In a previous article, I discussed how corporate giants like Coca-Cola and Acura were venturing into the burgeoning world of NFTs, and the metaverses that are increasingly linked to them, in a slew of novel and imaginative ways. In this installment, I’m focusing less on how companies are leveraging their iconic brands to make much-hyped debuts, and more on something that has always been crucially connected to the popularity of NFTs: the indelible power of a single irreproducible image.
From unforgettable cinematic moments to photojournalism at its finest and most illuminating, these NFT drops can remind businesses how many words pictures are worth when they’re inextricably woven into a shared cultural history.
Owning a piece of photography history
Earlier this year, The Associated Press announced that it would be launching its own NFT marketplace featuring the AP’s illustrious archives of photojournalism. The Associated Press framed the marketplace — which debuted Jan. 31 — as an opportunity for the news agency to offer “tokenized pieces to a fast-growing global audience of photography NFT collectors.”
In addition to digital renderings of the photos themselves — which are hosted on the Polygon blockchain — the AP is also including extensive metadata that includes details relaying when, where and by whom the photo was taken. Perusing the AP’s “Community Market,” one is immediately struck by the rich panoply of firefighters, schoolchildren, day laborers and even hulking polar bears filling the resale marketplace, where the photographs are being sold for anywhere between several hundred and over $1 million.
What can other businesses glean from the AP’s visually arresting foray into non-fungible tokens? First and foremost, the news agency is demonstrating the lucrative potential of photojournalism in the world of NFTs. Artificial scarcity has long been one of the most important features of the tokenized economy, and photographs with a singular publication history and highly specific sociopolitical context possess something arguably even more valuable: inherent rarity. There was only ever a single photographer taking a single shot that ultimately took on a life of its own. No matter how many journalists shoot blue-collar men casually conversing during a work break, there will only ever be one Lunch atop a Skyscraper. That level of rarity confers profound value in the broader NFT marketplace.
The AP’s launch also provides a substantive blueprint for other news organizations. While there’s obvious potential for large media companies like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal to launch their own marketplaces of photojournalism NFTs, smaller outlets with a weighty history within a specific region may also find that their photography archives hold significant value to the right people. The AP effectively ushered photojournalism into the NFT party, and now it’s up to other traditional media platforms, both large and small, to mine their deep histories and follow suit.
Capitalizing on the universal love of film
A great deal of media coverage has already been devoted to Quentin Tarantino’s controversial NFT launch, so I won’t waste too much time rehashing the details. Suffice it to say, legendary Hollywood director Tarantino has attempted to avail himself of the NFT craze by releasing a series of tokens memorializing his landmark 1994 film Pulp Fiction. Meanwhile, Miramax, which produced and owns the rights to the film, has filed a lawsuit to block the sale. In January, Tarantino went forward with the release of the first in a planned series of NFTs anyway, and it sold for an astonishing $1.1 million.
While Tarantino’s tokenization of Pulp Fiction and the outcome of Miramax’s lawsuit have sundry implications for future legal disputes related to intellectual property rights, they also point to the profound potential movie history holds in the world of NFTs. Production companies, distributors and the filmmakers who collaborate with them should be — and almost certainly are — taking note of the Pulp Fiction gambit. That’s because movies provide ideal raw material for NFTs: they have well-established IP, indisputable cultural cachet and passionate, entrenched fanbases often willing to pay handsomely for a piece of their favorite film’s history.
Everything from cult classics to beloved fantasy franchises to sweeping historical dramas can be revisited and transformed into NFT collections that shrewdly capitalize on the current cultural fascination with nostalgia. It’s a heretofore unmined opportunity to add another revenue stream for companies in Hollywood and the filmmakers who work alongside them; they should be strategizing now for how to best turn their movies into unique tokens featuring scenes, stills, commentary and any number of other features that will entice well-heeled collectors and cinephiles. Just imagine all the bonus material on your favorite DVD sets, and you’re on your way to envisioning the manifold possibilities of film NFTs.
Branding through a single image
If you had to distill your company to a single vivid, irreducible image, what would it be? Bottled water company Evian seems to have asked that simple but engrossing question when it set out to create its first non-fungible token. Collaborating with multidisciplinary “phygital” artist Sara Shakeel, Evian has released a limited edition run of 20 NFTs that feature a gorgeous, glittering mountain landscape based on the French Alps where Evian’s water is sourced. The drop, which took place on April 4, quickly sold out all 20 tokens (they were priced at $545 apiece).
For other, smaller companies intrigued by the prospect of activating their own NFTs, Evian provides a powerful example of how art can help you solidify your brand identity and construct a compelling narrative around it. With a single shimmering, purple-hued image, Evian is telling a story for consumers about how its bottled water is intimately connected to a skyscraping mountain range whose snowmelt trickles down icy bluffs and glacial rocks and provides life-sustaining nourishment to millions. Whatever their industry, businesses with an eye toward NFTs should be looking to accomplish a similar distillation process: using beautiful art as a powerful branding mechanism that leaves people associating you and your company with a single stirring image.