In June this year, Google unveiled The Cube, a six-sided digital video platform that can be used to simultaneously tell different stories in the same digital space.
Following the release, Kiwi directors Steve Ayson and Damien Shatford of The Sweet Shop partnered with Semi-Permanent and Google Creative Lab Sydney to create a first-of-its-kind interactive movie experience.
Ayson and Shatford were challenged with the task of finding a way to use the technology to tell a story unlike anything the world has seen. After extensive writing and experimentation, the directorial pair developed an innovative approach in which the six sides of the Cube would be used to tell a series of short stories in which the characters move across each side of the device, each experiencing their own adventure while simultaneously becoming the heroes, sidekicks, and villains of their neighbours' worlds. The result is a completely unified storytelling experience that experiments with the limits of what storytelling can be.
After the release of this project, advertising agencies were left scratching their heads in terms of how the platform could be integrated into a campaign.
This contemplation has now materialised in two promotional experiments by Sony and Google Play.
Dubbed the 'Ice Cube Cube', Sony's effort features rapper Ice Cube's music playing while clips from 22 Jump Street play on each of the six sides.
It's essentially a trailer for the film starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, but the use of the Cube adds an interactive element that would not be possible on a standard platform.
Google Play's effort is also serves a promotional purpose in the sense that each of the six sides of the execution plays a different track of music, thereby showcasing what is available on the music-streaming service.
Interestingly, when the Cube was first developed, the possibility of playing different music in different sections of the same space served as one of the key factors that inspired creative director Tom Uglow* and his team to create the platform. What is even more interesting is how the idea came about.
"There’s an official history of [the Cube], but the truth is that they had been mucking around with web cubes for around four years since web geo was invented," says Uglow. "And then I happened to be talking to a cabaret artist about a project she wanted to do, in which you walked all around her cabaret and it was segmented into six sides. The score would be the same but people would be singing a different libretto for each bit of the cabaret, which would be cool. You could sort of hear what was happening if you were on the side, and if you stood at the door you’d see two sides of the story. And all the stories would intertwine. And I was like, ‘You could definitely do that digitally’. It would be easier to do that digitally than physically on a cube. And then I walked into the office the following day and asked my developer how easy it would be to put videos on the side of a cube so that they were synchronised. And then that turned into a very, very long exploration."
And he says that this exploration is far from over.
"We’re still looking for the best places to use it and we’re still working out how [we can put it into practice]. It was so revolutionary that when we launched it, Chrome for mobile, which normally launches on a six-week cycle, immediately updated itself. So you’re in this conversation where the stuff that you’re doing on your browsers on the phone is right at the edge of what the browsers are capable of—so much so that you don’t realise that they’re using experimental features until you turn them off."
Uglow also says that there was a level of serendipity involved with the project, and that it could quite easily not have been finalised at all.
"Had we decided to start [the Cube] two months later, we would’ve decided it was not possible because there was a whole bit of the web kit that was fundamentally [changed]. It was like going over a bridge in an action film and having it fall down behind you. And we went, ‘Well, we’re here now, so do we carry on?’"
Now, that the platform exists, Google is inviting agencies both here and across the ditch to find creative ways in which it can be incorporated into campaigns. And while a spokesperson says that "a number of agencies are ... exploring what might be possible" we are yet to see any local advertising-related applications of the platform.
*Read more about Uglow's work with Google Creative Lab in the upcoming issue of NZ Marketing.