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Helping Brands Reach Gen Z in an Oversaturated Market

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Executive Producer of Emerging Technology Dan Phillips - Photographer unknown

Executive Producer of Emerging Technology Dan Phillips - Photographer unknown

From being able to communicate through FaceTime, order food and pick out a new fall wardrobe in seconds through an app, to being able to immerse oneself in a virtual reality that looks almost inseparable from the real thing, the use of new and emerging forms of technology has redefined basic human behaviours and human interaction. While there’s no doubt that technology has significantly changed the lives of people across the world, it’s no more so than for Gen Z.

“Each generation views the Internet differently, but Gen Z is in a league of their own. Gen Z isn’t just dependent on the Internet, the Internet plays a vital and fundamental role in nearly every aspect of their lives,” explains Dan Phillips, Executive Producer of Emerging Technology at the powerhouse VFX and production company The Mill. “Traditional means of accessing the Internet are not enough for them. They want new ways of interacting with the web, more devices to be connected, and predictive technologies to know them better than they know themselves.”

Dan Phillips is one of the industry’s leading producers behind the scenes who has brought countless innovative projects to life over the past decade. Coming up with commercial concepts that utilize technology in original and unique ways, Dan’s ideas help brands distinguish themselves from the mainstream and stand out in the eyes of an audience that is always online.

With their digital lives being almost inseparable from the physical, technology is blended into Gen Z’s everyday reality on a scale never seen before. According to a 2018 study, this generation of digital natives, which includes those born between 1997 and 2012, spend more than 70 hours a week on their devices. They are redefining the use of technology on a daily basis, and brands and advertisers have to make extensive and strategic efforts to capture and maintain their attention.

“Marketers have to not be afraid of using new channels to reach Gen Z,” explains Dan. “This generation, moving into the role of key consumers in the aftermath of the pandemic, wants to experiment with new means of communication, but they prefer a blended model of digital and physical when it’s time to spend money. Authenticity is still important to Gen Z, and relevant content is still king.”

Effectively reaching audiences today takes a keen knowledge of trends and an awareness of the tools that one’s competitors are using, as well as a lot of creativity and the ability to think outside of the box in order to use technology in innovative ways. Dan Phillips has been on the frontlines of branding and technological innovation for over a decade now, and much of his work has literally changed the way advertisers approach their creative and promotional campaigns.

While previously working as the Global Head of Innovation at MPC (Moving Picture Company), Dan Phillips served as the executive producer behind the FWA Award winning snowboard VR experience for Samsung featured at the 2018 Seoul Winter Olympics, the Talk Talk FX Star app, which earned the APA IDEAS Award for Best Mobile App, and allowed users to create their own music videos with a chance to be featured on the UK’s most watched television show, “The X Factor,” as well as the multi-award winning John Lewis Buster’s Garden Interactive VR Experience.

Buster’s Garden Interactive VR Experience, which was launched at the John Lewis flagship store on Oxford Street during Christmas 2016, allowed people to step into the enchanting world of a Christmas ad where, within the virtual reality world they could experience the seasonal environment, and interact with its cast of animal characters.

The virtual reality experience earned Phillips, the team at MPC and their client extensive industry recognition, including the Silver Award for Best Use of 360 from the Campaign Brand Film Festival, the Silver British Arrows Craft Award, the Gold Creative Circle Award in the Innovation/New Tech Customer category, the Bronze Shot Award in the Interactive Campaign category, as well as being the physical component of the John Lewis ‘Buster The Boxer’ campaign that won several Cannes Lions at the 2017 Cannes Festival of Creativity and more.

“We gave John Lewis an interactive VR experience that featured a number of tech and UX firsts,” says Dan Phillips. “Using specialist hardware and bespoke coded gesture-recognition, we enabled people to control interactivity with their own hands rather than physical controllers. This broke down barriers to entry for users of all ages, many of whom had never experienced interactive VR previously. We also developed a new type of second-screen experience, using a 3D camera to record participants within the installation, stripping them out of the physical environment and comping them into the virtual one, all in real time.”

Dan Phillips’ work has undoubtedly revolutionized the advertising industry. However, even though all the bells and whistles that come with innovation, at the end of the day, whether a consumer gets onboard with a brand or not is their choice, so figuring out how to persuade that choice is key.

Discussing these considerations, Dan Phillips says, “Marketing to audiences in 2021 is still about storytelling, but now that takes place in different spaces, in experiential engagements, on interactive screens with consumers often placed as active participants within the brand narrative and giving them the ability to navigate their own, independent experiences.”

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If a consumer is offered 10 different packs of cookies, but one of those packs lets them scan a code to see a virtual character appear dancing in front of them in their everyday reality, there’s a good chance that they’re going to pick the one that offers them something more. This cookie example is actually something that Phillips brought to the Martin Agency, one of his clients through The Mill, last year, as a way to connect the release of the “Trolls World Tour” film and the famous Oreos brand.

Beyond just coming up with innovative concepts, Dan’s job as the Executive Producer of Emerging Technology involves confidently guiding his clients into using these new technologies in previously unheard of ways without fear or trepidation.

“Dan has the ability to dive into the technical needs of a project while still maintaining a great relationship with his clients,” says Kim Zaninovich, the Martin Agency’s VP Executive Producer who worked with Phillips on the Oreo x “Trolls World Tour.” Further praising Dan’s work, Kim Zaninovich adds, “He is deeply knowledgeable, effective in leading his team and has the emotional intelligence to manoeuvre the stress that is inevitable in a project when you’re trying to bend technology to your will.”

One example out of many in terms of the way Dan Phillips has managed to “bend technology to his will” as Zaninovich puts it, is the Oreo x “Trolls World Tour” collaboration where they brought the film’s beloved IPs, such as the Queen Poppy Troll, to life using augmented reality.

Discussing the project and motivation behind its inception, Phillips explains, “They were interested in finding ways that physical products of the cookies could provide a pathway into an augmented reality experience featuring the animated characters from the movie. It was a campaign tie-in to encourage people to buy special packs of OREOS and to promote the movie and the brand partnership, and tie in to a TVC that promoted the same.”

As the executive producer on the Oreo x “Trolls World Tour”, Dan Phillips was responsible for pitching the creative concept to the client that ultimately led The Mill to land the job, as well as building the team responsible for delivering the tech-heavy project.

A brilliant concept that capitalized on new technology, the project engaged consumers, especially Gen Z, by creating an interactive ad campaign that invited people to scan special packs of Oreos with their phones, which resulted in a singing, dancing, 3-dimensional Queen Poppy coming to life before their eyes, augmenting their real space with characters from the hit movie.

“We utilised new features on the Spark AR platform, Facebook and Instagram’s internal AR engine that creators use to deliver AR effects on the platforms, utilising the latest in image-tracking and image recognition technology as the trigger point for the experience,” says Phillips. “Packs of the Oreos cookies served as image tracking markers, recognised by cameras on mobile devices, to trigger the AR effect in real-time. It was an ambitious use of the technology, and also needed to ensure that the movie IP, the Trolls characters, were rendered in high fidelity, a huge challenge with the restricted file size of the AR platforms.”

Overall the campaign was hugely successful, and it served as yet another testament to how Dan Phillips can geniusly blend technology, creativity and advertising to get an audience’s attention in new and unexpected ways.

Zaninovich says, “Dan is a total pro. He has the ability to absorb and understand creative requests immediately and uses his skills to unravel production complications. The work we were trying to do was pushing the technology in a way it had never been pushed before and he was on the front lines of that battle.”

As technology continues to become more and more integrated into our daily lives, the way we interact with each other and brands is constantly changing. From a business perspective it is necessary to have a thought leader paving the way, someone who not only has an open mind and approaches these technological changes without fear, but someone who is truly passionate about fueling innovation, that’s when the real magic happens. Dan Phillips is one of those inspiring leaders.

When asked how he stays up to date on all of the technological advancements, he explains that natural curiosity and staying in the loop with industry press has been key, but even more important is the circle of people from various fields that he surrounds himself with. “Developers and artists are always a source of inspiration. The best creative agencies are always looking to the new trends and having interesting challenges about how to use them. Creative Technologists constantly throw interesting new ideas around. Gaming challenges and forges new paths to entertainment,” says Dan. “It is a fascinating career field because by definition it never stands still.”

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2021 EntertainmentNewsToday

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