In the first of our new ‘Radar’ series, in which LBB hunts out the coolest companies around, we speak to Steve Le Marquand and Rik Campbell, founders of digital collective Resn. Straddling the globe via offices in New Zealand and Amsterdam, the team balances hardcore tech wizardry with inventiveness, eccentricity and creativity. With a website that looks like Gandalf might have been smoking something a bit funny, Resn owes much of its unique personality to its Kiwi heritage, but the new European pied-a-terre means world domination can’t be far off. Well, brands like Google, Toyota, Hennessy, Puma and Ben & Jerry’s seem to think so. And we’re inclined to agree.
LBB> Who are Resn?
R> Resn is an electric coloured ball of digital flesh rolling down the side of Mount Internet. We are also known to many as an award winning, creative, digital production company with nodes in New Zealand and Amsterdam. We help advertising agencies make the internet a richer, deeper and juicer place to hang out.
LBB> Resn was founded in 2004 - what were your founding goals/principles and how has Resn evolved over the past eight years?
R> Resn was birthed from the desire to make amazing, beautiful, detailed, interactive experiences that stand apart. Creating projects with masters of their craft, collaborating with passionate and brilliant people while having and spreading fun, are important motivators in what we do. We build projects that touch people and communicate messages in engaging ways. We are believers, fighters and lovers of the interactive web. Over the eight years of Resn we have moved from the digital streets of the New Zealand music scene to the global world of commercial advertising. We hold the same principles as we began with and strive to make meaningful, memorable experiences that resonate with people.
LBB> Why did you choose to open a base in Amsterdam?
R> The goal of the new outpost is to bring the Resn approach of creating narratively rich, experiential content with style to interactive media projects, brands and agencies across the UK and Euro zones as well as the east coast of the USA. We also wanted to have an accent and live under the sea.
LBB> And how do the New Zealand and Amsterdam sides of the operation work together? Are the two offices fairly modular or integrated - and why have you chosen to work the way you do?
R> We have one heart, 22 brains, 44 arms, and 176 fingers all working together to make the web a better place. Our 2 studios are half a world apart - we could not be further away from each other physically. Through the power of the internet we constantly communicate with each other. We are often working as one team on creative pitches for agencies and projects. When it comes to production on projects, we work together when it best suits the project, but the majority of our work is modular at this stage. We are always providing feedback on each team’s progress on projects. We make good use of the 12 hour time difference to get that mystical 24 hour productivity model happening. Some of our future projects will require both studios to be working closely together to make awesome happen. We are mastering the folding of time and space to make a richer web.
LBB> Your website is amazingly hyperactive - what was the thinking behind that?
R> We like to have fun doing what we do so it is important to show this to the world. We hope to inspire and excite our clients and let them see the plethora of possibilities we are capable of creating for them. Plus it’s a got a flying bat thing on it with arrows in its legs and laser eyes - who wouldn’t like that?
LBB> Your Flash Driving Game for the New Zealand government is one of your newer projects and is a really surprising experience. What was the original brief like on that and how did you go about making sure that the project had the emotional impact that it did?
R> The original brief was to reinvent the traditional public service announcement and see how a more ‘personalised’ death experience would change your view of driving dangerously. Clemenger BBDO in Wellington knew they wanted a driving game with a flashback element, but gave us creative freedom to explore the direction of the experience. We wanted to create the highest emotional impact and to do this we focused on getting the most relevant photos possible from Facebook. We used extensive outside user testing to study and see how people label photos and then cross referenced this information to provide the most emotional experience possible. All in all we feel it was a huge success and one of our favourite uses of Facebook scrapping that we’ve seen. Creating a very high end gaming experience, similar to console games, was key to drawing people into the intensity in preparation for their shocking surprise ‘death’. We really love the fact you can only play the game once, and then you are locked out forever. This really reinforces that Game Over is GAME OVER in the game of real life.
LBB> Resn have gained something of a reputation for being techy-boffins and creative eccentrics - as a company how do you go about finding the people with the right mix of hard programming know-how and playfulness/creativity?
R> We have an ex-food scientist on our team who has formulated a powder that we add to our latte milk and craft beer keg that creates a super highway between the left and right brains. Beyond that, finding people as we all know is a tricky gig. By presenting a unique voice and brand in our industry, investing in Resn R&D projects, being respected enough to bring a lot of creative thinking to our projects, and going the extra yards to bring the loving details to our commercial projects, we attract people who are drawn to these qualities and who want to push things in both creative and interactive. In a world where so much is the ‘same’, ‘difference’ is our power animal.
LBB> You've worked with some amazing clients - Puma, Ben & Jerry’s, Toyota, MTV, Google, Hennessy and more - why do you think they want to work with you? What are you doing that other people aren't?
R> We are a unique mix of fun, difference, edge, creativity, hardcore tech, reliability and honesty - essentially fun loving professionals. We do things a differently and lots of clients crave this. We supply the Resn Effect to make the digital world, and our clients' brands, more interesting and loved. You attract the work you make. We balance large projects, such as our work for Toyota - Sponsafier and The Camry Effect
with our Resn funded, digital drugs such as Threaded
. We are getting a nice overlap with our commercial work and our art in some recent projects such as Hennessy - Never stop never settle
and Google - Face Arcade
. You eat what you sow and you are what you eat.
LBB> Which recent pieces of work have particularly resonated with you and why?
R> Two of our recent projects resonate with me for different reasons. Flash driving game
for NZTA literally gives me goose bumps when I present it, even though I know the twist and have seen the project numerous times. I think this is a brilliant idea, done brilliantly.
The second is a project built entirely from our Amsterdam studio for American outdoor retailer REI in partnership with BBDO Atlanta. The 1440 project
allows the REI community to share their moments outdoors through photography. The site is designed around the 1440 minutes that make up a full day. When uploaded, the photos are scrapped for meta data including the time they were taken. Users can tag photos with time, location, activity and hashtags from Facebook, Instagram or their fancy DSLR photos on their computers. The site is pure HTML5 responsive design and looks more like Flash than a HTML site. It works across a large range of browsers, tablets and smartphones. What is amazing is the quality of images, the popularity and pride the REI community has shown for the project. There are next to no inappropriate or non-relevant images on the site and many of the photos are beautiful and amazingly captured.
LBB> What do you see as the key challenges facing companies working in the digital/interactive sphere right now?
R> With so much innovation and new ground being broken daily there’s a somewhat naive expectation that everything will just plug in and work everywhere. This is just not the case. Managing expectations and finding elegant solutions is an on-going challenge we face every day.
There is also a lack of resource. Our current best guess tells us that the internet is going to run out by 2018, so we are trying to recycle as many jpegs, swfs and lols as possible but it’s only a drop in the ocean. We’re pretty scared to be honest.
LBB> Rik - you were the designer and art director behind much of Resn's early work - how has your role evolved? And how have you found it instilling a consistent 'Resn' feeling in the new office?
RC> My role has altered a lot over the years as the company has grown from three to 22 people. As MD, my role is not deep in production like it used to be, and I now focus on a number of business tasks. Although I do miss daily design and art direction, it is very rewarding being on the business side of such a great company.
The consistent Resn feel comes from a number of places. We hire people who believe in what Resn does and have an inner Resn. As one of the two founders of Resn, I can help nurture the culture and Resn vibe here in the Amsterdam studio where I am based. We also have spot Resn culture tests and if you fail you have to clean jpegs for three days. Physical environment is a big thing for us. You need spaces with personality to inspire creativity and I think a lot of companies neglect this, so we make our space feel comfortable.
LBB> Steve - how did you and Rik meet? What did you do before you founded Resn? And, as you're looking after the New Zealand side of the operation, I thought I'd ask you about how you think the fact that Resn has its roots in New Zealand has influenced its outlook and the particular 'flavour' of the company?
SM> Rik did some freelance work for my first company and never left. He’s set up a bit of a precedent as we now have quite a few guys that refuse to leave.
I had a digital production company before Resn called Boygirlboy, where myself, an old friend and his girlfriend (hence the boy girl boy name) made digital love for a variety of local clients, design houses and more traditional advertising agencies. I’d like to say that we pushed the internet as far as NZ was willing, as we were fixated with what the rest of the world was doing, or could afford to do, as they had much better bandwidth than us at the time.
I think the fact that we are so far removed physically from the rest of the world allows us to be a lot braver in how we approach everything. We can also be quite cheeky and irreverent with our comms because it costs far too much for someone to fly down and tell us off in person. Unless of course they slipped it in with a trip to see the Lord Of The Things.