Agency in a Box? An X-Box maybe.
When Obama won the presidency in 2008, I witnessed a remarkable
digital event. After spending the evening with friends, my son and I
arrived home and he jumped onto Facebook and Xbox
simultaneously, accepting congratulations from around the world. On
the speaker I could hear all the accents and references to Facebook
After this multi-platform celebration, his friends began to play games
again, but my son merely stood by socially, chatting and ribbing and
integrating what he learned into new conversations. I asked why he
wasn't playing; he told me he only went ‘there’ because his that’s
where he’d find his friends, that he didn’t really like to play the games
(this explained why he sometimes went Benedict Arnold and shot his
teammates). He liked to learn from people around the world, new
points of view, catch phrases, trends and social chatter.
I thought of this often as I spent the next few years messing around in
a game of sorts you may remember as Second Life. Like my son, I
don't really think of it as a "game", but a place to converge and learn
about people and ideas from the around the world. I see myself as a
synergist, picking up from nearly everything I see or read something I
can integrate into my work, be it my art or strategic media planning.
Inside Second Life, we've discovered a world of content creators. Sure
the ‘porn’ underworld is still there, just like it is in the rest of the
world and the internet, but it’s often integrated into ideas that further
content creation. Like stockings with ornaments that are
manufactured into real world objects overnight via tools like
Shapeways, before others even know they exist - voila a revenue
stream. And don’t underestimate the energy value of an avatar that
simply makes the creator feel super cool while creating.
My virtual experiences coupled with observations of my son’s gonenative
gaming life inspired an idea: the AdGame. If Xbox could be a
place ostensibly for RPGs but really a virtual neighborhood, why
shouldn’t there be a box for all the players in the advertising world?
AdGame would be the nexus of three powerful currents pulling on
media today: Global Decentralized Teamwork, the growth of virtual
personas and their platforms, and Artificial Intelligence.
Global Decentralized Teamwork started as basic freelancing, moved
to more distant off-site piecemealing of business with the invention
of email and the Internet, and went global with the spread of highspeed
connections, video conferencing, and cloud-based
collaboration. The mentality for such teamwork is built into the
supply chain now – people expect to work ‘closely’ with someone
they’ve never and might never meet - but the pathway is still littered
with confusion and the stop-start nature of having to invent the rules
for each new collaborative venture.
Part of the problem is that the platform being used in this model is
the real world, with its messiness of time zones, negative cultural
assumptions, and good old frailties of human nature. The real world
has its own pace, one that, frankly, is much slower than what we’ve
become used to when creating a new product or idea. What if we
could minimize the effects of these drags on creativity? That’s a
powerful-if-unspoken driver for the constructors of virtual reality.
Avatars can exhibit all the positive skills, manners, and fortitude that
you are able to conjure within the confines of the worlds they inhabit,
without the undesirable limitations.
Even before the a full virtual world were built inside AdGame, version
1.0 would allow seamless communication between all the advertising
players – something like a fun Xbox interface with Elance on the
backend. So when a job is ‘described’
(“posting” being far too impersonal) live by a client, players around
the world would bid on their portion and AdGame would assemble a
team or choice of teams for the client in minutes. Then, when all
parties have agreed, the work is returned quickly as each player feels
the need to support his team (with the occasional Benedict Arnold
weeding himself out).
Future versions of the game would allow for greater automation. At
this time avatars are limited to the time their masters are able to
devote to them – what about when they are set free to act without
puppeteers? Artificial Intelligence would offer creative professionals
a menagerie of potential collaborators with the ability to produce
products and ideas at the blink of an eye. Don’t get ahead of ourselves
just yet, you say? Some of us are trying to.
In my company’s Second Life sim (which is being moved over to another virtual world soon,
High Fidelity), we’ve built a prototype called theBrainstorm Machine:
put some ideas in, out comes a new idea. As more people and organizations
use it to produce new concepts, themachine will be improved and
eventually be able to improve itself, within certain parameters. As the field of
AI advances, we’ll continue to upgrade, with the goal of a self-sustaining creativity partner.
How about that for just one AdGame app? And remember, even
though those apps and automation might end up being the killer
draw to AdGame, people will be staying for, well, the people. The
worldwide connections, the cultural experiences, the Game as a
platform for their work life, and a good portion of their social life as
well. Clients will know just where to go to find an at-the-ready agency
that can get an RFP back in minutes and a job done in hours, but
they’ll also know who they like for certain aspects of their creativity
And there’s no reason its use would be limited to advertising. Our
industry attracts a lot of creative people, and if they’re already
hanging out in AdGame, why not collaborate on a few songs, or start
a new company? The point is to bring all the ingredients to one place,
where all the players understand the ground rules, then come what