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The $500,000 Meme

M.AD Monday Newsletter - March 1, 2021

There are moments you can spot the beginning of a whole new movement. That first crest of a massive wave. Our main topics today, NFTs and Deep Fakes, are both at major inflection points. And as a creative, you should be aware of what’s going on…

 

The $500,000 GIF

Copyright and ownership have always been thorny issues online.

NFTs might be the solution.

An NFT is a non-fungible token—essentially, an unreplicable digital asset. They’re part of a blockchain and noted in a digital ledger, like bitcoin (or Doge). But unlike cryptocurrencies, the whole deal here is that the NFT is not transferable. It has value because of its scarcity: in theory, each NFT is unique.

So what’s the point? Well, last week Nyan Cat sold for $500,000 dollars.

Or, to be more accurate, the original designer behind Nyan Cat (the iconic pop-tart-cat hybrid) created and sold a special, 10th-anniversary edition of his most beloved creation for 300 Ether.

But it’s not a one-off occurrence. Crypto art is a serious trend, as is the wider marketplace for crypto-collectibles. Last year Beeple, a digital artist popular on Instagram, sold more than $3.5 million worth of crypto-art. And recently, the NBA partnered with Dapper Labs (an experience creator of digital collectibles) to launch TopShots, a marketplace where fans can buy the rights to iconic basketball moments.

What’s strange, as The Verge pointed out, is that simply owning an NFT doesn’t really stop your property being replicated online. Screenshots still exist.

But in a way, that’s no different than offline art. There’s nothing preventing you from selling a photo of the Mona Lisa (well, besides an angry guard at the Louvre). Except no-one would buy it…because the value is in owning the original. NFTs might finally bring that same logic to digital art.

The Age of the Deep Fake

CreativeBloq dedicated an article this week to a strange and sudden trend on TikTok: dozens of innocuous videos featuring Tom Cruise doing nothing much at all.

What’s interesting is that it’s not Tom Cruise. The videos are all Deep Fakes. And they’re all eerily, unprecedently convincing.

You’ve probably heard about Deep Fakes. You’ve probably seen some of the hand-wringing about their terrifying potential. But like any new (and potentially dangerous) technology, it’s easy to not think about them…until, all of a sudden, they go mainstream.

Well, to that point, take a look at Mountain Dew’s campaign from February, featuring the beloved (and very much deceased) Bob Ross.

Mountain Dew worked with the Bob Ross Foundation to produce a believable digital representation of the late-artist, with a tie-in to the Dew.

It’s not necessarily the most impressive example of CGI-reanimation. From Star Wars to James Dean, there’s plenty of examples of long-dead actors returning to the screen. But there’s something about the mundaneness of a Mountain Dew commercial that seems to hit the message home: we’re truly entering the Age of the Deep Fake.

Assets for Creatives

Moving away from the high-tech world of tomorrow and into the concrete world of today: how about a curated list of creative opportunities for young up-and-comers?

Bernice Chao is a Creative Director at R/GA. Beyond incredible work for the likes of HBO, Google, and Sony, she also takes the time to update a monthly list of open internships, competitions, events, and general opportunities for those looking to boost their creative career.

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