Cannes Lions Tells Creatives They Just Became Experience Curators

The champagne corks will be popping on the Riviera tomorrow as the Cannes Lions week kicks off. This year will be a little different in theme, or at least in one of the conversations the organisers are hoping to start the week off with. The new direction? Creatives are now in the experience game.

That's the conclusion that will be showcased tomorrow as a McKinsey report is expected to be published, saying that creatives are no longer required for great ideas -- they need to provide great experiences too. News of the likely report and the discussions it would set off at the weekend prompted me to talk with some of the guys in London's creative scene.

Turns out that most brands now are adding an element to any engagement that goes beyond a campaign. The days of just asking for a catchy hook that could hold a 30-second tv spot are over, and companies want to wow customers at one or or more of their many "touchpoints" so much that they become loyal advocates. The creatives I talked with all agreed this is the biggest way their interactions with clients have changed in recent years. 

The new emphasis on experience brings tech teams and creatives together right from the start of any project to not only dream up ideas, but to establish whether they can be done, and with what tools.

A case in point that was cited as embodying this tech-driven approach to providing novel experiences was the amazing Magic of Flying campaign from BA from Ogilvy One. If you were in London's Piccadilly Circus you'd have seen a huge digital screen awaken with a child pointing to the sky to track the progress of an overhead plane and identify its flight number and destination. It was one of those moments that tapped into everyone looking to the skies and wondering where a plane is headed.

It was clearly a great experience. Behind it, however, was a whole bunch of technology that could read the plane's transponder, sync the screen to its passage overhead and display the flight's details. Of course, it only did that if radar revealed the sky was clear and the plane could be seen. Lots of tech, cleverly hidden behind a great idea that offers a unique experience.

So it turns out from the talk I had that the agencies are ahead of the curve here -- at least they claim to be. But they are not so sure about brands, or at least not all of them.

One problem that seemed to be shared across London's creative shops is that the agencies are working in multidisciplinary teams, yet a lot of brands are not. If you have come up with the team that can provide an amazing experience for a brand, it can then be hard to get feedback or start discussions when they need to talk to different client teams in different locations.

One huge problem that was uncovered in my discussions was that that brands often want to repeat something they've seen elsewhere, but have not taken into account that they don't have a bond with a loyal user base that would get anything from the project. One creative made it clear that brands have to first work at meaning something to their users before they can begin to offer meaningful experiences. This can often be a difficult discussion, telling a marketing head that there's not enough love out there yet for the brand to take it to the next level.

Interesting to hear, then, that Cannes Lions has got its opening theme spot on and to observe that while the creatives gather to discuss the topic it's perhaps the brands they work for that need to be reading the report and processing its conclusions.

The message I picked up was a most definite tick for London's creatives knowing that experience is their future, next to a question mark as to whether brands have fully embraced this.

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