the showcase 2022
Fearlessly future-facing: Gravity Road's 2022
Breakthrough work in the metaverse and investments in gaming and international talent have set the agency on a promising path
When Gravity Road launched in 2011 it positioned itself as a "content studio". Many other agencies quickly followed suit but, ahead of the curve as always, Gravity Road is now at the forefront of digital innovation (it was named Digital Innovation Agency of the Year by Campaign in 2022), as part of the Brandtech Group.
We caught up with one of its founders to talk about its year.
Mark Eaves, co-founder of Gravity Road, on the agency's 2022:
What 3 Words would you use to describe 2022?
Talk us through some of your agency’s highlights this year?
We’ve taken a new physical space for our London base. I won’t even call it an office, because it conjures images of long lost pedestal drawers and sad lonely meeting rooms.
Cultures need a home. And I believe the physical home of a creative business has a totemic power. It’s not that people want to be there all the time - and we’re more globally distributed and scaled than ever - but teams want to know it’s there, be proud of it, and what it represents. We’ve taken on 48 Hoxton Square. For those who remember, it was the original home of the White Cube Gallery where Young British Art took on the world. It’s a brilliant space, with a unique creative heritage. And that’s now entwined with Gravity Road’s DNA. As our zoomers might say, it’s a vibe. More importantly it’s a socialized, open space, primed for serendipitous encounters.
In terms of partners, extending our work with TikTok has been a major highlight - now working with the team building TikTok for Business, as this phenomenal platform of culture generation rapidly scales its advertising business.
We always aim to be the doctor’s doctor - or the innovator’s innovator - and our portfolio of clients across tech and entertainment - many of whom are writing the future of how we spend our time - reflects this.
Some big wins into the end of the year are teeing up 2023 very nicely, and a big highlight has been our continued growing global reach as part of the The Brandtech Group - with over 70% of our revenue now coming from outside the UK.
What one thing are you proudest of this year?
Creative businesses that grow and nurture their next generation of talent - they are the ones that endure and stay distinct. So it’s really gratifying to see Sophie Cullinane rise through the ranks and end ‘22 taking on the leadership of our Creative Department. Her energy and playfulness is infectious, and she has an innate sense of how the next generation of creatives want to work. Similarly, featuring in the top table of businesses who are hitting the IPA’s diversity targets - it shows our efforts are making a difference, even though it shouldn’t need a target.
And GR folk are very proud of the shape of work we are delivering. It’s the kind of work many are talking about, but very few are making happen. If the last decade was all about the interplay of the physical world with the social world, then the next will incorporate virtual worlds too. Successful modern marketing will sit at the intersection of this trio - this will be the new “integrated”. A fresh guiding principle of progressive marketing.
We end 2022 having deployed this new playbook in a landmark piece of work. It wasn’t for a tech brand, or an experimental lifestyle brand, it was for McCain Foods - the world’s largest manufacturer of frozen potato products. But the story of how Gravity Road made them an early global pioneer in the emerging (and crucial) space of Regenerative Agriculture, utilizing Roblox, TikTok (#FarmTok!), and the creation of real NPD with the world’s first “Regen Fries” (french fries made from regeneratively farmed potatoes) - this all points the way forward for modern marketing and IP creation. They have been a brilliant partner to work with, and their ambition is being rightly rewarded - over 9 million players have visited their virtual “Farm of the Future” on Roblox - a digital twin of their groundbreaking real life farm in Canada - in less than a month.
And what’s been your biggest challenge?
The talent crisis was real in 2022. Especially when you’re a home for lively, tech literate young thinkers. But I think things will settle down in 2023, and the real value of a role - and being part of a supportive company culture - will have disproportionate allure.
What are you most looking forward to in 2023?
So everyone was going NFT crazy, making tokens for beer cans, or some nonsense, and then Generative AI strolls up like, hey everyone, over here. I remember wandering around Cannes in June, showing anybody who would pay attention the early access to OpenAI’s Dall-e-2. I was bouncing round and geeking out, and most ad folk just nodded politely and reached past me for more rosé.
Fast forward to December and everyone’s dropping their mic because they’ve made their Christmas cards on Mid Journey.
Digital had become a bit limiting creatively: it was ever shorter pieces of video being distributed on one of four platforms. But now - it’s like a new era of genuine creating - making things - is back. There’s the banal stuff that just makes life faster - creating mood boards by prompts, etc. But that’s just operations. No, some of the experiments we’ve got going on at Gravity Road right now - they are profound in the creative possibility and the cultural impact they represent. And generative AI isn’t a threat - it’s an inspiration for the ambition of the human mind.
2023 will make this year feel like a mere prelude to Generative technologies. Only the very fastest will keep up - the others will just continue writing Linkedin posts talking about it. Crucially for us,, brands need experienced partners who can guide them into these new vistas of competitive advantage.
I’m also excited about seeing Pulp get back together.
Creative Salon on Gravity Road's 2022:
Gravity Road has never sat still - it doesn't just shift and twist with the changing tides and fads though; rather, it has always been at the forefront of embracing and using new and emerging technologies to great commercial effect.
Its McCain Regen Fries work (which has quite rightly troubled the awards shows) might best exemplify this approach but it's evident across the agency's entire body of work. In 2022, that work expanded further beyond Gravity Road's UK homeland, with its US office using the celebrity power of HBO star Sydney Sweeney for Laneige's Water Bank Collection.
The agency also broadened its capabilities in gaming with the promotion of Sophie Cullinane to creative partner and the appointments of Dom Lashley and Katie Farmer to head of extended reality and Web3 and head of production respectively. Also in London Chris Magniac joined top planner Mike Florence’s team in the new role of connections planner, while Ryan Colet joined as head of client services US.
Creative Salon Says: From a quirky and spirited start-up on Carnaby Street to a crucial and global component of the Brandtech offering, Gravity Road's evolution and willingness to firmly embrace new technology is inspiring. It also provides a blueprint for other businesses who want to keep on top of the game.