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The history of advertising is the story of how agencies adapt to disruptions.

The first UK TV ad included a special effect – a toothbrush and Gibbs SR toothpaste in a block of what looked like ice, to demonstrate the “tingling clean” proposition. The ice was plastic. That ad was made by Y&R.

TV advertising in those days was a frontier where the technology was new; not everyone owned a TV set and techniques were being invented on the hoof, much like digital over the last two decades or so.

At the time, some traditional agencies refused to do TV. Y&R got on TV first because they wanted to embrace the shift and even installed a TV studio in their office.

Eventually, TV became part of every agency. For some of those pioneers, that moment probably felt like the beginning of the end. In reality, it was the end of the beginning and the start of a long golden age for advertising.

Challenges have arisen because our industry has treated every new technology - from TV to digital, mobile and more - in isolation.

Agencies thrived in that time because they got their product proposition right and found the sweet spot that connects culture, technology and creativity with the needs of their clients.

Since then, challenges have arisen because our industry has treated every new technology - from TV to digital, mobile and more - in isolation, making our work increasingly siloed and ultimately shrinking our strategic power.

The full extent of how audiences engage and experience a brand can only be understood when we think above and beyond these categories.

Many brands - and their agencies - have created incredible experiences through history, except often without realising the full extent of what they were doing. Our vision of the complete brand experience was hindered by the silos we operated in.

That’s what is so exciting about the dawning of the brand experience era. It represents more than just a new area of expertise for agencies; it represents a broader, all-encompassing shift in consumer behaviour and expectations and in how advertising agencies will do business.

And - although some smart people will decide to focus on the differences - as we begin to explore the depths of brand experience, I believe we can take lessons from our industry past.

The first lesson is simple - we cannot let old labels distinguish what we do or how we think of ourselves. These labels are of little relevance to clients or people in the real world, and they only serve to create siloed thinking, which consequently produces lukewarm creativity and results. 

Brand Experience promises to create an even closer bond between people and brands - just like TV in its prime - offering brands new ways to become a part of people’s lives, creating more opportunity to build real emotional connections. Our industry should strive to free itself - and our client partners - from channels and platforms, swimlanes and matching luggage. It will give us the freedom to be truly people-focused in our approach to creativity.

Apple – Today at Apple (Case Study)

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Last year’s Cannes Lions Brand Experience Grand Prix winner was Apple, with its Today at Apple project [above]. The idea was to connect with their customers through live art, music, and engaging photo and sketch walks. It helped breathe new life into the Apple retail experience and created a fantastic ROI for the brand.

So let’s not think of Experience as a problem for a different team in a different office.

There’s another lesson we can take from our industry’s long history of disruption: shifting consumer behaviours and emerging technology creates the perfect storm for creativity to shine and business to grow.

Companies like Uber, Google, Amazon are creating experiences which have blurred the lines between advertising, brand, product, and convenience. 

Brands are now able to better understand and connect with people in ways that would have been inconceivable in the not-so-distant past. Disruption sows seeds ripe for creativity.  

Tech companies seem to be leading the charge; companies like Uber, Google, Amazon are creating experiences which have blurred the lines between advertising, brand, product, and convenience. 

Uber created a global brand and revolutionised the automotive sector at electrifying speed. A success anchored in seamless and smart brand experience. From the always-improved in-app journey to market specific services - or stunt - like the UberCopter that debuted in Dubai, the brand is keeping the customer at the core of its thinking.

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Above: Uber's UberCHOPPER


Equally, Amazon is continuously finding ways to innovate the brand experience. From developing the Dash Button to investing and producing original content for Prime, to opening cashless physical grocery stores, the brand has created a colossal ecosystem where each interaction helps build the brand. 

I could not be more excited about the future of our industry and creativity. As the Jury President for the Brand Experience and Activation Lions this year, I’ve seen examples of brands and agencies that are striking this creative iron with real skill and ingenuity. 

New advertising methods, shifting consumer behaviours, and emerging technology provide a canvas for work that pushes boundaries.

Modern agencies cannot afford to have the metaphorical blinders on in the race for results - clients want to create connected consumer experiences, and they want to create them with a partner who can deliver big creative ideas alongside cohesive big brand strategy. 

New advertising methods, shifting consumer behaviours, and emerging technology provide a canvas for work that pushes boundaries. Our job is to reassure clients that our thinking is not siloed and demonstrate that we have the right combination of technology, creativity and cultural relevance they need to future-proof their business.

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