Grant Campbell is an award winning Creative Director at Ignite Europe Limited, a British experimental marketing agency. His creativity has been showed in a various kinds of global projects from short film festival and live broadcast for Nokia, Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday charity concert in Hyde Park, Royal Command film premieres and the Smirnoff Paintfest tour, to numerous festival and sporting event activations. Also, his latest and greatest work – The EDF Energy London 2012 Energy of the Nation campaign – is known as the first twitter powered light show, a live energy reading on the London Eye every night of the London Olympics. Masaaki Hasegawa, IE´s student at the Master in Visual Media, had the opportunity to talk to him.
MH. First of all, tell me about you and your passion for your work. How did you get interested in this field?
GC: I found my way into experiential quite by chance. It’s not a traditional part of the industry and has really only become mainstream since the advent of social media. In the past we used to work to a 1:7 ration. For every one person who comes to an event, they’ll tell seven about it. Now that people constantly update their social media the amplification and number of people you can touch with an experiential event are enormous. One of the first big events I worked on was the concert for Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday charity concert. That showed me that you can achieve much more with an event than any traditional campaign.
MH: You have experience in copywriting and were the co-founder of some businesses. Have those experience made your presence in the market and enabled you to have different viewpoints from others?
GC: The interesting thing about experiential is that you end up working with people from all kinds of diverse backgrounds. Some are former DJs, actors or chefs. Most have worked in a customer facing role or the hospitality industries at some point and it gives you a better idea of how people on the ground at an experience will react to things. On the other hand my background as a copywriter has taught me to learn and digest every piece of information about a client, because that’s how you find the killer insight.
MH: Please let us know about your work-style. How do you reach a final solution? Do you usually come up with unique ideas using your own creativity or you usually work by demand, in which you propose some options and develop them together with your client?
GC: There are two ways to answer a brief. You can react to it with existing solutions or you can come up with something new and unique. I prefer the second way as it’s the only way to stay ahead of the competition and the only way your client can.
MH: What is a key process of creating festivals, events, and experiences? Do you intentionally design people’s emotion and their behavior?
GC: The most important thing is to find a way for people to have fun or be amazed. The most important insight you can come up with is a human truth. Something that is undeniable and doesn’t have to be explained, if you can do that the rest is easy. You don’t need to design any other emotion in it it’s something that people know deep down.
MH: In my view, experiential marketing is not just an artistic experience creation but also a strategic thinking. How do you combine your creativity with a strategy to reach the target goal?
GC: We’re quite fortunate in that the strategy can be a bit looser for experiential than a full-blown above the line campaign. But a lot of the strategy we come up with is again a reaction to a simple, human truth.
MH: The development of technology has changed our experiences so dramatically. For example, 10 years ago it was impossible to gather public voice instantaneously, like Twitter does. To what extent technology has effect on your work, idea creation and strategy?
GC: Experiential has become what it is entirely thanks to Facebook. People share their every experience and if that experience is a good one, brought to them by a brand they’ll share it. Add twitter and Instagram to this and we have the ability to read live reactions to an event… this has been a wonderful addition to the mix – clients can see live results.
MH: What is the difficulty on the process of translating creative ideas into practical works?
GC: Sometimes the operational guys (the who are responsible for building the experience) hate us… very often we’ll have a great idea that just proves to be a logistical nightmare for them, so we do tend to work very closely with them and every creative has to have a mix of skills that give them a good idea of practicalities. For example, I’ve worked with a number of other (non-experiential) agencies who have suggested ideas that are simply impossible… such as projecting on the moon. They have a basic lack of understanding of mechanics and technology. Experiential creatives tend to be quite practical and techy on top of creative.
MH: Is there any trend that we need to follow in this field?
GC Follow every trend and you’ll be able to come up with the next big idea by putting those two things together. Steve Jobs summed this up:
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, the just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while”
MH: Unlike the past, experience seems to be one of the most important elements in our life. In developed countries, most people are materialistically satisfied and instead are eager to be recognized by others on social media. And experience is a key content for them to share with others. How do you expect the future of creating experience?
GC Experiences are a social currency now so I imagine experiences will have to get more and more ambitious – the commercialization of space travel is probably the best example of this today… twenty years ago a bungee jump was the ultimate experience… now you can do that on any holiday. A major global trend that’s fed the experience currency is the deep global recession. Young people don’t go traveling around the world so much, so they look closer to home for experiences – and if that’s cost prohibitive, there’s now very often a brand that’s willing to give them the experience for free.