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Beyond The Cool Factor: Immersive Brand Experiences #FFWDadweek

Guest Post:  Lisa Gervais has 14 years experience in Digital Marketing, over the course of her career, she has lead online campaigns for IBM Canada, Rogers Communications and Fidelity Investments Canada as well as project managed campaigns on behalf of Warner Bros, Dyson, Mattel and Spin Master to name but a few. You can connect with Lisa on Linkedin or Twitter.

At FFWD Advertising and Marketing Week 2013, I caught a glimpse of the technologically possible available to marketers and advertisers. Beyond being very cool, the emerging technology enables brands to connect with their audiences in deeply immersive and highly curated ways. Geneva Film Co.’s James Stewart took us on a magical journey into the innovative world of 3D, gesture control and beyond.

Although the presentation centred on evolving technology, Stewart made a very clear point from the get go. Content is still king and the message is still the most important part of the medium. james Stewart“Very rarely does a bad idea turn into a good story” he reminded his audience. He then proceeded by saying that the execution is also king. “Ask not what the technology can do for you, but what you can do with the technology.”

From that point onward, Stewart focused on demonstrating the never before possible to his audience of adverting industry professionals. According to Stewart, and rightly so, everything is a digital campaign today. What he says you need to do it to figure out how you are going to touch your audience. “The digital experience is the new normal” he proclaimed.

He confided that brands are now requesting ‘NBDB’ – Never Been Done Before technology. Professionals are asking on behalf of their clients – What can we do that’s never been done before? It is both exciting and frightening. While there is a desire to continually push the boundaries to connect with an audience, there is also an element of fear associated with whether the technology will work or fail. “Disrespect the impossible” Stewart declares.

He reminds his audience of the fundamental fact that it is not advertising that has changed. It is simply the platforms that have changed. As marketers, it is still imperative to tell a great story and connect emotionally with the audience. The technology enables the possibility of novel sensory experiences that engage consumers on a personal and experiential level.

The advertising campaigns shared with the audience are textbook examples of how to harness Edgar Dale’s cone of experience principles. Rather than providing a passive one-way flow of information, the ad campaigns by Vodafone and Lexus offer fully immersive 3D experiences. Elements of the ad come off the screen towards the audience creating an opportunity for personal brand interaction.

In the case of the Samsung campaign, audience engagement is enabled through an interactive cinema game. Gesture control technology is employed to promote crowd participation. All of the campaigns tap into the principle that people generally remember what they experience versus what they read or hear.

Stewart offered some advice to marketers and agencies if faced with the challenge of wanting to do something that’s never been done in the past. He said simply: Hack the technology. Figure out how it works and how you can adapt it for your brand or client. Think about how people are already interacting with the technology and determine how you can insert your brand into that experience.

For example, observing the degree of engagement individuals spent with ear buds, the Nike Portugal marketing team gained insight into the power of the sound experience. To capitalize on the natural and very human association with sound, they created a three-minute ad clip with only sports sound experiences. The absence of images renders the Nike brand campaign completely arresting and immersive.

For a Pedigree campaign, Stewart demonstrated how “hacking 3D allows you to tell two stories to the same audience at the same time.” On the way into the presentation venue, the audience was directed to select either a yellow or orange pair of 3D glasses. As the ad began, both audiences saw the same imagery. However, very early into the spot one message was being served to the individuals wearing the yellow glasses whereas an alternate message was being shown to the ones wearing the orange glasses. It is both a clever and moving campaign as the message was tailored to whether the individual had made a donation to the Pedigree-sponsored animal shelter or not. This type of advertising execution is highly emotive and holds broad possibilities for audience-segmented messaging.

As a grand finale, Stewart gave his audience a sneak peak at the near future of technology – Google Glass. Currently in the hands of 1,200 developers, Google Glass is an augmented reality headset. Think of it as a pair of ‘smart glasses’ that plays video and audio, has a built-in camera and a tiny screen to display computer data as well as a WiFi module and support for Bluetooth. Conveniently, sound is played via ‘bone-conduction’ technology rather than through ear buds. If brand engagement is deepened through audience immersion, then Google Glass will be the ultimate sensory experience.

Stewart left his audience with a parting thought. “Technology is not the next big thing. The next big thing is what you do with it. Hack the technology and make it work for you. Then YOU will be the next big thing.”