Digital A-List 2012

Ad Age Digital A-List: B-Reel

With Commercial Production Shifting From Film-Only, Digital-Focused Shop Is Pushing the Boundaries of Creative

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Last week, creativity lifted the veil on its 2011 production company of the year, and the winner was markedly different from any before it. For the first time, a company of the digital persuasion took home the overall title, besting the top stalwart spot-makers.

It was only a matter of time, as the idea of commercial production has undeniably shifted from a predominantly film-driven proposition to one that traverses the whole gamut of making stuff. In the case of B-Reel, the possibilities range from building robots, platforms and interfaces to figuring out how to use mind control. And yes, B-Reel even makes traditional commercials, too.

Live Shop lets 3Sweden customer-service reps present product info to shoppers in real time.
Live Shop lets 3Sweden customer-service reps present product info to shoppers in real time.

"We knew going in that they were technically skilled. We were surprised at how much they brought creatively to the project," said Jaime Robinson, a creative director at Pereiera & O' Dell, which worked with B-Reel on a campaign for Intel/Toshiba. "They really push to make the work as engaging as possible," she said.

Founded in Stockholm in 1999 by Anders Wahlquist, Pelle Nilsson and Petter Westlund, the company now also has offices in New York, Los Angeles and London. In the past year alone it has produced work for clients such as Google, Ikea, Honda and Intel/Toshiba. Here, a look at just a few of B-Reel's recent accomplishments.

3Sweden: 3Live Shop
Swedish Telecom provider 3Sweden approached B-Reel with a daunting brief: Revolutionize e-commerce. According to Mr. Westlund, the client knew that people would browse Sweden's website to find information about mobile phones but then would end up making the final purchase at the physical stores -- or worse, at another retailer altogether. To get the conversion rates up, Sweden challenged B-Reel to make customers as comfortable buying online as they are at brick-and-mortar shops. B-Reel's solution? 3Live Shop, a customized multitouch interface that allows Sweden customer-service reps to present product suggestions and info "Minority Report"-style, to shoppers in real time. B-Reel teamed up with fellow Swedish wizards at Teenage Engineering on building hardware. According to Mr. Westlund, the development occurred in five stages over a period over one and a half years. 3Sweden is working with B-Reel to expand the platform to other industries.

A headset records the brain patterns of a child sitting in Varier's balans chair.
A headset records the brain patterns of a child sitting in Varier's balans chair.

Ariel Fashion Shoot
B-Reel teamed up with Saatchi & Saatchi, Stockholm, to create this mother of all product demos, for Ariel Laundry Detergent. To show off the stain-fighting power of the soap, the production company built a robot in the center of a Stockholm shopping center. Visitors to Ariel's Facebook page could line up to control the robot remotely and shoot a variety of stain-producing substances, such as lingonberries and chocolate, at a laundry line of crisp, white designer shirts. The shirts were then dunked in a vat of Ariel suds, dried and delivered to their respective stain-shooting culprits. This campaign pulled from learnings from B-Reel's 2010 robotic outing, Mitsubishi Live Drive, out of 180 L.A.

Varier Furniture
In 2011, B-Reel spent some time playing with slot cars. The result? A fun, experimental video that showed staffers at its London office racing the toys with the power of their minds -- thanks to a setup that combined Scalextric slot cars, Arduino technology and a Neurosky headset. Those insights informed this recent campaign for Varier Furniture, via Oslo Agency Dist Creative. The campaign used the headset to record brain patterns of kids sitting in Varier's Balans chair, which is designed to promote good circulation and emotional well-being. B-Reel then integrated a custom-built data-visualization engine that translated the recordings into gorgeous patterns that could be printed onto upholstery fabric for the chair.

Google Maps Cube Game
For this year's CES, Google tapped B-Reel to create this game promoting Google's Indoor Maps. The search giant had been working with agency Venables Bell Partners to make an online video that imagined Google Maps in the form of a labyrinthine cube. B-Reel took the idea one step further and turned it into an actual game that asks players to control the passage of a blue dot through a WebGLcube wrapped in the streets of Google Maps. The project launched at Google's Lounge at CES on a 65-inch touchscreen interactive display and also appeared in a B-Reel-created teaser promoting Google Maps and a new social platform Google+ Games.

Intel/Toshiba: Inside Experience
San Francisco agency Pereira & O' Dell chose the shop to work closely with the agency and director D.J. Caruso on this 11-day Facebook experience. Billed as the first "social media-created film," it starred Emmy Rossum as a victim of kidnapping trapped in a mysterious room. Fans worked together on Facebook to help her character, Christina Perasso, escape, and their efforts helped shape the storyline.

"Our characters actually came "alive' in social media, and B-Reel was a huge part of making that happen," said Ms. Robinson. "They also scared us a little -- they authored many of the villain's disturbing video messages and mind-bending puzzles. Creepy stuff."

Mr. Nilsson said B-Reel had its typical team on the project: executive producer, producer, creative director, art director, creative technologist, motion-graphic artist and developers. But the project also required a copywriter, who gave voice to the characters as the project ran its course. "Our role was to make sure that we didn't forget that this was an interactive experience," said Mr. Nilsson. "We worked on developing the story and expanding the interaction with the audience, did the design and development, and during the actual event we produced clues that consisted of texts, images and film clips. And we were responsible for the rollout and playing the principal characters online."

The project was a 24/7 experience for all the players involved. "We always had to stay alert to how the audience was interacting with our characters and weave this into the overall story," Mr. Nilsson said.

"Working with them was a really collaborative and fun experience. B-Reel was with us every day on set and long into the night every night for the 11 days the social film was live," Ms. Robinson added. "We really felt like they were an extension of our team. Great people. Great talent."