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Interview with Digital Developer Nicholas King aka Nickels

In the world of advertising, specifically digital production artistry to position a brand and convey an idea, execution of campaigns is constantly evolving.  Finding new ways to communicate a message to a brand’s target audience has always been an on-going challenge because of how dynamic and volatile trends can change. Pushing boundaries and going over limits […]

In the world of advertising, specifically digital production artistry to position a brand and convey an idea, execution of campaigns is constantly evolving.  Finding new ways to communicate a message to a brand’s target audience has always been an on-going challenge because of how dynamic and volatile trends can change.

Pushing boundaries and going over limits seem to have a tendency to catch the public’s eye, although it invites risks that sometimes end in catastrophic PR for the company.  Some may argue that any publicity is good publicity, which is why there seems to be no end to what people or brands would do to reach online headlines in communities such as Instagram, one of the fastest growing social media platforms in today’s digital age.

This is why companies, agencies, and musicians have started to collaborate with online influential personas with an audience to position their brand.  One person that has taken Instagram by storm is Nicholas King, better known as ‘Nickels.’  He revolutionized the market with a futuristic proposal when a video he made of an ‘Autotune and Vlog Camera Arm Device’ with Atlanta rapper Nessly and YouTube star Jake Paul.  It was leaked to online publications such as WorldstarHipHop and coincidentally, after their names started trending on social media, both Nessly and Jake Paul individually dropped their newest songs.

Nicholas King enters the world of positioning brands with a new production style, exploiting his substantial experience in the industry and tools he’s crafted, capable of being one of the few creative directors able to turn around futuristic campaigns that attract the mass attention in record time.

His new approach to traditional advertising catapulted a new trend which labels him as one of the first high-tech pioneers of science fiction in digital marketing.

We were able to snag a Q & A with Nicholas King to learn more about what goes on behind his work.

Thrive Global: Bit of an introduction, who you are, where are you from, and what do you do.

Nicholas King:

My name is Nicholas King, and I’ve been an artist my whole life.  I was born in Maryland but my family moved to different parts of the world constantly since my father was in the hotel industry. I’ve had the privilege to live in countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, and the United Arab Emirates, but I would call Florida my home since our house is there and I went to college there.  I studied computer programming in college but ultimately fell back on my artistic urge to create things and went to an art school to finish my bachelor’s to get a degree in fine arts.

Now, I’m currently employed as Head of CG in a post-production studio.  Started out as an intern and slowly grinded my way to department head.  I love what I do and couldn’t see myself working in another industry.

Thrive Global: We’ve seen the viral video you did for Nessly, how did that come to fruition?  Was it collaboration?

Nicholas King:

It was crazy.  I’ve had this Instagram page for bit, uploading some of the work I had produced over the years but never really used it for anything else.  I love music and have always followed my favourite artists that I would have saved on my Spotify or Soundcloud.  Nessly was one of them.  It was either in his Live or Story – but he asked if any of his followers were artists.  I DM’d him and immediately got a response.  He said he had an idea that he thinks could go viral and we took off with it.

It’s been a crazy ride since then.

Thrive Global: How long does it take to produce your videos?  Tell us a bit about the process.  Who comes up with the idea, what inspires you?

Nicholas King:

Well, something you need to know about what I do on my Instagram platform… It’s more for exposure, for me and the artist or brand, than it is for work.  I still work as a department head for a post-production company, so this is more of an outlet that brings in actual work for the team.  All of the work on my page is made entirely by me, but the exposure it generates brings in music videos, commercials, visualizers, that need to be produced on a much bigger scale, with a much bigger team.

With all that said, the videos that I make won’t take more than 1-2 weeks.  I sit and meet with the collaborator and we figure out what we want to convey, how we want to push it, and time it with their next milestone or goal – whether it’s a product, song, album, project, whatever.  The fundamental idea typically comes from their side, but as a Creative Director, I start moulding it in to something believable, and something that would resonate with the viewers.  Some ideas have completely evolved in to something entirely different by the time the project is done.

I’ve also tried to keep a niche in mind and kept with it.  In my case, futuristic ideas that could be possible in the not-so-distant future.  I’ve always felt captivated by what technology could be invented during my lifetime.  I loved Doraemon as a child (a cartoon about an alien cat thing that pulls inventions out of its pocket and gives them to this nerdy school boy – they get in to all sorts of trouble).  Anyways, I guess all of that kind of culminated in to whatever this is that I’ve made, I don’t actually know what I’m doing anymore.

Thrive Global: How do you actually make your videos?  Are they real?

Nicholas King:

Hahaha, the number one question I get.  “Are they real?”  No.  No they are not real, and no I did not invent cyborg humans over the weekend.

My videos are a combination of practical devices and objects with 3D digital enhancements.  I’ve worked in the 3D industry for over a decade and I’m basically using everything I’ve learned to create my videos.  So I can’t really say how I do them, because every video is done differently – basically a new solution needs to be found for each unique idea that I produce.

Thrive Global: What does your DM’s look like?  Do people actually think your devices are real?

Nicholas King:

My DM’s are a whole other subject.  It’s ridiculous the type of requests and questions that I get.  It started out with a lot of death threats, not surprisingly from suburban 12 year olds.  It made me second guess what I was doing, but I soon came to my senses and kept doing what I love.

I stopped getting death threats a while ago, and now it’s more about people asking where they can purchase my devices, if they are real, or compliments on how they look knowing that they are just digital creations.  I sometimes get funny requests, which I post on my twitter or if story cropping out their names.

One of my personal favourites was: “Can you put an Xbox on my girl’s back?”

Thrive Global: Any future projects you are working on right now that you can talk about?

Nicholas King:

There are a ton of projects in the works for my Instagram, and one big one that I’m managing with my team remotely.  I’m actually travelling right now and it’s been a hectic month.  I was in Athens one week, Paris the next, Brooklyn last week, and now I’m driving around Florida.  It was supposed to be a month long vacation, but with all of the craziness happening, I’ve had to puzzle-piece some important work stuff in between my time off.  Forever grinding, because I’m a true believer that you always get back the work that you put in.

Thrive Global: Are there any projects that you’ve worked on that you are really proud of?

Nicholas King:

Last year I kind of went wild and snapped on a personal creative venture.  I decided to create loopable videos for a subreddit called r/simulated where I would put hundreds of humans through ragdoll simulations and layback a track that was on one of my Spotify playlists.  They were a series of videos that I published in the span of a couple months.  I’ve gathered all of them and made a post about it on my website if you want to check them out, be sure to click the actual link to go to the reddit post so that you can hear the music.  Anyways – had a ton of fun making those.

Thrive Global: What are you listening to right now?  What genre of music is your favourite?

Nicholas King:

Right now?  Slutty Sonny – Archnid.  I listen to all sorts of music though.  I started with the Punk-o-rama days of Rancid and Pennywise, went to Rap & Hiphop and was obsessed with Kno vs. Hov.  Obviously was a huge fan of Lil peep and Xxxtentacion. 

Thrive Global: If you could collaborate with one celebrity on a video right now, who would it be?

Nicholas King:

Dennis Rodman.

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