imon Biles just made a digital debut as a virtual human in SK-II’s newest video campaign: #ChangeDestiny. The cult-favorite Japanese skincare brand made headlines recently by releasing six videos featuring six famous female Olympians.

Much like the anthological approach of similar series Love, Death, & Robots, each video in the branded series showcases a famous athlete animated as a virtual human who literally fights their personal demons in a heartfelt and action-packed series. 

Image by SK-II.

In 2020, SK-II used the same six Olympic athletes in a similar campaign titled “vs Beauty” where each athlete shares a personal story on social media about their struggle with being entered in beauty competitions they did not ask to be a part of. The campaign was a commentary on the unrealistic expectation for beauty that female athletes face, while their male counterparts are not judged for their appearance. 

This year, SK-II expanded upon the idea of “vs Beauty” by showing each athlete squaring up against other societal expectations such as “vs Limitations” or “vs Pressure.” Each video pairs a virtual representation of each athlete with a personal challenge, such as Simon Biles fighting an army of trolls who leave mean comments on her social media. 

By animating these stories digitally, the creators unlock freedom to really show these personal demons as monsters (or kaiju as they’re known in Japanese) that the virtual Olympians fight. The result? A stunning campaign that is both visually stunning and emotionally touching. Each animated short packs as much plot, immersive style, and character development as an episode of Love, Death, and Robots, or even a full-length Pixar movie. 

We love when people fully leverage the capabilities of virtual humans and everything they can do, especially as a reflection of what humans cannot. While human Simon Biles may not be able to fight monsters with her backflips, virtual human Simon can, thanks to SK-II Studio. The metaverse is full of amazing possibilities, and virtual humans are the vehicle to explore the potential in film, television, or even a well-scripted, animated ad spot. 

A powerful next step for SK-II to bring their campaigns to fuller life would be to consider crafting an ongoing storyline with the same Olympian personalities, and in similar style. While YouTube and television are incredible touchstones to loving fans, SK-II leaves access to so many fans on the table by failing to cater and syndicate the story for more platforms, leveraging transmedia storytelling. 

Another approach SK-II may not consider would be the possibility to freeze-frame key moments from their animated storylines, dripping them out over many months to scribe the story in written form, allowing fans to engage at the most relevant seconds through likes, comments, shares, and saves. Alas, to each their own path. 

Other brands should take note and reconsider how they partner with influencers or celebrities with current technology and animation capabilities in mind. Transforming a person into a virtual human captures people’s entertainment-craving attention while flexing your innovative muscle, as SK-II often does.

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