Production Company Report: Top Interactive Production Companies

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That's a testament to the fact that production, especially in the digital world, is not just about execution. The players here not only make ideas happen—they come up with a whole lot of them too—the sorts that demand not just a background in storytelling, but roots in strategy, media, and, perhaps most important, technology. Whatever they are, we decided it's about time we gave them props. Say hello to the production and idea muscle behind some of the most thrilling digital experiences of the year.

The Barbarian Group
Founded 2001

In the interactive production realm, few names stand out more than The Barbarian Group. While the Subservient Chicken remains the poster fowl for marketing in the new era, the shop's latest projects include Getty's idea-inspiring "Moodstream" site, CNN.com's turn-a-headline-into-a-T-shirt effort and design/interface work for a site promoting Adobe's Photoshop Express. The Barbarians have also broadened their creative stance to online marketing and product offerings like their own Plainview software—a dynamic, web-friendly alternative to PowerPoint. They also expanded into strategy hiring Noah Brier, who will serve as head of planning and strategy.

Bascule
Founded 2000

Led by ECD Masayoshi Boku, Bascule remains one of the more exciting Tokyo production shops. In addition to making deep-diving social sites for Nintendo's Pokemon business, the shop recently rolled out several engaging projects for Unilever's Axe line, the latest which simulates the effect of the various Axe flavors in varying circumstances. The company won awards for Axe Laser and Axe Wakeup Service (Gold and Bronze Lions at Cannes) and a self-promotional project, Makyu Royale, an online baseball challenge in which visitors can use a pre-existing pitch created by staffers in-house or create their own "Makyu" miracle ball to strike out the batter and win the game.

B-Reel
Founded 1999

Swedish native B-Reel has had quite the productive year. The shop signed with Stink Digital for European representation and expanded with the launch of a NYC office. Recent feats includeApoteket's "Stop Smoking" campaign—a One Show 2008 Bronze winner—and the launch of a B2B initiative for Scandinavian mobile corporation Telenor. B-Reel also broke out Stateside with last year's dizzying "Infinite Oz" site for the Sci-Fi Channel's "Tin Man" series, out of Fallon Minneapolis. The company followed up with productions for Unilever and EA Sports, with more on the horizon for Honda and Sharp.

Big Spaceship
Founded 2000

Brooklyn-based creative shop Big Spaceship capped the 2008 award season with a triumphant showing at Cannes as digital partner on HBO's "Voyeur," which drew a Gold Cyber Lion, a Grand Prix for Best Integrated Promotional Campaign, and a Gold and Silver in Integrated Film and Use of Digital Media. The Spaceship also kept quite busy on a30 Days of Night online multi-player game and site, a relaxing Corona beach destination and the"Ultimate Search for Bourne" online competition that employed various Google search tools to help players find the misunderstood assassin. The all-Mac shop is also showcasing its development department with the labs.bigspaceship.com blog, which encourages readers to get involved in the learning process by commenting on Big S developers' code and "geek out."

Grow Interactive
Founded 2002

Working with high-profile clients (Nike, Axe, NBC, OfficeMax, HP) and agencies like Saatchi & Saatchi (on the "Rock Your Look" interactive karaoke contest for JCPenney) and Wieden (on "The Girl Effect" site for Nike), Virginia-based Grow Interactive has proved to be the most exciting thing in digital south of the Mason-Dixon line. The Norfolk shop went country to create the "Big State Games" destination, featuring four interactive games that test visitors' skills in virtual grilling, mechanical bull-riding, avoiding the paparazzi in the "Country Star Dash" and even changing a tire on a racetrack's pit road.

North Kingdom
Founded 2003

Since its 2007 Cannes Gold Lion-winning "Get the Glass" campaign with Goodby, the Kingdom, which operates in three offices throughout Sweden (and much of the time, in the dark, the founders say) has continued to flourish with other online exploits like the "Coke Zero Game," a Grindhouse­-styled daredevil stunt contest that tied into Coke Zero's sponsorship of the UEFA 2008 soccer tourney. Beyond the macho goods, North Kingdom also displayed a somewhat romantic side with its Mentos "Kiss Fight" challenge for the Freshmaker, which urges visitors to play the role of a libidinous lad whose goal is to garner smooches from a variety of lasses through various levels. And as a testament to its creative prowess since its inception, North Kingdom was inducted into the FWA Hall of Fame last year.

Odopod
Founded 2000

S.F.-based Odopod literally rocked the house this past spring with its content-packed web portion of Goodby's "White Gold" campaign for Got Milk, which included an epic interactive music video, dubbed "Is It Me, Or Do You Love My Hair?" It also launched into the third round of NikeSkateboarding.com, which included a full CMS system that allows Nike to quickly change the entire site's look and feel. Additionally, a satellite map was installed to help visitors find every Nike skate store on the planet at its exact latitude and longitude. With a client roster that currently includes MTV, Nike, Microsoft Zune and Target, the Bay Area firm has also developed product ideas by aligning with tech leaders like Google, Adobe and Microsoft.

Perfect Fools
Founded 2002

Along with its major hirings of ex-StrawberryFrog senior creative exec Mark Chalmers as partner/CD and R/GA alum Karen Monahan as managing director of its New York office, Swedish interactive shop Perfect Fools kept equally busy on the creative front this year. In Cannes, joint work with fellow Swedish firm Forsman & Bodenfors for AMF Pension nabbed a Media Grand Prix, and the shop also earned a Gold Cyber Lion for its AAA Town site for Publicis & Hal Riney. Other highlights include the interactive Mentos "Kiss Cam" for BBH, London, which lets you flip on a webcam and role play to seal the perfect, virtual kiss.

Projector, Inc.
Founded 2004

Japanese boutique Projector fell squarely under the spotlight when it dominated the awards circuit this year with a little thing called "Uniqlock." The shop was also behind Rec You, a program for the Sony Walkman that had an impressive web and viral presence, warping user-submitted images into a head-nodding, Walkman-wearing phalanx. Other impressive productions include Uniqlo's Mixplay site, as well as Big Shadow, the award-winning interactive outdoor experience for Xbox 360 that combined (funnily enough) projections with a website simulcast.

unit9
Founded 1997

London-based unit9 spent a healthy part of the last year joining forces with big-name agencies like Goodby, BBDO and Tribal DDB. For Goodby, unit9 produced sites for Haagen-Dazs and Got Milk? On the latter's website, unit9 implemented Flash and 3D into a manufacturing plant-style makeover, and also executed usability tests using eye-tracking technology throughout various stages of the production process. The shop also collaborated with Tribal on the "Seduced by Light" campaign for Philips, which included an original film by Wong Kar-Wai and earned the company a Webby. Unit9 has also expanded its operations opening two new European production studios outside of London and an R&D office in Florence, Italy. It also has its sights set on a U.S. presence by 2009.

Read more from the Production Company Report:
The Changing Game
The List, @radical.media-Furlined/Blink
The List, Go Film-O Positive
The List, Outsider-Stink

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