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​Vice's creative agency Virtue starts virtual hub for main brands


Cultural media platform Vice is entering the virtual world to collaborate with high-profile clients including brands like Coca-Cola. The virtual world Viceverse will serve as an innovation hub for Virtue, the company's creative agency. Virtue already developed a virtual clothing line for Scandinavian retailer Carlings with a creative approach. 'The best marketing is the perfect intersection between art and commerce'.

It is a futuristic looking building designed for Vice's creative agency Virtue: a virtual office for employees on platform Decentraland. The team will work on NFTs (non-fungible tokens) and other digital projects. The virtual building, designed by Danish architecture studio BIG, has two floors, but there is also a secret floor to discover. The structure will include an NFT gallery and various interactive spaces. As the project develops other floors will be added.

Vice's creative director Morten Grubak is convinced the new space will help companies spread their message in innovating ways. "We wanted to do it in style with aesthetics and ideas when creating, so we teamed up with BIG. It just made sense to make a space for ourselves where we can invite clients and collaborators to dip their toes in that space without actually doing a big-scale campaign. That's why we set up an office," Grubak explains to NFT Plazas.

Virtual fashion for online influencers
As a creative agency Virtue tries to find adventurous ways for unlocking new opportunities for brands. The agency publishes its own research articles, such as the 'Youth in Pandemic' series, tracking the behavioral shifts of Gen Z. A recent survey on 'New Codes of Luxury' elaborates on new cultural forces exerting pressure on how young people think and how to translate such outcomes for brands.
 Virtue collaborated with fashion and jeans specialist Carlings to make a digital clothing collection with zero impact on the environment. One of the target groups were online influencers who used fast fashion to present themselves in a different way every time they appeared online. With digital clothes they would prevent the environmental pollution that comes with fast fashion.

How a fashion retailer started a digital collection
When Virtue proposed the project to Scandinavian retailer Carlings the company first rejected the plan. "We travelled to Oslo to present our idea in front of the board," creative director Grubak recounts in a video interview. "I felt pretty comfortable going in there because we had something really great for them. I thought we just nailed it, but after the presentation the room got completely quiet." Carlings made it pretty clear: this was nothing that consumers would be interested in. They asked for new ideas. Then Virtue did something unexpected. Two weeks later they presented exactly the same thing all over again just with their mobile strategy. "Halfway through the meeting the CEO finally put his fist to the table and said: 'OK, let's do it'. So, we spent the next months actually creating this project."

Express your style online and reduce waste
Of course, Virtue focuses on youth culture. How can young generations express their style online and at the same time reduce waste? The unwritten rule is that you can't be seen online in the same outfit twice. The solution without a negative impact on the environment is a series of virtually fitting fashion items you only wear in the digital space.

The Scandinavian company presents itself as the ideal fashion brand for people showing off their looks on social media. Visitors of the online shop are asked to select an item and upload a selfie. Then the 3D designers make the piece of clothing a perfect fit with the person on the selfie. The idea is to make virtual fashion look as good as the real thing.

Augmented-reality T-shirt
Virtue moreover developed an augmented-reality T-shirt for Carlings. Wearers of 'The last statement T-shirt' can update their message they want to show on the shirt. The graphics superimposed over the white T-shirt adjust to the movements of the wearer in the photos or videos they record. The T-shirt is intended primarily for an online audience that will notice the messaging in photos and videos posted on social media. "The augmented-reality feature makes the product more versatile and allows someone just to buy one political T-shirt where before they may have purchased several," CEO Ronny Mikalsen of Carlings said to magazine Dezeen.

Marketing at the intersection of art and commerce
The work of Virtue demonstrates that it is not just innovation or technology that leads to a marketing success. In a video podcast Chris Garbutt, co-president of Virtue, points to the importance of creativity in marketing. "I think the best advertising and marketing is the perfect intersection between art and commerce. If you take the art out of it and you take the randomness out of finding artful ideas and you make it all a science, you lose the magic."

Vice and its creative agency Virtue are immersed in youth culture. "We have an ongoing conversation on a lot of platforms and connect with youth culture every day. It gives us the ability to really connect our marketing to our clients' br ands. At the same time, if you want to be iconic you've got to try and make the distinction between reflecting culture and actually creating culture. I think that is the difference between doing good work or doing iconic work."

Reaching a sense of flow
As a creative you need to find space to breathe. Everyone finds a different way. In his spare time, Garbutt is a surfer and on the waves he feels free and disconnected. "You can sometimes feel so overly connected that you need those kinds of moments. There is a sense of flow when you get that wave and you are getting this feeling of incredible grace and poetry. That is my spiritual place and I go there to reconnect with everything that makes me human."

The advice is not to base marketing only on science. "There is a constant struggle as the world progresses into a more data-driven world. Tools help us place our work at the right moment in time for the right audience with the right message. There is a lot of merit in them, but without the artfulness it becomes clinical and cold, and loses the emotion and the humanity of it."

Viceverse: virtual office for creative work
The new virtual world, Viceverse, will primarily function as a virtual office for the creative agency Virtue. It will explore new ways to work with clients like Coca-Cola and Beats by Dre. Virtue Futures launched Coca-Cola's first NFT last year. Viceverse will also reserve spaces for innovative web experiments, which is in line with the views of Grubak, who aims to expand the virtual space. "Teams can experiment with NFTs, Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) and Web 3.0, applying insights directly for brands eager to make an impact," he explains to magazine Dezeen.

Employees in the new virtual headquarters can conduct meetings and collaborate with colleagues from around the world. "It has plenty of hidden extras for curious explorers, including a direct route for young creatives to reach a selection of highly acclaimed global meta-mentors. The space will showcase a range of digital experiments," Grubak says.

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