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Sirens, Cyclopes, and Gin: Future Lighthouse Makes Magic in BeefeaterXO VR

With more than 50 actors, 60 artists, and 4,000 hours of post-production, #BeefeaterXO VR is one of the most ambitious pieces of branded VR content to date.

It’s hard out there for a brand. Standing out in the ocean of available content can be, for many, a journey of epic proportions. Beefeater (already the #1 spirit brand in Spain) decided to tackle the problem by taking it to Odyssean levels in BeefeaterXO—tapping Spain’s youngest 3-star chef: culinary enfant terrible Dabiz Muñoz, in a collaboration that yielded a multimodal immersive campaign staged in Spain over the course of ten weeks. And to round things off, Pernod Ricard Spain (Beefeater’s parent company) hired Future Lighthouse, in partnership with Spanish ad agency La Despensa, to produce a VR experience.

The result is a 6-minute piece of interactive, 4K stereoscopic 360 video that is every bit the bacchanal the video below would have you expect.

 

“The first phase of the project was created by Spanish agency La Despensa,” said Future Lighthouse CEO Nicolás Alcalá. “It was all about mixing the cities the chef Dabiz Muñoz has gotten inspiration from and the rich and sumptuous world of The Odyssey in an experiential event. You had exotic mermaids and delirious slaves talking to you while Circe converted them in pigs and Penelope cried for your help to find Odysseus. It was because of the collaboration Beefeater and the famous chef had that all this liquid transformation started to happen. And as it came to be, it made a lot of sense in VR.”

Future Lighthouse had a tall order: internalize the transgressive spirit of the campaign and craft a VR experience that could simultaneously function as a unique and compelling piece of standalone VR.

They also allowed us to take it to the limits: there is some nudity…there are men enslaved by a witch…there are pole dancers…violent cyclopes…. We didn’t play it safe.

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For the second phase, which was all about an immersive VR experience, Future Lighthouse took all that and created those environments ten times bigger, letting our imaginations fly wild in VR,” said Alcalá. “Sunken Venice with a giant mermaid and floating jellyfish, two fighting cyclopes cheered up by masked crowds in Thailand, an incredible palace in the clouds in Bombay, and a one of a kind rave party inside the Big Ben is the result.”

In other words, this thing gets mythic, menacing, and sultry. The gaze-based interactivity and spatial audio induce a heightened sense of presence—even as the environments feel more akin to a steampunk fairytale version of their IRL counterparts.

“This is the biggest digital campaign of the brand in its history,” said Alcalá. “It’s an unprecedented 3-month campaign lead by the advertising agency La Despensa and its partner, Mediacom, that will put out more than 80 additional pieces we produced around the main characters and scenarios that will live in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, billboards, and a country-wide touring physical activation with 16 VR pods to watch the content.”

While VR is still a young medium, every project brings key takeaways and lessons for the future. Producing a project of this scope—particularly when a major brand is involved—often means a lot of cooks in the kitchen and compromising of the vision at some point in the creative process. According to Alcalá, something unexpected happened with Beefeater.

“To be honest, it has been a dream for Future Lighthouse, one of those rare moments where the brand truly trusts the creatives behind the project,” said Alcalá. “They have taken a step forward and said: here, this is what we want to tell and we trust you to do it. And in return, we’ve been eager to find the best way to connect with their audience and convey their message.”

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Between the open forum creative environment and Beefeater’s push toward wildness and disruption, Alcalá and the creative team felt free to dream big, which meant that Future Lighthouse was able to produce an edgier piece than one normally expects when engaging with branded content.

“We had complete freedom from the beginning and almost every suggestion we made was received with enthusiasm,” said Alcalá. “And not only that, but they also allowed us to take it to the limits: there is some nudity… there are men enslaved by a witch… there are pole dancers… violent cyclopes… We didn’t play it safe.”

If the numbers are any indication, the raw approach here was the right move with the intended audience; as of this writing, the campaign has garnered over 200 articles, 1M ROI, 67M impressions in display, 5M views, and 25K interactions on social media. Alcalá attributes the success of the campaign to Beefeater’s emphasis on creative freedom for collaborators.

“I think BeefeaterXO is the perfect example of what happens when a brand supports creative talent and innovation,” said Alcalá. “The whole process has been incredibly smooth, working close with the brand manager and her team, and we have loved every minute of it. I don’t know if we will ever have a client that is so brave, bold and smooth to work with like Beefeater, but I sure hope so. A dream come true.”

Though the installations, performances, and otherwise are only available across the Atlantic, the piece is available for free in the Oculus Store.

About the Scout

Jesse Damiani

Jesse Damiani is Editor-at-Large of VRScout and the CEO of Galatea, a writing and project management tool for immersive storytelling. He's also Series Editor for Best American Experimental Writing (Wesleyan University Press) and the author of @endless$pectator: The Screens Suite #loliloquy (BlazeVOX, 2017). Other writing can be found on Quartz, IndieWire, and HuffPost.

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