Using technology to connect with––and protect––an endangered species.

Critical Distance hero


Working cross-channel with Microsoft, Tribeca, and the Smithsonian to help Orcas survive.

Purpose Driven Campaigns
Purpose-Driven Campaigns
Digital Experiences
Digital Experiences

Challenge & Opportunity

How do we raise awareness of the issues impacting marine life, and what can be done to change the course of extinction? How can we bring the threats to the surface in ways that are immersive and real?

For the Southern Resident Orcas of the Salish Sea, sound is essential for communication, hunting, and everyday life—but noise pollution caused by humans threatens the species’ survival. Not in a theoretical sort of way—but in an actual ‘the species is dying off’ way, and change is urgently needed.

Critical Distance is an immersive augmented reality experience developed by Microsoft and Vision3. First featured at the Tribeca Film Festival, and now on exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Critical Distance brings visitors into the underwater world of a close-knit family of 24 orcas called J Pod. Using Microsoft’s HoloLens 2, visitors see the Salish Sea through the eyes of a young orca named Kiki, experiencing first-hand the impact of sound pollution on the orcas’ lives.

The Critical Distance experience is built to engage audiences toward long-term protection of marine wildlife by forging empathy and understanding with J Pod. The physical experience at the Smithsonian ends with an educational exploration, highlighting scientific efforts focused on orca preservation, and providing visitors with information on how to take action.

Critical Distance - National Museum Of Natural History

Solutions & Outcomes

How can we educate audiences on the ways we can connect with nature––and each other––through technology? How do you create a sense of connection when people feel far apart?

We collaborated across multiple teams at Microsoft and their partners––including the Microsoft In Culture team, the creators of Critical Distance, and Vision 3––to develop deep audience insights, channel analysis, and creative themes to bring the exhibit to life on digital channels. Our team began our creative work by producing a stand-alone video to promote the message and aspirations of the three creators of Critical Distance, who hail from Canada and London, interviewing and recording them remotely during the height of COVID-19. We also captured interviews and B-roll footage from the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, including proprietary recordings from the HoloLens 2 device itself to help viewers get a first-hand glimpse of the AR experience.

Guidance from our team on media channels––especially how to optimize for TikTok, Instagram, and others––resulted in us producing one of our largest TikTok campaign efforts to date. Each series focused on a different topic and was tailored to specific audience segments: introducing audiences to the Southern Resident orcas of the Salish Sea; sharing how tech like HoloLens 2 can help create a connection between each of us and nature; and bringing the story of the Critical Distance exhibit and the cross-team collaboration to life.

We also created additional video ad units for Microsoft’s out-of-home channels, along with Facebook carousels, Instagram Stories, Giphy stickers featuring Kiki, and video pieces and accompanying artwork created specifically for the Microsoft In Culture landing page. Lastly, we produced several video assets and accompanying artwork for use at the Smithsonian for the opening of the Critical Distance exhibit.

Critical Distance - Creating connection with j-pod

What We Delivered

  • Campaign strategy and creative execution
  • Audience and channel strategy
  • Campaign story identification and narrative development
  • Original content creation in the form of owned and operated channel content, social media posts for TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram, site, and accompanying artwork
  • Cross-partner management