How augmented reality is changing marketing: A look at the strategy of Gorillaz

February, 2023

In December 2022, Nexus Studios and Google joined forces to create an unforgettable musical experience that revolutionised the concept of live musical performance. Two of the most emblematic places in the world –New York’s Times Square and London’s Piccadilly Circus– were transformed into stages on which the famous band Gorillaz performed via augmented reality.

A one-of-its-kind event

Gorillaz is a truly unique rock band, made up of Murdoc, 2D, Noodle and Russel, fictitious characters created and caricatured by artist Jamie Hewlett. Behind this peculiar ensemble is Damon Albarn, the band’s lead singer, instrumentalist and main songwriter.

Although we were already familiar with the characters through their iconic video clips, we never imagined having the opportunity to see them live. Why not? Simply because they don’t exist in real life! But, last December, Gorillaz launched an unprecedented immersive experience.

Through an augmented reality application, fans could attend a concert and see the members of the band in huge format playing live from their mobiles. They were finally able to share a space with Gorillaz’s characters and enjoy a one-of-a-kind show.

The reason behind this innovative decision

The reason, apart from the launch of their new single “Skinny Ape”, was that the group wanted to reach fans who couldn’t attend the concert and to offer them a unique experience. To do this, they decided to take a chance on using this type of technology as a way of creating memories together.

So, those fans who couldn’t make the concert on 17 December in Times Square or on 18 December in Piccadilly Circus, had the opportunity to enjoy it from their homes. The concert can be seen on the Gorillaz app (for iOS users) and on social networks such as Facebook (for Android) until June 2023.

The magic of Gorillaz came alive thanks to a visionary collaboration

The spaces were managed by leading DOOH (Digital Out Of Home) media companies OUTFRONT Media in New York and Ocean Outdoor in London. They are currently developing future strategies in relation to the role of OOH in linking physical campaigns and virtual experiences; the Gorillaz music video is only the first of many explorations they are embarking on.

What tools were used to create the experience?

Jamie Hewlett and FX Goby directed the Gorillaz performances, using Google’s ARCore Geospatial API and turning the world into a 3D canvas. They managed to transform public spaces into cultural events through a combination of augmented reality technology and localisation-based marketing.

Augmented reality (AR) is an innovative technology that uses the smartphone camera to  overlay visual elements in real time, opening up a whole world of possibilities for brands. Localisation-based marketing (LBM) uses the localisation data of mobile devices such as smartphones, wearables and drones, to target personalised and relevant advertising in real time, which can maximise effectiveness and return on investment by providing unique experiences that create a deeper connection between the brands and their audience.

This show marks a unique event that uses culture for closing the gap between the virtual and physical world. The performances blurred the lines between physical, digital and virtual activations, demonstrating the potential of the new technologies for the industry, not only in OOH media but also in immersive advertising and advertising with augmented reality.