities. While the virtual trend has definitely accelerated since 2020, more and more of our world has gone virtual since the dawn of the internet. Although there’s a huge leap between the first online message boards and chatrooms to today’s apps like Twitter, Instagram, and Zoom, the virtual experience has primarily stayed two-dimensional. 

Like the word “virtual,” three-dimensional virtual spaces are nothing new. I distinctly remember seeing a virtual reality headset at Epcot in Disney World that let you fly on Aladdin’s carpet over Agrabah in all its pixelated glory over twenty-five years ago. Anyone who remembers Second Life knows that 3D environments have been used as virtual social spaces for decades now. But vast improvements in software and hardware in virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (XR) are supercharging the ability to make and experience these virtual worlds today. This technology will only get better, and the importance of virtual spaces will only improve. 

Today, I’m highlighting five of the most exciting ways virtual spaces are being implemented, and how that will transform several industries for the future.

Next-Level Branded Experiences

Virtual spaces provide a way for brands to create new forms of engagement and get their message out. With...

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What’s That Sound?

It would appear that the newest technology flooding the internet, and social media in particular, is audio. That’s right, audio. The same technology that swept the nation in the early twentieth century before the invention of television, and long before the vast online world of the internet was at our fingertips.For the most part, the internet skipped exploring social audio, pushing instead into all kinds of video streaming platforms from YouTube to TikTok. Instagram moved straight from images to videos with their Stories feature, and audio has mostly been relegated to “mute by default” status in order to avoid mild heart attack moments when scrolling through a social feed at work or in bed. 

While audio might not seem like much of an innovation at all, the new ways in which it’s being used socially have the potential to open a new market for genuine brands to become an essential part of.

Why Audio is Emerging Now

Slowly over the last decade, but especially over the last 5 years...we’ve seen the rise of podcasting. Podcasting growth has accelerated as people have realized they have an opportunity to consume content without their full commitment. You can listen to a podcast while commuting, while exercising, or even at work. This convenience paired with the wide adoption of Bluetooth headphones and smart speakers around the home has made audio content a much more regular part of many people’s daily lives. But, while good podcasts do offer a sense of...

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And Then There Were NFTs

If you take nothing else from this post, take this. The pace of innovation is accelerating, and if you blink, you might miss something important. Case in point, at the beginning of 2021, most people had never heard of NFTs. But at the time of this writing in March 2021, it’s hard not to have heard of them. 

Over just a couple of weeks, seemingly endless dumbfounding headlines have been shared across news outlets and social media flaunting, propping up, and critiquing the astronomical prices suddenly being paid for what, on the surface, appears to be digital copies of art and internet memes. We’re talking about many of the same images that are freely shared and downloaded across the internet. 

So what gives? 

Why are NFTs suddenly worth so much money? Where did they come from? And, in the world of brands, should we be paying attention? The answer to the first two questions is “it’s complicated,” and the answer to the last question is “definitely, yes.”Before we dig into the implications of NFTs for brands and potential future use cases, let’s do a quick primer on what NFTs actually are.

Non-What Now

The term NFT stands for “non-fungible token.” Fungible means mutually interchangeable. Think money, where a dollar...is a dollar...is a dollar. But, a piece of art holds different values depending on who’s looking at it, and not all art is identical.The token part has to do with the blockchain. Cryptocurrency is tracked through a blockchain, a public...

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It is becoming increasingly clear that TikTok is taking over the social world. Although the app has been around since 2016, brands are just now starting to take advantage of the giant platform that sports 800 million users worldwide. Even though there aren’t that many brands on the platform yet, the ones that are using it successfully are making it big.

Here are some helpful things to think about if you are trying to rule the TikTok-verse in the way brands like Dunkin’, American Eagle, Chipotle, and The Washington Post are.

Is my brand right for TikTok?

If you’ve been staring at the app store deciding whether or not TikTok is even worth the download, first think of your brand’s target audience, and be aware that the platform is primarily used by people ages 16 to 24. If that sounds close to who you are trying to reach, click that download button! If it’s not, TikTok could still be a great opportunity to expand your audience.

For example, The Washington Post is making great strides on the platform even though it was initially unclear if they would find their audience on TikTok. They’ve been successful because they make content that still stays true to their brand while appealing to the younger demographic. In this TikTok, you are still getting news about the stock market that The Washington Post would regularly report on but in a way that is comedic, quick, and easy to understand for the audience.

How to apply TikTok trends to your brand

There’s no need to make your CEO do...

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If there’s anything true about people, it’s that we love stories. We eat them up. They entertain us, they teach us, and they can come to define us. We’re so into stories, in fact, that just about everything we say comes out in the form of a story. Think of any conversation you’ve had with a friend or family member. It’s always about something, isn’t it? How great your day was. How bad your day was. How something happened and why it was a total disaster, or how, surprisingly, everything worked out in the end this time. Just about everything we say is a story, and people gravitate towards a good one.

That’s because we’re curious by nature. We want to know what’s happening, and we’ll go to great lengths to find out what it is. Anyone who’s eavesdropped on an interesting conversation, or waited in line to see a new hit movie on opening night knows this feeling. A good story is entertaining, and the craving for entertainment will always be with us.

Good Stories Go a Long Way

Since people are so curious, they need to be rewarded for their curiosity. No one wants to be bored to death. We need to be captivated. The more interesting a story is, the more memorable it is. That’s why it’s so hard to focus on someone struggling to recall what he ate for lunch yesterday, but it’s easy to watch a stand-up comedian tell a great joke.

Brands especially need a good story. Without one, it becomes a lot harder to keep your audience interested.

These are just a few things for your brand to keep...

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There's no doubt every industry has been a rollercoaster ride in 2020, but if you work in marketing or create for marketing, you've felt some extra drops from the world's largest rollercoaster this year. Yet we can't help but look at the bright-side for most situations and hope that the up's, and (lots of) down's, we've been through this year will lead to brighter pastures. So we've put together our thoughts on the challenges 2020 has brought to marketing, and how we can spin those into actionable, positive steps moving forward.

Red Light, Green Light

Who remembers this game from childhood or perhaps playing it with your kids? "RED LIGHT....Green light..... RED LIGHT!" This is may be one of the best examples of how I've felt marketing in 2020 has gone. You start rolling with a campaign or targeted audience, 2020 happens, we stop, reevaluate, and move in a different direction. 

I think HubSpot sums it up best in this article when they talk about marketing being a mixture of science + art. The industry truly is rapidly changing and evolving and although you can try algorithms and data analysis, sometimes it's just an art form of listening, learning, and being adaptable. Similarly how we're learning to do with live production.

Here are my takeaways that 2020 can teach us about marketing:

Take Care of Your Customers

Sometimes in marketing we can get distracted by the "next shiny thing" aka SaaS (software as a service) products, the quantity of digital content we produce, or the...

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As designers, it’s crucial for us to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to new and emerging design tools. That’s why we were so excited to start tinkering around with the Unreal Engine. Unreal Engine is an advanced real-time 3D creation tool. It features photorealistic rendering, dynamic physics and effects, lifelike animation, robust data translation, all on an open extensible platform. 

Unreal Engine is most associated with video games, but it has some game changing tech for non-interactive media as well.

A Glimpse at Next-Gen Tech

Before diving into where the technology is at, let’s nerd out a bit about where the technology is heading. Earlier this year, Unreal Engine released a sneak peek at Unreal Engine 5. They shared what next-gen video gaming graphics will look like running on a PS5.  Polygon sums up the technology well in their article overview of the demo release:

“At the heart of Epic Games’ next-gen engine are two new pieces of technology: Nanite, a virtualized geometry system that will let artists import and render 3D models and environments composed of billions of polygons; and Lumen, a global illumination system that will enable dynamic, highly realistic lighting in games. The demo also showcases the fast loading of massive game worlds that will be enabled by built-in SSD technology in the PlayStation 5. Don’t let the demo’s ol’ shimmying-through-a-narrow-gap loading trick dissuade you — the end of the demo pays off with an astounding fly-through of the...

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Chances are that you already have the software for instantaneous character animation installed on your computer. Here's how to incorporate this technology into a winning strategy.

When you think of motion capture animation, you probably imagine a group of actors in leotards with pingpong balls attached to various points of their body. Maybe they’re wearing an expensive head mounted camera to capture subtle facial movements that you would need James Cameron’s budget to afford. You might not imagine that you already have all the hardware and software for real-time animation available to you on your laptop. No ping pong balls required.

Enter Adobe Character Animator

Adobe Character Animator is one of the lesser known programs included in their Creative Cloud suite. While it doesn’t have as much cultural cache as older siblings After Effects or Photoshop, it packs some pretty mind-blowing technology. Utilizing the Adobe Sensei AI, Character Animator uses a computer’s webcam and microphone to track a performer’s face. Syncing everything from lips, blinks, and tilts, this tool instantaneously takes an animated character and matches an actor's performance. Basically, it transforms a normal webcam into a facial motion capture machine.

One thing that makes this software so exciting is how Adobe has expanded the capabilities of Character Animator since its release. A recent update added support for keyframes and scene cameras, allowing animators to preprogram advanced movement that...

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