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Buy, build or partner: A new model of working with startups

Earlier this summer Nike announced it was acquiring AI startup, Celect, in order to “beef up its predictive analytics strengths”. It’s a smart move. A data move. Like all things artificial intelligence, this solution needs a lot of consumer or retail data to get smarter. And Nike, with its $36.4 billion in revenue last year, has a lot of data. 

A tech acquisition is a complicated beast that comes with as many challenges as it does advantages. And it should not be seen as an innovation silver bullet by most corporates. 

Take augmented reality by comparison for instance, an area where we’ve seen multiple acquisitions over the past couple of years. This space is changing so rapidly, the tech you buy is almost immediately obsolete. There is higher image quality every day, new capabilities in what it can read – like skin diagnostics and not just makeup in beauty for instance – and constant challenges to stay ahead in the market as a result. 

For a company that has pulled such startups in-house, there needs to be serious commitment to advance the technology. Unfortunately, what tends to happen is that a lot of the potential development work gets lost. A startup on the outside, by comparison, has to keep evolving in an aggressive way in order to survive. But how can an acquired startup remain competitive if they can’t seek out your competitors as clients? 

Another approach to innovation is building, where brands create solutions in-house, or with agency partners, from the get go. More often than not, this sort of work comes under the experiential header: a tech solution based on the creative. What we frequently see as a result, is big investments (six figures and above) for little return due to the fact the technology just doesn’t rise to the task. 

Not that there aren’t successes within all this – there are many examples of building solutions internally, especially foundational or backend tech – that do make sense. But in our experience with the companies we work with and have gotten to know, it often doesn’t work. Even for basic technology needs, building in-house can frequently be met with many of the same challenges as an acquisition does, namely the fact progress and development gets caught up in the politics and daily grind of everyday business. 

It doesn’t matter what size of organization you are in this case either. We work with large public companies that are leaders in the industry – and we see the same challenges time and again. Things don’t evolve quickly enough and objectives are not met. Eventually, no one is watching that investment any more and innovation gets a bad rep. 

So we believe in a third option. 

With the challenges presented by buying and building, not to mention a lack of progress in internal culture making room for innovation to be successful, we decided to create a platform for partnerships. This middle step is known as open innovation. 

Very simply, this is about setting objectives internally, creating a blueprint of what you want, and then searching exhaustively for the best external partners that fulfil that brief. 

One of the benefits of this tends to lie in the quality of output you receive. When working with an outside partner – particularly at the startup level – a new large corporate client could become the centrepiece to the startup’s growth. This often means the team will continue to update the product and guard its integration after launch. It becomes part of their story. Having the chance to work with an established brand or retailer is almost sacred to an entrepreneur, which is a very different mindset to what you may find in an employee. 

But startups struggle to deliver work ethic with a full understanding of execution needs, deadlines and ability to navigate the red tape in corporations that could hold back the project. That’s why we believe open innovation is most successful when it comes with an assigned partnership manager. Our ultimate role is about providing the framework that can lead to success. 

What we’re increasingly being asked for more recently however, and thus now offering, is essentially a hybrid model – one that is all about partnerships, but unique ones that more closely align with the optimal version of building. This is where we start talking about having your cake and eating it too. 

Many companies have figured out that working with curated top startups is the most cost-effective and efficient option. But then last year, we started to see a new conversation emerging around the fact that often what retail executives look for just doesn’t exist as yet. The kind of solution you have in mind is not what is being pitched to you. You look at all the possible startups in the space and all of them are missing that one thing. You don’t want an incomplete approach. You want the full package.

How are you thinking about new innovation? The Current Global is a transformation consultancy driving growth within fashion, luxury and retail. Our mission is to solve challenges and facilitate change. We are thinkers and builders delivering innovative solutions and experiences. Each of the rules referenced above is matched by one of our products and services. Interested in how? Get in touch to learn more.

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Campaigns social media

CGI model Lil Miquela’s latest ad is for UGG

Lil Miquela for UGG

Digital model Lil Miquela is joining a roster of real-life influencers, such as model Adwoa Aboa and streetwear designer Heron Preston, for UGG’s 40th anniversary campaign.

According to the brand, the computer-generated model, whose full name is Miquela Souza, represents an “entire generation that is revisiting identity, reality and storytelling”. In the ads, she is seen against the same surrealist backdrops that other models in the campaign are photographed in, as if to blend seamlessly among the cast.

Created by Los Angeles-based startup Brud, the avatar straddles the line between digital and offline, and resurfaces the question of what the future of fashion influencers is. Similar to her real-life counterparts, however, Lil Miquela represents more than just a pretty face, as she has used her online platform to advocate for causes such as body positivity, immigration and most notably, the Black Lives Matter movement.

British model Aboa, on the other hand, is also the co-founder of Gurls Talk, an online platform for young women to discuss important issues pertaining to their lives, such as sexuality and self care.

For now, the use of CGI models seems more closely linked to the good publicity it brings rather than pushing a bigger conversation.

Back in 2016, Louis Vuitton was the first to deploy a digital model when “Final Fantasy” character Lightning posed for its S/S 2016 campaign; earlier this year, Prada enlisted Lil Miquela to promote a series of Instagram Stories stickers and GIFs alongside its Fall 2018 collection; and most recently, Balmain replaced its usual cast of supermodels with three virtual influencers.

Are you thinking innovatively enough in your brand messaging? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

 

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Editor's pick film

Triumph pushes bra-fitting services in animated musical film

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Triumph has transformed model Hannah Ferguson into an animated character as part of a campaign designed to promote its bra fitting service.

The two-minute musical spot celebrates the magic of finding the perfectly fitting bra. It follows the tale of Hannah, her two friends, a fairy godmother in the shape of a dress form, and a companion called Fred the Frog on the quest for “the one”.

The aim in using animation, according to Triumph, was to provide women with a character that is relatable rather than aspirational, removing any pressure to look a certain way.

Eszter Szijarto, head of brand marketing at Triumph said: “It is really important for us to find new ways of bringing to life the bra finding journey so that we continue to inspire customers to go for a bra fitting. By transforming our model, Hannah, into a cartoon we are treading new ground and by doing so, we aim to create a compelling visual experience that captures the magical feeling of finding the right bra that transforms your life – ‘The One’.”

The campaign features a musical score composed by Tony award-winner Jason Robert Brown. The vocal was performed by three acclaimed Broadway singers, and the accompaniment by Prague’s Filmharmonic Orchestra.

It will air on television in the UK, Germany and Italy from today until mid-May, while edited versions will be viewable online.

Accompanying it is a contest called Animate Me, which calls for fans to answer questions related to “The One” via Facebook and Twitter as well as the Find the One Hub (where bra fitting appointments can also be made). Winners will receive an animated illustration of themselves in the same style as the film.

This post first appeared on WGSN.com/blogs

Categories
film

American Eagle introduces London stores with Daisy Lowe launch film

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British model Daisy Lowe fronted a short film from American Eagle Outfitters to signify its arrival in the UK last month.

Directed by Joshua Stocker, the 60-second clip features Lowe running through the streets at night, shedding her leather jacket and transforming into an eagle herself. The soundtrack is by Blonde Redhead.

A behind-the-scenes video accompanied (as below), showing certain moments from the film as it was created, including – like something from film Black Swan – the hundreds of feathers being applied to Lowe’s arms.

The campaign ran with the tagline “The Eagle has landed”, as the brand introduced three stores at Westfield London, Westfield Stratford and Bluewater.

American Eagle is also pushing regional versions of all its social channels. There’s @AEO_UK on Twitter and Instagram, as well as a dedicated UK Facebook page. The hashtag being pushed is #AEOStyleUK.

Categories
Editor's pick film social media

New #ilovetopshop campaign launches with Cara Delevingne

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Model Cara Delevingne is the face of the new Topshop autumn/winter 2014/15 campaign, as launched online today.

The British social media superstar (who hit six million followers on Instagram last week) appears in a series of 12 images shot by Alasdair McLellan and styled by Kate Phelan, as well as a behind-the-scenes film produced by Leigh Johnson.

That video (as below), was released on YouTube this morning, and features Delevingne on set as her usual quirky self; doing ‘the worm’, playing the guitar, popping balloons, dancing around, pulling silly faces and more. It also seemingly reveals that her pet rabbit Cecil – who has become famous via his own Instagram account, @cecildelevingne – was a gift from the shoot. He features with Delevingne throughout.

“I love Topshop,” she mouths on his behalf at the end, reflecting the hashtag of the campaign, #ilovetopshop.

The launch of the campaign coincides with the announcement of global expansion plans for the Topshop and Topman brands. Five new wholly-owned stores are set to open in the US over the next nine months, including in New York, San Diego, Houston, Atlanta and Washington, as well as one in Amsterdam, two in Hong Kong and new market openings in Egypt, New Zealand and Panama.

The retailer is also planning to break into Mainland China this year through a pilot online business with Shangpin, the Beijing-based fashion and luxury website, reports WWD.

This is the first time Topshop has featured a single model as its campaign face. Delevingne has already walked for the brand for a number of seasons, and featured in its famed Harlem Shake video during its autumn/winter 2013/14 Unique show, which has had over 1.6 million views on YouTube. She was also a key part of its Google-cam initiative the same season.

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Categories
film social media

Topshop launches Kate Moss video series ahead of new collection

Topshop has revealed the first in a series of videos in the run up to its new Kate Moss collection launch.

The line will hit stores on April 30 for the first time since 2010. Accordingly the retailer has teamed up with NOWNESS to tease its arrival through a total of eight films dedicated to the “supermodel, muse and designer”.

Each one will feature one of Kate’s friends and fashion contacts shot by Leigh Johnson, and providing “never before seen access to the notoriously private Kate”, as Grazia puts it.

The first, as above, stars BBC Radio 1 DJ Nick Grimshaw. Others will include Charlotte Tilbury, Amanda Harlech, Beth Ditto, Cara Delevingne, Vivienne Westwood and Natalie Massenet. That makes a total of seven, meaning the eighth may star the always-elusive Moss herself.

Here in the meantime is an additional Topshop teaser featuring the model talking about the collection from behind-the-scenes at the Topshop design studio:

Categories
film

Dior returns to Versailles with second Secret Garden film

 

Dior has released its second Secret Garden of Versailles film, once again shot by Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin and already well on its way to viral success.

Less than 24-hours since release, and the 60-second spot from creative director Raf Simons has over 3.5 million views on YouTube. That follows hot on the heels of the first film’s 24 million views to-date for both its short and long formats combined.

The latest one sees model Daria Strokous moving from the marble hallways of the grounds’ Grand Trianon into its accompanying parkland where a bevy of other “flower women” are waiting to join her. The result is an altogether more sinister, yet equally ethereal piece of creative to last season – silhouettes among centuries-old trees, autumnal picnics surrounded by layers of heavy mist and a doubtless sense of surrealism in an enchanted forest befitting the Secret Garden title.

“Versailles hums with well-kept secrets,” reads the write-up, referencing the idea of “an extraordinary world of poetry and colour” and inspiration pooled from Marie Antoinette on the one hand and Edouard Manet’s 1863 painting “Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe” on the other.

The fashion house’s autumn 2013 collection is front and centre, as is its Diorissimo handbag in a variety of colours seen tightly embraced by Strokous. Best of all, however, Depeche Mode provides the soundtrack again, this time with Behind the Wheel from 1987.

Below are some of the shots from its print campaign:

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Categories
film Uncategorized

Love magazine’s saucy video advent calendar: back by popular demand

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Love magazine has filmed another bevy of models each sending the camera a saucy Christmas wish in its second-annual digital advent calendar.

Launching today with a Calvin Klein-clad Cara Delevingne (as pictured) as its December 1 star, the concept follows on from last year’s viral success.

Over the next 24 days, the likes of Abbey Clancy (also pictured), Daisy Lowe, Dree Hemingway, Edie Campbell, Eliza Cummings, Jessica Hart, Jessica Stam, Karlie Kloss, Liberty Ross, Lily Donaldson, Pixie Geldof, and Tallulah Harlech, will all make an appearance, with a new film every day until Christmas. Kelly Brook will feature again too, as will her boyfriend Thom Evans.

Katie Grand, editor-in-chief of Love, says: “It’s been super fun working on the Love advent calendar again. We had such amazing figures last year with some girls getting up to a million hits for their festive frolicking. I mean, who doesn’t want to see Cara on roller skates?”

Behind the scenes are the same team as last year: photographers Daniel Jackson and Angelo Pennetta, and stylists Sally Lyndley and Victoria Young.

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Categories
mobile Uncategorized

Fashion Hazard offers industry’s first action-fuelled catwalk game

Forget playing dress-up, forget virtual shopping malls, forget anything too girly or flirty, a new mobile game called Fashion Hazard has just hit the app store from Condé Nast that’s all about action.

Set on the catwalks of New York, London, Milan and Paris, it requires players to swipe, tilt and tap their way through all manner of obstacles to collect virtual currency, known as “bling”.

Competing to begin with as a naïve model called Ellie, there is everything from hissing snakes (a not-so-subtle metaphor for fashion industry types, says AdWeek) and retro stereos to contend with, not to mention the occasional can of red paint as though straight from a live PETA demonstration. As you progress, a more experienced model becomes available to play as.

“Begin as a model new to the world of high fashion and at the bottom of Fashion Week’s totem pole. Make a runway round-trip before the clock runs out without tripping, losing balance, or taking the ultimate spill,” reads the write-up.

“From New York through Europe, the rewards get bigger, the stakes get higher and staying on top gets harder. Stay in time, stay in line, stay in season…or become a Fashion Hazard.”

The idea for the game came from Juliana Stock, Condé Nast’s senior director of business and product development for its Interactive Product Group (IPG), whose 11-year-old daughter enjoys action games such as Temple Run).

“When we started to look at action and adventure with her interests in mind, which are girly, we didn’t find any,” she explained. “There was a need in the market to create an action game that was challenging, and yet still feminine and visually appealing to this demographic.”

It is currently available for the iPhone and iPad with an Android version due to follow, and costs 99c in the app store.

It also provides options for additional purchases including wallpaper and ringtones, suggesting future advertising opportunities could follow. It launches with a cross-promotional initiative with Frenzoo, developer of the Me Girl series.

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Uncategorized

David Gandy to join Twitter Q&A line-up during menswear collections

Model David Gandy has just been announced as a key industry insider partaking in the British Fashion Council’s live Twitter Q&A this weekend.

A follow up to yesterday’s post about the digital innovations shaping London Collections: Men, he joins fellow members of the BFC’s Fashion 2012 Menswear Committee, designer Richard James and Esquire editor Alex Bilmes.

The public is being encouraged to send in questions ahead of time using #ASKLCM, touching on subjects as varied as fashion, life and love, as well as even beer, football and curry! Each session will last 30 minutes.

Here’s the full schedule:

Friday June 15, 11am
Richard James, designer

Saturday June 16, 11am
Alex Bilmes, editor, Esquire

Sunday June 17, 12pm
David Gandy, model