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How to approach experiential advertising - the four critical components.

How to approach experiential advertising - the four critical components.

Cannes, the creative industry’s very own experiential event, never fails to remind us just how quickly the industry changes. As technology continues to involve and shape our most basic human interactions, so too the various creative disciplines are forced to think more innovatively to respond to the needs of ever more digitally-savvy and cynical consumer.

What’s fascinating is the changing relationship between brand and consumer – one where the consumer is more empowered and everyone has a public voice.  As this provides a rather large crowd of people to voice their discontent to if they should so choose it comes as no surprise this has led to an increasing number of brands re-evaluating their marketing outlook. Now the customer sits at the centre of a new engagement-focused model.

It is from this new model that Experiential Advertising has sprung – essentially creating distinctive advertising experiences that invite the customer to become personally involved in shaping the brand’s evolution and then encouraging that customer to encourage their friends to also get involved. Regardless of the medium, the experience must require the customer to actively engage with the brand in order for the desired outcome to work.

We have seen many early examples of this – many which rely on the novelty factors of new technologies to engage – but also many more that combine the technology successfully to genuinely engage in a relevant way. For example the Reporters without Borders campaign by Publicis which highlighted the issues of censorship allowed you to interact with President Gadaffi with your iPhone.

Of course great insights learned from data gleaned from online consumer behaviour allow us to construct campaigns specifically to create interaction, something that Wunderman has done with great success with our ‘Help the Oversharers’ campaign for Pringles. This idea used the simple observation that people who share too much irrelevant information online were seen as uncool and needed to be introduced to something that was worth sharing - Pringles.

The purpose of this piece, however, is to explore the four key pillars that are essential for any marketer to consider when thinking about undertaking an experiential advertising campaign – Customer, Brand, Interface and Environment.


Thanks to the vast array and uptake of social technology, the range and scope of marketing data and insight that can now be developed around consumer profiles is vast. Where do your customers hang out online? What do they say about, and how do they perceive, your brand? And, equally as important, what do they say about others? What excites them? What do they respond to? Who are your biggest advocates and where are they from as there are no international borders online?


Then there’s the brand which is no longer something solid and controlled, but now very much in the hands and in the imagination of those who interact with it. How the brand’s current and potential future customers see it? How does their perception of it differ and how can advocacy be enhanced (and detractors silenced) with a campaign that actively and creatively invites audience. For example, do you want to reach a new market or new genre of consumer? To do this, you’ll obviously need to put both new and desired consumers at the centre of the creative planning process and this may require you to look at ideas that may challenge the traditional values of your brand – are you willing to do this?


Bring in the creative technologists! Yes, for every creative idea around experiential engagement, there are literally hundreds of ways to execute it and even more platforms to host it on. This is where one of my favourite parts come in – when we mix our creatives with our geeks to bring a creative and engaging idea to life both online and offline; we affectionately refer to this team as our ‘Creeks’. So often this most important element is overlooked and great ideas flounder.


Context is key. The environment in which the activity takes place is all important to a consumer’s experience of a brand. Is the idea solely an online interactive experience and, if so, have you made a customer’s point of entry as simple as possible? Have you structured the thinking and delivery around how the consumer will benefit from the experience? Or, will your online experience really be a call to action for a larger event or series of events in real life? If so, the greater the effort the consumer must go to, the greater the reward must be from the brand.

Lastly, while in Cannes I attended a seminar where Aaron Sorkin, the writer of the Oscar-winning film The Social Network and The West Wing spoke alongside The Wire's producer and writer David Simon. The message was clear that engagement on a superficial level is not enough and consumers are tiring of things without depth. Which is a reminder that, at the end of the day, devising something creatively rich and relevant is still the best approach to attract audiences.

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