What trends, developments or issues would you point to thus far in 2022 as being most significant, perhaps carrying implications for the rest of this year and beyond?
We took a visionary approach to how blockchain could support creative projects and hired a chief blockchain officer to helm those opportunities. It’s a volatile market, of course, worsened by mainstream media’s desire to hype its fickle nature. Despite the bear market and effect that had on our properties, we are looking toward the long game as utility is continuing to grow and be served through NFTs. Web3 offers ways to interact with audiences not achievable in the past — for tracking interactions, extending experiences, and IP — and there have been great strides in mainstream engagement in 2022.
How have any societal issues--such as the pandemic, the Supreme court decision on abortion, calls for equity, inclusion, diversity, racial and social justice--impacted the way you do business, company policies and/or selection of projects/creative content?
Social awareness has certainly increased during the pandemic, as we all actualize what it means to be a community and our responsibility within that. Identity awareness has created space for conversation around who we’re staffing and casting, and I’ve seen some positive marked changes with respect to race and casting and smaller changes in areas like gender expression. Of course, the industry has a long way to go, and some of the messaging gets diluted, but even the polarizing issues have reinforced that companies need to examine their manufacturing, business practice, and who they are as a brand. We’re no longer saying, “This product exists and you need it”. Now we’re saying, “This is our brand and what we stand for, so you can feel comfortable using our product, if you need it and are aligned with us.” It’s amazing how data driven we all are and how well companies know their consumers now. Consequently, we’ve been increasing the amount of real users or actors who are also real product users in our advertising work. It adds a layer of work to the casting process, but there is a trend to be genuine right now, and it feels good when we’re able to lean into that.
What work (advertising, entertainment, documentary) -- your own or others--struck a responsive chord with you this year and why?
There have been so many cool documentaries and pieces of entertainment already in 2022. I love the craft of FX series The Bear, and I appreciate HBO’s launch of more unique content in The Rehearsal--but in terms of the most raw piece of content that struck an immediate chord in me, I found it in a YouTube video I came across. It was a video of a woman who was using a VR headset to connect with a child she had lost. Images of the child had been used to create a VR experience for her, and it was one that she very much wanted, and in post interviews said had helped her. Of course, I don’t expect everyone in her shoes to find that comforting. I sobbed immediately while watching her experience, but most importantly, I came to realize a future for social impact and a real potential in what can be done through VR. A lot of the metaverse work I’ve seen has been frivolous, but there is the potential for something deeper, especially in this time of remote relationship. In the way the internet helped us with global communication, I believe the metaverse will allow us to have more sensory connections and perhaps draw out more empathy and more healing.