How to make Unreal Engine a reality for your business

A limitless world of digital expression and opportunity

Collective Founding Partner Stephen Barnes looks at the Unreal opportunities awaiting ad agencies and why they will revolutionise advertising.

Our session at the IPA in June was the first in-person event at the IPA since the first lockdown and the first time we had delivered this workshop in conjunction with Unreal.

To add to the drama, the workshop involved creating a significant amount of content in real-time, content of the quality that could be used in a real campaign, while actually presenting the presentation.

But fortunately, because of the power of Unreal Engine, the ease of use once you have everything in place, and its ability to move at the speed of thought, what sounds like massive squeaky bum time, was actually a joy to do.

And that was what we were trying to get across. Unreal might seem like a big complicated world where people throw around vaguely understood zeitgeisty phrases without really knowing what it does or thinking it's for them.

But that’s not the case. It is for them. In fact, it's for everyone. Because the benefits are incontrovertible. Unreal will revolutionise advertising, and this workshop is about giving the smart ones amongst us the chance to get involved on the ground floor.

And, as a creative of too many years, it's an absolute joy to work in. It's like a big open sandbox just waiting to be played with.

Demystifying Unreal Engine

But yes, I’ll concede that there is still some mystification around the concept. So before we got to our bathtime buddies (that will make sense later) to demonstrate how Unreal can be used in an advertising context, we asked Rachel Stones, Business Development, at Epic Games to demystify it.

Due to word count, I've had to cut down and paraphrase her section into soundbites but you will still get the main point. No one makes Unreal accessible like Rachel does.

"Unreal is a limitless world of digital expression and opportunity, but brands think they have to change the way they do everything to use Unreal, but they don’t. We managed to navigate analogue to digital pretty well a few years ago, so we can definitely do this. 

"At Epic we want to build the Metaverse. But it doesn't really exist right now. It’s not useful as a concept because the Internet is 2D. The Metaverse is 3D where you can interact with your surroundings.  The only way it could run would be on a game engine.

"But don't fall into the trap of thinking that because it doesn't really exist now, it won’t happen. It definitely will. 3D worlds are here to stay. Kids are already building these worlds in Minecraft. They’re not going to want to stop doing this as they get older.

"Unreal can prepare the brands you are working with to be ready for this coming Metaverse.  This is the first step in building for the future. It's the on-ramp for all companies to bring physical products into a digital world. 

"The Travis Scott Astronomical show in Fortnite changed the way so many people look at the Metaverse. Him being 100 ft was a genius idea. It blew the walls off realism."

And that idea of blowing the walls off of realism was front of mind when first speaking with Unreal about the content for the workshop. The conclusion was that the best way to show off the tool would be to not use the standard fare of unattainable hypercars or high-end watch as we are all familiar with these products in a CG environment. The recommendation was that the best way to show the scope and flexibility of the offering would be to use an everyday item that lives in every home across the country - hence the creation of the Bubble Buddies.

A reusable, sustainable, refillable toy for the bath. A whole new brand and product that was created entirely in Unreal just for this presentation by our Unreal Engine magician, Stephane Bourez.

While taking the room through the idea of the Universal Asset, where you make one image in Unreal and then use that image again and again and again to create ad after ad after ad in seconds with no rendering time at all, Steff, as alluded to before, was able to create several new bits of work, that with a little finessing could be used in any Campaign. All as part of the presentation.

But the great thing about these images is, aside from that you dont have to pay production houses masses of money for rendering and that it can be done in seconds, is that they can be used for any medium, from AR on a phone to the IMAX and everything in between.

What you need to know about Unreal Engine

Again, for word count, I won't go through the entire notes of the presentation, but here are the top take-outs you need to know about Unreal and why you should be getting involved.

It saves time and it saves cost. It keeps the brand identity when you’re working with diff agencies. It's sustainable because there is no need for render farms and you dont need to go on shoots. You get to focus on the creative, not the production elements. All of which contribute to richer experiences and lead to more brand affinity leading to more purchase.

And, highlighting positives from the creative side, led to one of the best bits of the session. Steff getting very carried away about how much fun it is to use.

"Unreal is creative at the speed of thought. If you’re looking over the controller's shoulder, you can do stuff on the fly, find happy accidents, and just try new things, all in real-time. What would have taken days is now taking seconds, you can have a golden hour all day long and you can play God with the weather."

"We all know rendering is a grind. Using Unreal is like playing again. When you show people it's like when you were a kid and you’d say to your friends, come to my room and I can show you my toys."

So come out and play, and bring your clients with you. The fun is Unreal.

Stephen Barnes is Founding Partner at Collective.

Our next Unreal Engine primer session for agencies with Collective will take place on Wednesday 9 November. Book your place now.


The opinions expressed here are those of the author and were submitted in accordance with the IPA terms and conditions regarding the uploading and contribution of content to the IPA newsletters, IPA website, or other IPA media, and should not be interpreted as representing the opinion of the IPA.

Last updated 01 May 2024