If the metaverse is the next big technology trend that marketers are focused on, then Happiness Saigon has a distinctly retro plan to take advantage of this new wave.
The idea came from a junior designer, Nhi, who called up Nick Stillittano, desiginated as creative hybrid at the shop, and asked him to join a link on Gather, where she had just remade the agency's office lounge. With the teams missing meeting each other after being stuck at home for much of the past two years, the duo spent the rest of the weekend building the entire office as a surprise means for the team to get together.
The creative agency in Vietnam rebuilt its office virtually on the digital platform, down to the tiniest details. All four stories of its Happiness Saigon Mansion—the creative rooms, the pantry, the rooftop BBQ, and even Stillitano's tea set on his desk—were added.
"We have daily calls, and weekly 'beers and cheers' video calls every Friday, but it's not the same as in person," Stillittano tells Campaign Asia-Pacific. "There's this sense of distance even over Zoom. What we realised this platform allowed was a more intimate way to connect. You can move your character around the map, and only those in proximity to you can see and hear you. It provides a way for us to emulate actually being together."
The goal, according to Stillittano, was to bring some "Happiness to everyone at home." The agency held its weekly 'beers and cheers’, with a speech from CEO Alan Cerutti in the virtual environment. "People were loving it," Stillittano says. "Exploring the office, being able to jump from conversation to conversation—and laugh at the occasional 'Easter egg' that we hid in the map. It did bring a sense of closeness that we were for sure missing over normal video calls."
Already, the agency has started to use the custom platform for other reasons, such as briefings and other team meetings. It's become an occasional space to hang out socially too. There are even some games inside that people can play together.
"We've also made our metaverse public, so anyone curious can join and tour our office," Stillittano adds. "This is great for talent interviews, chemistry meetings with clients, as we can give them a tour of the office. So if you want to join our creative consultancy agency hit me up, I'll show you where your desk could be."
Stillittano is also keen to stress that Happiness' metaverse and gamification skills aren't just some cute inward-facing party trick. Instead, the agency already has some business implementations on the (virtual) ground and is shopping around for more.
For Pepsi, the shop launched a new fashion design collab line that could only be bought with a digital “Pepcoin" currency. The coin isn't something you purchase, but rather something that you earn through interacting with the brand and your community online. For Tuborg in 2020, Happiness created an interactive music video with a couple of Vietnam's hottest performers, which changes based on the amount of people that you watch it with.
"People don't want to see ads," Stillittano says. "You're not competing with the other brands' ads, you're competing with YouTube vlogs, TikTok, PlayStations. The only way to do that is to create something that people actually want to interact with. ... It has to be worth the exchange of time that we're taking. If not, all you're doing is being a nuisance."
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