.

Toke Nygaard of K10K fame joined our Oven team in London and I also met Iain Tait who jumped on board. It was really fun while it lasted but a crazy arsed project we all ended up working on (it was basically google earth meets Wikipedia) nuked the whole operation when their investors pulled funding and we ended up a few million short when it came to payday. I fired myself and the 75 strong team one January morning.

Your name, plus your original "web name/handle"

The usual spellings of my name are Nicolas Roope (preferred), Nik Roope, Nick Roope, Nicholas Roope. And my web handle is nikroope. I never had a web name as such other than perhaps Benny Hilfiger, although he is more my alter-ego than handle.

 

Your first web encounter, year etc.

If you include newsgroups in “the web” then it was sitting around the late Andy Cameron’s house in 1994 watching gifs write line-by-line down a MAC IIsi monitor hooked up to a 14.4 modem.

It was a very disappointing start, which is why antirom chose the “glamorous” world of CD-Roms and interactive kiosk’s as the way to go.

These technologies had video, visceral, game-like interactivity and synced multichannel sound, unlike the web that served chuggy jpgs, dawdling ‘jifs’ and clunky live text. The web was for academics, but the cool kids wanted to make and consume ‘experiences.’

The CD-Rom, multimedia revolution was a comedic mini-bubble, a pantomime pre-amble to the really painful .com bubble that was to come five years later. CD-Roms were going to revolutionise the way we consumed TV, books, music etc so everyone was all over it, except the consumer.

Antirom was a gentle fuck-you to this little industry that had sprung up out of nowhere and already claimed it had all the answers to this bright and dazzling future. We took the opposing stance that, with a new medium, rather than jump to poor knee-jerk conclusions, it was better to accept ambiguity and start from scratch, learning about its true nature through play and experimentation, letting users and markets define the right models, concepts and crafts.

So early in my career I‘d learnt a vital lesson. Everyone could be wrong. It meant that from then on in I knew that you had to get beyond the consensus if you wanted to arrive anywhere close to the source. I needed to develop my own instincts rather than rely on information from outside.

It was also hugely exciting knowing that this incredible, unfolding universe was ours to discover. I still feel like that now.


What our readers might recognise you most for, when you first hit the web.

I guess it depends how old you are. Quite old and it might have been the Antirom CD Rom or our early Director Shockwave experiments on the web, or our music toys on Gasbook or that launched Hotwired.com’s RGB Gallery (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HotWired ) in 1997.

If you’re a bit younger then perhaps The Never Ending Web Page / Unlimited for Orange from 2007 or Bakertweet from 2009.

If you’re an industry newbie then you might know our work for Mulberry.com or our work last year launching the UK’s biggest mobile operator, EE across social channels (http://www.pokelondon.com/portfolio/brand-launch/).

Also, you may also have come across my phone product brand Hulger (this was the original retro phone handset by the way, the others are all copies) or The World’s First Designer Energy saving light-bulb, Plumen, an idea I came up with in 2007 and which now sells in 47 markets around the world.

 

Your digital journey since. 

After Antirom (1999) I took the Creative Director role at Oven Digital who are probably best known for taking Tiffany into full ecommerce in 1999 with a beautiful flash-rich site that made $33M in its first year, despite credible voices stating at the time that neither flash nor luxury could ever mix with effective ecommerce (yes, the consensus was wrong again, is there a pattern emerging here?)

Toke Nygaard of K10K fame joined our Oven team in London and I also met Iain Tait who jumped on board. It was really fun while it lasted but a crazy arsed project we all ended up working on (it was basically google earth meets Wikipedia) nuked the whole operation when their investors pulled funding and we ended up a few million short when it came to payday. I fired myself and the 75 strong team one January morning.

Oven was fun but I was effectively running it as a quasi-CEO, so it’s self-destruction gave me a chance to reinvent myself as a creative guy again. Iain and I salvaged a project and a few of the Oven team and set up a convergent media joint venture with Monkey Television - http://monkeykingdom.com/ The proposition was clear.

TV built huge audiences rapidly but lost them just as quick, so failed to build any equity beyond the broadcast. It made a lot of sense to us that by developing formats that demanded cross platform interaction (not just peripheral support content) you’d really get the best of both worlds.

The truth however was that the broadcasters weren’t ready to pay for it and even if we brought sponsors in they’d swallow the cash, leaving no revenue to conceive, design and build the properties.

The UK .com bubble had just burst and “the business” was going through a speedy weight loss program, shedding 80% of its weight in a little over 18 months. Brutal.

Whilst we were sitting in the basement watching our convergent dream get eroded by telly people in digital-denial, we started working with Mother advertising who were two doors down. It was fun and fresh and they were really up for pushing it in digital (primarily because at the time they really didn’t care about it so let us run amok. In a good way.

But when the UK’s much-hailed Deep Group tanked, an interesting opportunity arose to combine forces with the creative director founder and his core team. So that’s what we did and Poke was the result.


We all felt that the web was more interesting than ever, despite its dramatic fall from favour.

During the bubble everyone had decided what the web was. It was for buying things and calculating things and booking things. Everyone had bought the service and utility story but the one about how “digital experiences” were soft, poetic, emotional, persuasive, mobilising and joyful was missing.

Our rather politically incorrect founding credentials slide stated that “The Internet Has Developed a German Sense of Humour,” meaning the mechanics of interaction and transaction had been solved, yet the rest was yet to be discovered.

The seeds of social media were already sewn but no one predicted what was coming. When it really took off it felt like our founding ambitions were pretty well aligned with the force of this new recreational web. When social media became bigger than porn we all knew our chips were on the right numbers.

Poke was founded on the new reality dawning in 2001 that meant whatever you had to say, to share, to offer in the world had to be up to an extraordinary standard.

Messages and products were no longer just competing against advertising spots in the same break or other products on the same shelf, but everything competing for their attention on the internet.

We realised right at the start that the battle wasn’t to make ever grander, slicker stuff but more to find the most disruptive, resonant and crazy ideas that people would love, talk about, get involved with, because this would grab back that attention and leave a much deeper impression than any transient message, however slick the produciton.

Poke founded 12 years ago but we’re still fired up by the same desire to use our peculiar brand of wildly lateral yet wizened common-sense to create grounded yet spectacular digital things, experiences platforms, whatever.

Seeing clearly is the hardest thing to do in this hugely complex business, but it’s probably the most valuable thing you can offer clients and partners alike.

Whatever the challenge, there’s usually a really exciting yet logical answer. The hard part is finding it and seeing it.


What are you up to now?

We recently jumped from the mother ship to Publicis, so in the short-term there’s a lot of energy going into spinning up our new story within what will shortly be the world’s largest communications network.

We saw the deal as a way to be small and big at the same time. Keep it small, agile, collaborative, informal, creative and committed, yet accessing global brands and global markets (although we do have a fair bit of experience of that already).

Even though the ‘integration’ narrative is a very worn one, there are still so few really good examples out there, so getting into bed with a network of complementary collaborators felt like a smart way to try and achieve this at scale.

By now I’ve had so much experience teasing out the potent stuff from the mess it’s time to try and really scale that thinking. Simple, compelling ideas rule more than ever in a digital world where sharing trumps shoving.

I also set up a product company in 2005 originally as a vehicle to run my Hulger “Retro Phone of The Future” idea that became a weird phenomenon. I sit in Poke every day trying to help clients figure out that the opportunities offered up by and new pressures created by digital, aren’t exclusive to its jurisdiction.

The web demands a new kind of product, a new kind of dialogue and companies have been really slow to adopt this thinking despite seminal books like “Unleashing the Ideavirus” being as old as Poke.

The two key products we’ve made under the Hulger name, the phones and the Plumen light bulb are physical products and yet they’re borne of the internet age because their success has been community driven across every social and content platform the web has to offer.

We made things that were authentic, original, clear and compelling and these combined to really draw out people’s passion for what we were doing and the support and energy these projects received have helped to build a really solid brand that’s now (finally) really working well as a business.

Digital has changed the world completely and the more you appreciate its huge sphere of influence, the more potent this new reality becomes.

Finally, as always I’m very happy to see The Lovie Awards growing. It’s our chance to celebrate the best thinking, craft and creativity across the European digital scene so we’re over-the-moon to see it growing in scale and reputation so fast. Highlights from this year here

Thanks for asking me to write this Rob / FWA. There are very few entities that have been committed enough to track and support our collective journey as creators and designers in this new world, so I’m very happy to be here ; ) 


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Nicolas Roope, Then and Now
Nicolas Roope, Then and Now

Antirom's interactive kiosk for Levis stores across europe. This was the interactive fit guide.
Antirom's interactive kiosk for Levis stores across europe. This was the interactive fit guide.

Antirom Video

This was a music performance tool for our RGB stage performance and was also released on Gasbook.
This was a music performance tool for our RGB stage performance and was also released on Gasbook.

Antirom Performance, this one uses pressure pads to shoot off samples and animations.

Poke started the trend in mega-pixel crowd shots with image tagging. We got the Guinness World Record for most tagged ph
Poke started the trend in mega-pixel crowd shots with image tagging. We got the Guinness World Record for most tagged ph

David-Michel Davies and I presenting the 2013 Lovie Awards in London.
David-Michel Davies and I presenting the 2013 Lovie Awards in London.

On the front cover of Pig Magazine with my phone hack (Hulger).
On the front cover of Pig Magazine with my phone hack (Hulger).

Plumen Video

The never ending web page.
The never ending web page.

Mulberry Video

Poke founders one cold January day in 2001.
Poke founders one cold January day in 2001.

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