Mark Hodgens, CEO of tkm9 group, knew technology would play a critical role in differentiating his agency from the big players. And that’s how his conversation with Intel started.
The way brands interact with consumers is significantly changing. Advertising campaigns are no longer limited to the traditional media channels of TV, print and radio. In this digital age it’s social networks, live streaming, and augmented and virtual reality that rule – and brands are needing to up the ante to engage with consumers.
When Hodgens and one of the other directors decided to head back to Australia eight years ago after a significant stint in Europe managing global agencies, he knew they would start an experiential agency. He wanted to help brands connect with consumers through immersive, fun experiences. And, in order to cut through, they needed to go to market with something that had never been seen before.
“In the early days, we’d lean on Intel for support, experimenting with tech and what it could bring to a brand activation.”
When augmented reality was still in its infancy, tkm9 built their first user experience campaign. The company has gained a reputation ever since as the go-to solution for any brand seeking to make use of immersive technology.
Since then, the clients have come rolling in and Hodgens has witnessed a number of changes in the industry.
“The big thing with AR, VR and other cutting-edge technologies is that it has gone from gimmick to real use, generating ROI that we can show to our clients,” he says.
Now that immersive media is becoming more prevalent, Hodgens says the challenge for TKM9 is to ensure their tech remains relevant.
“Just because the tech might be cutting-edge doesn’t mean humans will actually understand what to do with it. For that reason, we do a lot of testing to get the tech right and that it makes sense,” he explains.
Having Intel as a partner has assisted the company to remain ground-breaking.
“Together we look at real business problems and how we are going to solve them with tech and rich immersive content. The content part is imperative; it’s the part that makes humans stop and look. And the tech provides the tools to engage in a unique way.”
To help achieve these endeavours they use an “accelerate lab”.
“In the lab, we explore our clients’ business problems, creating solutions that we then test in real life. We then watch, learn and evolve the tech and content.
“Some of our best R&D work with Intel has come from trying and then discovering a solution. I think most inventors experience this at some stage; the act of simply trying gives you the ability to create.”
Recent collaborations have seen tkm9 working with Intel® RealSense™ Technology, a technology that enables computing devices to sense the environment around it; to see, analyse, and collect data about the real world.
“The RealSense camera has been a powerful device for us. We love infrared and optical devices and it’s small in size compared to other solutions. It underpins all of our tech for both interaction and analytics.”
Hodgens says RealSense has allowed tkm9 to immerse users into a futuristic and magical world, where people are able to engage with digital signage and kiosks, for example, through gesture control, or even their facial expressions.
“The potential of this technology is extraordinary and has allowed us to accurately detect the audience’s interaction, in the moment, with these experiences. We can see how old they are, their gender, if they’re happy or sad, and then alter the experience based on this information.
“As humans, we need responsive feedback without any delays, it needs to feel natural, and we’ve found a product that can handle our creative ideas and bring our content to life.”
“The ability to dream, create and deliver has been the game changer for us.”