Pixels used to be priceless. But not anymore.
Online art is going professional. And it may just revolutionise digital communication.
The internet has been frontier country for most of its history: a place without authority. In this Wild West of a universe, with neither a sheriff nor a state, safeguarding intellectual property has always been an issue. But the rise of blockchain technology is now forging a reliable digital order. For digital artists, it’s a chance to finally sustain a living. For those in the communication businesses, it’s a rallying cry to step up their game.
Sinc decided to focus its yearly thank you moment on exactly this theme. Because we don’t believe in handing out goodies just for the sake of giving. We prefer our gifts to be of interest: they should have practical use, be a relevant souvenir of a common project, or — even better — deliver valuable insight.
When 2021 was coming to a close, we chose the latter. We came together to think of a way to thank our clients, and decided this X-mas gift of ours had to be, if anything, extremely relevant. So we set out on a course that would elevate our gift to become a project.
It became, in fact, an inspiring adventure for our clients into NFTs. Sheltered by blockchain-based technology, NFTs are the first fairly reliable attempt to guarantee digital ownership. As we are writing this, the internet avantgarde is experiencing a full-blown NFT craze: people have been paying up to over 90 million dollars for a digital artwork that subsists on this NFT technology. Quite a lot of money for a technology that still has some safety issues, and which according to some is just the next tulip craze.
The Bored Ape Yacht Club is a collection of 10000 unique Bored Ape NFTs. The startup is seeking a valuation of as much as $5 billion in the proposed funding round. Credit: Screenshot/OpenSea
It might be, of course. Or it might not. Because much of this astronomical pile of money results from the speculation that NFTs will become the next best thing since bread came sliced: for as art is moving away from the physical realm — it is no longer confined to a museum, a gallery or a wealthy individual’s bedroom wall — it can be found everywhere, and consequently find applications everywhere. This makes investing in digital art sensible. No one can guarantee which artist will be the next Monet or Banksy, but hey, that’s the game, right?
Entering the metaverse
NFTs are a potential key element in what is commonly called the metaverse: the online environment that is completely integrated with the physical world. Art and design will be as present online as they are in the real world. And as the metaverse needs content, ample possibilities for branded content arise as well. This is where businesses should start paying attention: the metaverse is where consumers are, so advertisement and marketing should be willing to find them there, too.
There is no clear-cut strategy as to how businesses should enter and present themselves in such an online environment. Because if there’s one thing that history teaches us, it’s that initial plans almost never make it to reality. Especially when innovations are happening practically overnight, best practises and solutions are often found on the go. No one can tell you exactly what to do beforehand — the only thing one can do is try. Try, and explore.
Via our X-mas gift, we challenged our clients to adopt that mindset for 2022: to step up and make a decision about how to approach the future. We presented to them with our philosophy of ‘choose or lose’, and teased them to make a conscious choice about how they would like to receive their gift. First we told them the gift itself would be a unique artwork that renders a creative visualisation of their business. We then asked them one simple question: do you want this unique piece of art as a limited edition print, or as a digital NFT? The overwhelming majority chose the NFT.
The right artist
Last year, we collaborated with Sweden-based artist Magoz. A versatile digital artist, he supplied the illustrations that defined the character of the Innovation Parade we created for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Magoz has no equal when it comes to translating technology into human stories. He is a master at finding the essence of a concept and presenting it in a crisp clear minimalism. You may have come across his work in e.g. the New York Times, Wired and the Wall Street Journal. As he is also very at ease around online innovations he was without question the #1 choice for collaborating on our X-mas gift project. Luckily for us, he accepted.
“I liked the experimental spirit of the Innovation Parade,” says Magoz when we talk to him about our collaboration. “It was a project that was definitely born out of kindness by the Ministry. They really wanted to connect people.” He found the same experimental spirit in our X-mas gift project. “The choose-or-lose aspect really spoke to me. Sinc wanted to give clients a real challenge.” So, he came on board, and created a unique illustration for every client that entered our project.
The essential element for us was that we did not want to just hand over the art Magoz made: we also wanted to challenge our clients to think about what to do with their gift. If they opted for the NFT, would they use it to start a digital art collection? Leave it and forget about it? Or would they keep it for now, and resell it once Magoz’ art got even more critical acclaim? Use it in their communication outlets?
Questions which are interesting to Magoz as well. The Malmö-based artist calls himself “in essence a nerd”, who has always been very interested in technology and coding. At the end of 2020, he was witnessing the development of NFTs. Joining that experiment was a no-brainer for him. He developed a small series of digital artworks and put them up for sale that same year — a financially clever move.
Balance finally achieved
Magoz insists he’s not in it for the money, though: “I am interested in blockchain technology in general. It’s the decentralisation aspect which I really like. Essentially, the blockchain is a computer in itself. It can run things, yet no one owns it. No Apple, no Google. It is the first time in history that we have a common, public asset that is able to compute things. This is mindblowing for me. After the advent of the computer itself, and then the rise of the internet, for me personally, the third breakthrough is the blockchain.”
Although his work is regularly on view at physical exhibitions, Magoz considers himself a 100% digital artist: “I don’t make physical art. I work digitally. And when I have an exhibition I print my work. But there never is a physical original.” Technically, his illustrations and animations only exist digitally.
The advent of NFTs allows more types of art to be accessible. For example, until recently you could find generative art — images created by computer programs that always output unique results every time they run — in museums only.
Magoz expects NFTs to create a new way for artists to thrive just by creating art, removing the clients and corporations from the equation — something that has not been easy to achieve before. Not only because the intellectual ownership is now taken care of, but also because of the NFT royalties system: every resell of a blockchain-protected digital artwork sends a small amount of cryptocurrency to the person that minted the NFT — the artist.
“Basically, it’s an incorruptible system backed by cryptography,” says Magoz. “That’s what’s good about the blockchain: everything that is added to it is immutable and traceable.” Although Magoz acknowledges the theft and safety issues that surround online art, just as they surround physical art, he does not consider this an essential element. “I think it’s a social problem, not a technical one. I expect a technological solution to this will be found in the near future.”
“I’ve always been an advocate of a free and open internet,” he adds. “The current state of the internet is not free nor open. Instagram, Google, Twitter, none of their services are free, and their platforms are exclusively controlled by companies more powerful and wealthy than many countries. We are their product. They fooled us to think that likes and followers mean something worthy while they sell our data and cash out.” On the other hand, it’s always been psychologically harder to pay for things on the internet than in the real world. Through its decentralised nature and focus on ownership the blockchain can help to change that.”
A pioneering game
When it comes to advertising and marketing, the use of NFTs is still in its infant stage. But ideas are popping up everywhere already — it’s easy to think of embedding NFTs in webpages, for instance, or use NFTs as tickets to gain access to events, or as tokens that open up special offers.
Creating a much closer client contact is also not hard to imagine: the blockchain principle of shared ownership can lead to successful crowdsourcing initiatives — the mirror.xyz platform is an inspiring example of how a community of like-minded people can rally around an idea or a vision.
We’re not claiming here that all companies should embrace blockchain and NFTs. There still is a world out there that functions well without them. And it has its vocal advocates, too: early February, the #1 larger-than-life persona of our day and age Kanye West -who answers only to ‘Ye’ now- claimed he would not be putting out NFTs as he prefers to focus on ‘building real products in the real world’. And we understand why some of our clients preferred receiving a print of Magoz’ work instead of receiving a link to a digital file.
There is no right or wrong here indeed — we are aiming for awareness: through our NFT project we hope to make our clients realise that a new playing field is opening up. And not only that there’s a very interesting game to play here, but they can also contribute to defining the rules of the game. What better way to kick off than by handing them a free gift?
Interested to see how the Sinc x Magoz NFT exploration project turned out? Head over to nft.sinc.agency to check out the results!