Game on: Apex Legend’s award winning event discussed by Brand Experience Legends

Just occasionally a result at someone else’s awards gets the FMBE net curtains twitching – in this case the one that caught our reader’s attention was the Campaign Experience Awards, Brand Experience B2C, won for Respawn’s gaming brand Apex Legends by tech production company The Mill.

It is fair to say that our correspondents were surprised by this win in a broad category, for a variety of reasons. It should be noted that we did not access the full paper nor see it in the same circumstances as the awards judges.

So rather than try and judge it we have chosen to use this work to bring out the brand experience talking points that it generated.

Here’s a video and an overview from the entry:

What they said about their entry:

“Respawn and The Mill set out to attempt something unprecedented. To bring the beloved Apex Legends character, Mirage, to life in an unimaginable way: on stage, live and ‘in person’ at The Game Awards.

Co-directed by David Lawson, Lisha Tan and Creative Director Drew Stauffer, this never-before-seen blend between the virtual world and the real world all happened in real-time. This allowed a virtual Mirage to interact with The Game Awards’ host, Geoff Keighley. The Mill’s Creative Technology team developed a real-time rendered shooting technique through partnership with Cubic Motion and Animatrik. Using Unreal game engine to effectively direct the CG Mirage character, adjusting the character actions, the lighting, and even environmental textures, live. This one-to-one relationship completely blurred the line between what is real and what is virtual.

This ground-breaking, immersive experience, delighted fans of Apex Legends, launching a new era in live entertainment. This monumental undertaking peaked with a total of 49.3 million full streams. On Twitch, The Game Awards delivered 1.3 million peak viewers making it one the largest livestreams of the year.”

We shared this snapshot of the campaign to our brand experience readers and asked for their thoughts on it – and received some interesting feedback, ranging from the negative, to the lateral, and to the positive.

Here’s a negative perspective, Anon.

“Having watched the video a couple of times, I have no idea how it is perceived as so special? It’s an animated character talking with a human, with some nicely timed choreography with the real world. I “didn’t get it” or felt that our world of campaigns is a lot more nuanced, targeted and rich, with proper value and brand / rights insight added, to better communicate.”

This correspondent who wanted to remain anonymous also added that he would be interested to hear other’s positive opinions and was keeping an open mind to aspects they may have missed.

Step forward James Simpkins, MD, 2Heads, who, it is fair to say, is a fan:

“The success of the Respawn and The Mill collaboration at The Game Awards as an award-winning brand experience goes beyond the summation of its parts, its use of real-time technology and studio shoot techniques …

Though we understand real-time rendering and game engines were used to skilfully recreate a real life conversation, to the uninitiated the screen footage of Mirage, though fun, could easily have been created beforehand with the host Geoff Keighley acting out his script to what is fundamentally a 2D screen.

However this event was not for the uninitiated and that’s the clever part.

The Mill knew their audience, and they knew what sort of experience would get the gaming community talking. The Respawn brand was given new life not by seeing their favourite character speak in a public setting but because he was an avatar of a real-life person in a studio who was talking directly to the audience with Mirage’s voice – it felt genuine. This was an ‘event-based’ execution of the gamers experience and therefore resonated with its audience in a way which was truly ground breaking in its strategy.”

Counter-balancing this view, Paul Hicks, Director Experience and Events, CSM Live comments:

“Surely this was just a digital interactive piece, which was rehearsed in advance, am not sure how ground-breaking this was. It was nice, but clearly scripted with the presenter and rehearsed. The screen is interesting, as this doesn’t seem to be built into the set, but likely a transparent OLED or similar? That seems ground-breaking, but the execution in content is not overly impressive. From an audience perspective there didn’t seem to be too many cheers and whistles, laughter etc. Did some happen at the end and the edit didn’t show it?

I think the experience at the show may have been different, is my guess, as being in front of (what seemed to be) a virtual screen that just popped up as part of the set perhaps might have been impressive!

My guess is the streams and viewers were high due to the gaming industry having such a global footprint with multimillion users and interest in gaming.”

Finally, a lateral thinking view from Joel Kauffman, Link Communication

Joel’s feedback shows perhaps why this piece of work might be indicative of opportunities for the face-to-face brand promoters in a point of purchase setting. Joel says:

“Using mascots on event areas creates moments for fun photo selfies, humorous banter and sharable interactions to amplify across social channels. From a consumer psychology perspective, the additional sensory and emotive experience can also further increase positive brand association and long term recall; influencing preferential decisions at point of purchase.

Although animated virtual characters are not normally classed as experiential marketing in isolation, they could find a useful role within future experiential event areas. If the technology was made easy available and affordable, it would enable for virtual brand mascots and characters to be brought to life via real-time animation as part of a live brand experience.

For example, Kellogg’s could create fun moments of brand engagement with the cheeky Coco Pops monkey, as part of a sampling experience. The character from their Pringles pack (Julius) could come to life when sampling on their event areas, etc. This would allow consumers to actually experience meeting not only a human brand ambassador, but with the iconic brand ambassador from that products’ packaging.”


So, our conclusion? Its inconclusive – except to say that awards can create real talking points and in this case it was ‘game on’ at the beginning leading to food for thought at the end.

Something we did learn from the share is that brand experience is a flexible and multi-faceted part of the marketing armoury, and we can certainly compliment Respawn for taking the time to invest in creating an ambitious presentation and to The Mill who produced this in a way that clearly chimed well with an exacting audience. This presentation, in the wrong hands, might have been a bit cringey, but The Mill’s professional work clearly hit the right notes.

Many thanks to the brand experience legends who took part in this chat.

We welcome any further viewpoints stimulated by the chat above.