It’s hard to get the striking image of the red jungle fowl’s bright orange feathers out of your mind. It’s not immediately apparent how this wild, ancient bird relates to a website for chicken meat grown from cells in a lab, but the mystery is all part of digital design company Resn’s plan to draw the viewer in.
Known for its innovative and interactive web experiences, the studio headquartered in Wellington, New Zealand, with a satellite office in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, had no intention of creating a safe and familiar site for Silicon Valley startup Eat Just’s revolutionary brand GOOD Meat. Here, producing chicken meat without killing any animals or clearing any rainforests is the aim of the game. Throw in saving the planet, and you’ve got yourself one ethically robust, feel-good piece of protein. But is the world really ready for it?
While it’s still early days for the cellular agriculture industry as it works out how to scale up manufacturing and make its products affordable, success might be closer than we think. After Eat Just was given regulatory approval by the Singaporean government in December 2020, making its chicken the first cultured meat in the world to be sold commercially, it decided to act fast to get its product on more tables. GOOD Meat’s website needed to be ready in time for the launch meal at Leonie’s, the restaurant housed within Singapore’s private members’ club 1880. And in order to convince the meat eaters, flexitarians, vegetarians and vegans of the world to overcome any doubts or hesitations when it comes to eating meat grown in a bioreactor, Eat Just chief executive officer Josh Tetrick knew he’d need to collaborate with the best of the best to get the brand’s message across.
Enter Rik Campbell and Steve Le Marquand, Resn’s dynamic cofounding duo. Create an unexpected, artistic, emotive and thought-provoking website that would capture the world’s attention and powerfully communicate GOOD Meat’s benefits—with just three weeks to do it? No problem. According to Campbell, this rare ability largely comes down to experience.
“We’ve been around a long time in web years, and we’ve probably got one of the most experienced teams in the industry,” he says via video call. “There used to be a lot more experiences on the web—sites used to have animation and sound and gamification elements when we first started. That work ended up shifting away, and websites haven’t really changed too much for a while. There’s a certain recipe for how a website should be structured, but we think that can be challenged and pushed.”
To tell the story behind GOOD Meat, Resn used real-time 3-D graphics to digitally re-create the red jungle fowl, the majestic ancestor of the modern domestic chicken. This arresting symbol of a time when the Earth was healthy and nature was balanced reminds us of what the cultured meat industry is ultimately fighting for and how we might create a better future if only we are brave enough to change.
“Gooey interactive experiences” is how Resn describes its work. This plays on the idea behind its name, a substance that can be sculpted or molded, and explains its aim to achieve something more visceral. “We don’t have a visual style; it’s more about the feeling we can give to people when all the pieces of a project come together—the animation, layout, visuals, sound, what you’re doing with the site and how you play with it,” Campbell says.
While there is no question they take their work seriously, Campbell and Le Marquand are known for injecting a bit of humor and oddness into their public image. Their top-floor studio includes an arcade machine; a massage room; and a big balcony overlooking the harbor, where they gather for knock-off drinks. The same goes for their communications. “It’s part of New Zealand culture, and in New Zealand advertising culture, TV adverts are often built around a joke. We try not to be too safe in the way we talk about ourselves. In a competitive sense, there’s only 5.5 million people in New Zealand, and we’re so far away from the rest of the world, it’s just another thing that sets us apart.”
Behind Campbell and Le Marquand’s easygoing and playful personas are two deep-thinking, business-savvy creatives who hold their work to the highest standard. Resn’s client list includes some of the world’s best-known brands, such as YouTube, Amazon, Maserati, Ford, adidas, Lionsgate, HBO, Burger King, Spotify, Netflix, Airbnb and more. Its work has won more than 300 awards, including some of the most prestigious in the industry, like Cannes Lions, Webbys, One Show Pencils and D&AD Awards. Resn was twice named the Awwwards Agency of the Year, won the CSS Design Awards Agency of the Year, and is a member of the FWA Hall of Fame and the FWA Club 100.
It’s an impressive list of achievements for two young designers who met working in a studio in Wellington and decided to start their own company in 2004. “We shared a passion for engaging, interactive experiences and an obsession with working as late as we needed to get the job done,” Le Marquand says. “Early on, it was Rik’s silky smooth design paired with my animation and aural sensibilities that complemented one another. Now it’s more about pulling each other closer to rational decision-making.” Early clients included popular local musicians and bands that put them on the international map, along with their own award-winning website. A trip to the United States to secure work with advertising agencies proved fruitful, enabling them to return to New Zealand with a commercial portfolio that helped them win international projects despite their geographical distance.
Like so many businesses globally, Resn lost a huge amount of work when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Live launches and physical events, which had become a large part of Resn’s work, were canceled due to lockdowns and restrictions, but Resn soon found itself at the intersection of the pre- and postpandemic worlds. Businesses urgently needed to change tack and harness the power of the web to survive, and Resn could help them do that. “We’re a creative company at our core, and we’re always looking for new ways to connect with people on the web. This was an example of ‘here’s a problem; let’s reach out and communicate to people in new ways.’ We know how the internet works, we know how to break it and we know how to push it as far as it can go. When you mix creativity with very deep knowledge of the technology that allows creativity to be delivered, you’re in an interesting position to make the best thing possible,” Campbell says.
Reimagining live events for the digital space became Resn’s new focus. Dutch brand VanMoof, producers of high-end electric city bikes, needed a solution fast when it came to launching its new range in 2020. Resn came to the party, delivering an online event that combined livestreaming, films, interactive 3-D models, and a live Q and A. This product launch marked the debut of the platform Toast, which Resn had developed to help clients present their creations to the world with the same level of excitement and interaction generated at pre-COVID live experiences. With Toast, Resn extended VanMoof’s reach by enabling more than 6,000 guests from around the globe to witness the unveiling of the sleek new products.
YouTube was another client Resn helped in 2020. Using Cake, a platform it had created for interactive videos, Resn turned the brand’s annual live marketing event, Brandcast, into a personalized, creator-hosted online video experience for brands and advertisers. “It was a really successful project, and Google got a huge amount of positive feedback from it. I think it shows where businesses need to be right now,” Campbell says.
The stakes were especially high for Lucid Motors, whose plans for the global unveiling of its first luxury electric car were thrown into chaos when the pandemic hit. “They couldn’t hold the bus—they needed to find a solution, so they came to us. We worked closely with them to understand their story and came up with a way of personalizing it in a way that was genuine. It ended up being the second most-watched auto launch of 2020,” Campbell says. The event, powered by Toast, combined livestreamed and prerecorded video, audience interaction, and personalized story elements into one seamless experience. Lucid Motors experiential marketing manager Jeffrey Schuessler says they put their trust in Resn for more reasons than one. “Their work is creative, unique, collaborative and, most importantly, inspirational. They have a truly unique outlook on customer experience and journey,” he says.
As for Eat Just, there was something other than Resn’s ability to tell compelling, immersive, emotional stories online that set it apart. “I’ve been doing this for nine years, and I can tell the difference between people who are excited about what we’re doing and people who feel deeply, empathically invested in what we’re doing because they care about improving the state of their world too,” Tetrick says. Look carefully at Resn’s recent client list and you’ll notice a theme—many are engaged in releasing products that embrace cleaner and greener technologies. It’s by no means a coincidence. “We’re starting to develop more meaningful creative relationships with clients who are blazing their own trail and trying to make a difference in the world,” Le Marquand says. With Resn now in a position to be more selective about the clients it works with, the company is being steered in a direction that aligns more closely with its broader values. “We want to work with brands that make tomorrow better,” Campbell says.
Hope is a powerful force, and Resn plans to make the most of it. ca