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How might a Brexit affect the events industry?

Claire Gapper, managing director, Brand Brewery, discusses the potential impact a Brexit could have on the UK events industry, and what issues she is taking into consideration.

Claire Gapper from Brand Brewery discusses the issues that might impact the events industry following a Brexit

After years of debate, Britain is finally having a referendum on leaving the European Union. There is a sense of uncertainty and confusion that has overtaken the Brexit debate, with a major question mark on what will be best for Britain and, in turn, how it will affect businesses. As a brand experience agency with multiple European ties through clients and employees, we are watching and assessing the debate intensely. The topics at the forefront of our mind are:

Workforce

As we employ non-British EU nationals, what will the Brexit mean? There are suggestions that border controls may remain open in exchange for access to the open market, but on the other hand it could lead to tighter border controls with EU nationals having to present proof of employment and submit to a visa system. Will a visa system have to be implemented for existing EU nationals within our business and what are the time frames? Will it also limit the flow of talented individuals entering the UK? As a small business, HR already has an impact in terms of time and finance – therefore any changes to laws and recruitment may create an added pressure.

Trading with the EU

As an agency that thrives on active and ongoing work from clients based in the EU – we are already exploring whether there would be an impact for either party when servicing projects for our clients. On both sides of the campaign, when referring to businesses working within the EU, they only mention trade and usually in relation to import/export, but what about other service industries? There are reassurances that even if the UK leaves the EU, trade agreements would be put in place to ensure trade could continue, yet no-one can actually say what this looks like. Another consideration would be the departure of UK based businesses that we trade with; if they no longer have offices here, would they limit the need for a UK-based agency?

Bigger picture

In general our power as an economy and country is at the heart of many of the debates. The ‘IN’ campaign states that we are better off as part of a unified voice benefiting from stronger trade partnerships and the ability to impact laws and agreements more successfully from within. They have also hinted that other EU countries could potentially ‘punish’ the UK for leaving by limiting trade e.g. Germany and France import more from the UK than they export to the UK.

However the ‘OUT’ campaign states our voice is being lost and we are being dictated to by more powerful EU countries. They have also referred to the potential of the UK becoming a Singapore-style super economy – increasing our trading power on a global platform. This positive outlook is a tempting argument – could the UK become the trailblazer for further changes to be made to the EU?

Don’t fear the future, prepare for it

No-one can say with certainty what the right outcome will be for the UK, but we know that in order to make an informed decision we need further open discussions and access to more detailed information from both sides.

Regardless of what may happen after the 23 June referendum, it is better to prepare for the future and listen to the arguments now – reviewing the possible outcomes rather than face the inevitable panic and uncertainty that a Brexit would likely bring about. It feels as if the decision will come down to sticking with what we know or making a brave leap into the unknown.

Five things to remember when creating an immersive experience for your brand

Imogen Hammond, group creative director at Drive Productions, shares her tips on what you need to consider when creating an immersive brand experience.

Hammond notes five key things to keep in mind when it comes to creating immersive brand experiences

2015 saw a continuation of the trend towards brand marketing linking the virtual and the tangible. With online content reaching saturation point, many businesses are increasingly focusing their marketing on creating real-life experiences and touch points for their customers. If you’re a marketing director or brand manager thinking of creating an immersive event in 2016, here are five things you should remember:

Understand who your audience are

The immediate impulse when planning a big, impactful event is to choose an iconic landmark or high footfall area. While this can work well to garner column inches, there’s a risk your audience will be tourists or passers-by who have little or no association with your brand.

Make sure the people that come to your event want to be there and when they arrive, they know it is a special happening created exclusively for them. You can ensure you’re involving the right audience by reaching out to your customer base with exclusive content in the months and weeks leading up to the experience you’ve created.

Use innovative storytelling

A classic mistake many brands make is to end the experience with a product message. Avoid killing the moment by interweaving the brand story throughout the narrative. Storytelling has a beginning, a middle and an end that should leave you thinking. Don’t try and hide who you are – if your audience is the right one, they will want to buy your product. Great events are a conversation. Continue the dialogue by inviting your customers to feed back on what they’ve seen and where they’d like you to go next.

It has to be 4D

A truly immersive experience deals in all the senses and, if done successfully, will linger in the memory far longer than an amazing animation or impressive piece of projection mapping. For our work with the London Boat Show, we controlled the climate with tropical scent, wind generators, temperature changes, lighting and smoke effects to augment the immersive seascape projections. With Ralph Lauren, we used scent machines to fill New Bond Street and Madison Avenue with the latest Polo Ralph Lauren fragrances.

Don’t shy away from emotion

Create truthful moments that give your audience goosebumps. Any great immersive event – whether it be cinema, theatre or a brand event – should ignite waves of adrenaline in the audience. It should be an experience that evokes authentic emotions and leaves people feeling inspired.

#EscapeTheFrame

Think about it. The real world doesn’t have corners, the real world is all around us. Why only present your brand on screen? Experiences empower your audience. I guarantee 2016 will see an increase in 360 films and virtual reality content where audiences can navigate their own way through the world of your brand.

Top trends from Mobile World Congress

Jane Baker, commercial director at 2Heads, shares key trends from Mobile World Congress 2016.

More than 100,000 attendees arrived in Barcelona this week to join the world’s biggest and most influential mobile event, Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2016. After a busy few days supporting exhibiting clients, there’s been time to explore the show and take in the trends that may impact the events industry in the future.

Microsoft, Huawei and Sony each used natural wood textures to add warmth to their stands

Virtual reality

As expected, virtual reality (VR) is the main experiential draw for a number of stands at MWC. SK Telecom, Ford, Lenovo and T-Mobile are all using VR experiences to encourage attendee engagement but, for me, the standout one came from Samsung and its partnership with Oculus.

Long queues of intrigued attendees, me included, snaked around the Samsung stand waiting for a turn in the Gear VR Theatre with 4D, where groups of 28 attendees could enjoy a fully immersive roller coaster experience. The super-realistic screen content was accompanied a safety briefing, seat belts and seats that moved in time with the footage. Queuing time averaged 15-30 minutes but was worth the wait.

Once the session started and my carriage ticked its way up the first big climb, my chair tipped back and I felt my heart rate increase just like it does with the real thing. Into the downward twists and loops, my chair tipped forwards, jolting in time with the content. Despite knowing full well that I was in an exhibition hall, I found myself gripping the armrests, grateful for the seatbelt.

Used well, there is no doubt that ambitious brands can do great things with VR. But beware – used badly, it’s just another technology gimmick.

5G internet

While there were few big innovations at this year’s show, 5G is the hot new thing that everyone was talking about. The technology promises a huge boost to internet speeds and network capacity, exactly what is needed to support high resolution content such as holograms, augmented reality and virtual reality as well as a multitude of products now connected as part of the Internet of Things (IoT).

Whilst many of the major exhibitors talked a lot about 5G, in reality, it’s not going to happen until 2020, and then only with massive global investment in infrastructure.

For brand experience planners, a 5G reality will make video THE content marketing tool. For event venues and public spaces, it means a new investment to keep pace with the expectations of those marketers and their event attendees.

Inclusive experiences

In the past when I’ve visited MWC, if I ignored the logos, it was sometimes difficult to distinguish between the many super-bright white stands. These stark and sometimes clinical spaces were often roped off, visible to the visiting masses but with access allowed for just a select few.

This year, I’ve seen many more examples of more inclusive designs, with less access control to the main booths and a greater use of colour and texture to create a more welcoming and sophisticated environment.

Microsoft, Huawei and Sony each used natural wood textures to add warmth. T-Mobile/Deutsche Telekom, LG and Lenovo used colours from their brand palette to add visual interest. ZTE, Intel and Huawei used enclosed ceilings to create both interesting architectural features but also to dampen external noise – Huawei, in particular, created a peaceful sanctuary for visitors away from the crowded main aisle.

This more inclusive design approach feels sure to support efforts made by the organisers of MWC to increase attendance, something they’ve done successfully over the last few years.

How is creativity complementing digital and tech at MWC16?

Jordan Waid, vice president brand experience at FreemanXP EMEA, gives three examples of how creativity is complementing digital and tech at this year’s Mobile World Congress (22-25 February).

Mobile World Congress is taking place in Barcelona this week (22-25 February)

Invisible Creative

“The future is already here. It’s just unevenly distributed.” This William Gibson quote sums up the Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT is this invisible force that is working hard so we don’t have to, and Intel is helping us to understand this with their “Experience What’s Inside” campaign. The Intel Smart City demonstrated the invisible connectivity of our urban environment giving the visitor the chance to interact with various forms of the urban infrastructure – from a city train to wind turbines. Intel is perfectly poised to not only usher in the IoT, but to distribute it evenly.

Immersive Creative

‘We all live in a 5G submarine’ – SK Telecom created the most sub-immersive or submersive experience of the show. Last year they took us up in a hot air-balloon for a 4D VR experience. This year, they have taken us to new depths with an underwater 4D VR experience. Get in the queue, wait your turn, four at a time, in a yellow submarine – for a six minute experience accompanied with motion as you “Dive into the platform” – their theme for this year’s show. Visitors were then given an official ‘dive’ card and blue aquatic energy drink in a transparent pouch.

Interactive Creative

‘BB-8 is here’ in the form of a carpet drone from LG. It is actually cooler than theStar Wars: The Force Awakens version. You are the driver of a low-level security drone that films, records and investigates any situation on the ground. This little object is fun to watch run around the creative little racetrack, complete with miniature trees, bleachers, people and billboards.

The visitor could control it from an LG mobile device, and focus on different details with the camera. This was all part of many creative experiences LG had to offer under their theme “Life’s Good When You Play More” – with an old school mix of analogue and digital. Grab an experience map postcard, complete all five experiences based around ‘play’, collect the stickers and get a headset…with BB-8 rolling around in the midst of it all.

The most creative PR stunts in recent years

Jane Carroll, head of corporate development at Manchester PR and creative agency Peppermint Soda, looks back at some of the most creative PR stunts in recent memory and why they stood out.

Carroll revisits some of the most creative PR stunts in recent memory

PR stunts are designed to raise eyebrows with the general public. However, despite all the great work out there, there’s no real formula – apart from sheer creative genius – for what makes a stunt work.

The idea could be simple. It may have been planned for months, or perhaps it involves a skydive from the edge of space. There’s no limit to the lengths public relations agencies and creative teams will go to for column inches or to create a positive buzz on social media.

I’ve put together a few examples of PR campaigns which have made a real impact, whether the stunts were designed to promote charitable causes, pop-up restaurants or were quick, reactive ad spots such as the example below from Carlsberg.

Reactive PR

New digital technologies have enabled reactive PR stunts to be rolled out almost instantaneously. Just take a look at Carlsberg’s response to Protein World’s controversial ‘Beach Body Ready’ campaign in May 2015.

The drinks company displayed its ‘Beer Body Ready’ ad across London’s Underground network adjacent to the original in the days after it was first displayed and in doing so, joined the body type debate; which saw an online petition reach 60,000+ signatures calling for the withdrawal of the original campaign.

Technology

Despite being instrumental in making the idea a success, Dolmio chose to deride technology with its ‘Pepper Hacker’ campaign in 2015 in which a prototype gadget was developed inside a pepper grinder.

Whilst looking like an everyday pepper grinder, it actually contained technology which allowed parents to turn off household technology – including WiFi – for 30 minutes at a time.

The ad took a satirical view of contemporary family mealtimes and the fact this once shared – and sacred – experience is being lost to technology, as children and parents are both increasingly distracted by mobile phones, tablets and television.

The accompanying TV spot resulted in plenty of distraught children throwing tantrums. Unfortunately the pepper hacker isn’t real and the stunt was an April Fools joke, however the point was well made.

Raising awareness

In 2015 the €2 t-shirt campaign placed a real vending machine filled with cheap clothing in the middle of a busy Berlin shopping street and promised passers-by ‘fashion for a bargain’.

After trying to make a purchase, a video appeared which confronted them with the terrible conditions where the clothes are made, revealing the suffering felt by children who are taken advantage of by big fashion corporations in sweatshops across the world.

The stunt was devised in a bid to test consumers, and see if they would decide to buy the products, or opt out. Eight of the ten shoppers in the video chose not to buy when the video revealed some hard truths.

The campaign was put together in an attempt to increase transparency and make consumers think about where their clothes are from and start a ‘fashion revolution’, with the stunt coinciding with Fashion Revolution Day which takes place on 24 April every year, in memory of 1,133 workers who were killed when a garment factory in Bangladesh collapsed.

Social media

Social media is now almost entirely intertwined with our daily lives, whether that’s by sharing thoughts about the TV show we’re watching on Twitter, or connecting with business associates on LinkedIn.

On that theme… in 2014 Birds Eye opened pop-up restaurants in London, Manchester and Leeds which tapped into the ongoing trend for people to upload photos of their food onto social media or ‘food porn’ as it’s known.

By snapping a photo of their food at the store and uploading it on to Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, with the #BirdsEyeInspirations hashtag, they could get a free meal.

The three Picture House restaurants were opened to help promote a new range of meals from Birds Eye, while the campaign helped add to the 90 million photos of food which were on Instagram at the time.

Event marketing

Finally, the big one and by far the most extreme example on the list as we head into outer space.

In 2012, for their Stratos stunt, Red Bull arranged for the now world famous BASE jumper, Felix Baumgartner to skydive back down to earth from the edge of the atmosphere.

On 12 October he donned his spacesuit and freefell 39 kilometres over four minutes from a helium-elevated capsule above the desert of New Mexico.

This stratospheric PR stunt was out of this world and further increased Red Bull’s strong ties with extreme sports, adding to the Red Bull Air Race, Red Bull Racing Formula One team and niche events such as the Red Bull Soapbox Race and Red Bull Cliff Diving.

If marketing didn’t exist, Red Bull would just be a canned energy drink. However, it does exist and the drinks company is now synonymous with adventure and is able to pull off incredible PR stunts that enable the brand to lend its name to maximal living.

Projection mapping is just the start

Ed Daly, managing director of Seeper, talks about his belief that projection mapping is just the start for brands when it comes to using creative technology to provide immersive consumer experiences.

I was inspired to write this article after reading Event’s round-up of the five best projection mapping stunts of 2015. Seeper – the digital arts studio I head up – has pioneered projection mapping since 2009 with events such as our Branchage festival that same year.

The technique and the technology is now well understood, so – like stained glass, photography and cinema – while the media is no longer a sensation in itself, the messages conveyed can continue to have impact.

This said, while some people are familiar with projection mapping, and see unoriginal examples as rather passé, I’d wager less than 5% of the general population have seen an architectural projection show on the screen; and that less than 1% have witnessed it at a live event.

This was illustrated recently at Lumiere London, where a circus-themed show was projected onto the warehouse in Granary Square, attracting so many crowds that King’s Cross Station had to close and people were asked to stay at home.

Like any art form, there is the good and the bad. Building as we have on 3D animation, we’ve quickly progressed from the cave painting stage (perhaps the equivalent would be projecting Gail Porter onto the Houses of Parliament) but I suspect we’ve yet to see our equivalent of St Peter’s Basilica – now that would make an awesome canvas for 3D mapping.

So projection mapping is far from over. But I believe it can certainly work harder for brands, and we now have the technology, and skills, to do so much more. Traditionally, projections are artworks viewed at a distance, this has reduced the potential for direct interactivity, rightly seen as important for engaging an audience (just one of Event’s top five, Faberge, included an interactive element in its design).

But looking beyond shows projected on a looming façade, we can now use projection to create completely immersive spaces. We are able to transform any venue: a restaurant, nightclub, or exhibition space with imagery conjuring worlds and stories without limit. And not just imagery – we believe experiences should be multi-sensory, using audio, smell, touch, and through interactivity, our minds, to lay down powerful, lasting memories.

Why is this important? Because our most vivid memories are knitted together by the interplay of all our senses and, if we remember something, our behaviour is more likely to be inspired by it. Influencing behaviour is the driver behind any experiential campaign, so events need to create experiences which are unforgettable and will lead to action in the future.

Here are some examples of R&D we are carrying at Seeper to whet your appetite: Using internal projection on objects to avoid the need for external mounting of equipment – and turning all sort of objects into interactive displays; combining projection with live scanning of environments to enable projected content to behave as if it were physically there (perhaps, digital leaves blowing in the wind); tracking people and faces to bring live audiences directly into projected content.

Looking forward to the next decade of projection mapping, we’re excited by the potential for both technical innovation and in improvements in the craft and artistry that experience brings.

Ed_Daly_seeper

Ed Daly is managing director of Seeper

Periscope – the positives and the pitfalls

Sarah Baldock, chief executive and founder of Be-good Events, talks about the popularity of live-streaming mobile apps, such as Periscope, and why event professionals should explore their potential.

Live-streaming mobile apps, like Periscope and Meerkat, are huge. In just ten days, Periscope had one million users, and by four months they had 10 million, watching 40 years’ worth of content every day.

It’s the fastest growing social network, and an unrivalled way to truly connect with and engage audiences with the action as it happens. People, brands and organisations are all trying it out for size. Right now, events industry professionals need to be all over it. What better way to support clients in broadening the reach of their event than interacting live with a wider audience?

But, despite the spontaneous feel of Periscope, the nature of live coverage and events means you must be prepared for the unexpected. When Periscope is used by someone with no experience, the results could do more harm than good, and they may not do the content justice or promote the great participation this tool could so easily generate.

I recently had an alert for a live-stream on Periscope. It was from an event hosted by a pretty significant brand, that I would have given my right arm to attend. A key speaker was about to take the stage, so I logged on eagerly, feeling like I had a back stage pass and was going to be privy to some insights that would put me ahead of the pack.

But no. All I got was a wobbly view obscured by an elbow precariously close to a wine glass and a very fuzzy vision of the speaker murmuring incoherently in the background. It wasn’t exactly what I expected. I guarantee it wasn’t how the person filming was experiencing it – and it really was not at all how the speaker or brand would want to be portrayed.

So, how do you maintain the energetic, spontaneous participation of live-streaming and ensure viewers can at least see and hear what’s going on? How do you ensure production values are at a level that the client deserves and viewers expect in order to interact with content?

No news here…you must consult with the professionals. I’m not talking about setting up a recording studio in the event space, just making sure you have consulted with experts who have tested the set up, identified any pitfalls, lighting and sound issues, thought about the speaker or activity, the content and the delivery, and maybe even stabilised the device. And here’s a really important question: do you have enough bandwidth?!

It doesn’t begin and end there. Give your audience warning that you’re about to stream, get them excited and gathered. Once the live-stream is over, your lovely producer can help edit highlights to share across social media platforms.

Periscope for events? It’s good, but only as good as your event production.

Beaming – the next frontier

Duane Holland, founder and creative strategy director at DH Ready, discusses what ‘beaming’ actually is and why event profs need to know about it.

Picture this scene. A man in a tight yellow top talking into his wristwatch to another man with extremely pointed ears, a half frown and an equally tight top, this time in blue. You then hear the infamous words “Beam me up Scotty”. I’m sure we all know this to be from cult TV series Star Trek.

Now picture yourself in 15 years’ time doing exactly the same thing, but in your own living room. This was the vision of a pioneering project appropriately called Beaming, where a number of world-class R+D institutions and universities came together to explore the idea of ‘telepresence’ and test the waters for how this could become a future reality.

The topic was discussed as part of an academic study called Agency 2030 in collaboration between UCL and DH Ready, a cross-discipline creative consultancy. One of the speakers was Professor Anthony Steed (Virtual Environments and Computer Graphics at UCL) who provided a background on the beaming project and provoked new conversations about how this could reinvent brand experiences as we know it.

What is beaming?

Beaming was a four-year European Commission funded collaborative project ending in 2014. Undertaken to research the area of teleportation, the project was successful in transporting individuals from Barcelona to London, by combining a number of cutting-edge emerging technologies and scientific methods including robotics, haptics, VR, AR, neuroscience, depth-sensing technologies, 360-degree cameras and computer graphics.

In beaming, unlike the virtual worlds of advanced video conferencing, shared virtual environments and gaming such as Second Life, the robot or avatar interacts with real people in a real place in real-time. Steed said: “For the first time beaming will give people a real sense of physically being in a remote location with other people, and vice versa – without actually travelling.”

Changing the face of brand experiences

Interactive, immersive and sensory experiences aren’t anything new in branded events, but beaming offers a revolution to take this to a higher level with brands and products being brought to life, sampled and experienced in mixed-reality worlds. Imagine brand ambassadors based in London being able to physically connect with people in New York in real-time.

There are early signs that this is already happening with ‘mini beam’ case examples in the automobile industry with McLaren’s elite VR systems and Mercedes’ ‘virtual showrooms’, to the leisure and entertainment worlds with Marriott Hotels’ ‘Magic of Miles’ teleporter hubs – a 4D virtual travel experience allowing people to leap from one holiday destination to another using Oculus Rift.

Beaming is no longer pure science fiction – it’s next. Is it time your brand became tomorrow ready, today?

Duane_Holland

Duane Holland, founder and creative strategy director at DH Ready

CES 2016 – the innovations that will enhance experiential brand activity

Alex Groom, comms specialist at Havas SE Cake reports on the innovations at CES 2016 that are likely to have a positive impact on experiential activity.

By now the bright lights of Las Vegas will just about have stopped flickering from all of the electricity sapped by this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and attendees will be back at their desks, excited minds buzzing with the potential of everything from drones to wireless charging.

But from the wealth of new tech that has been on show, what’s going to influence how we plan and activate experiences for our clients? As brand marketers, we’re not too fussed about the thickness of a laptop or whether you can make the world’s largest TV screen. What we’re looking for are the technologies that will change how consumers interact with the world and how brands that we work with can make the most of them to tell their story.

Here are just a few of the innovations that we think could change and enhance experiential events over the course of the next 12 months.

360 video

Branded video. Currently the staple method of regular and entertaining interaction with people who like your brand. But the same questions remain – “how long will this take to make and how much will it cost me?” Our client Sony Mobile has a solution for this. They were at CES to show off the first 360 video shot on a Sony Xperia smartphone, which we co-created with them just before Christmas. This is proof that you don’t need an advanced camera with a five-figure price tag to create engaging content, just a bit of courage to point, shoot and let the world see what you’ve made.

360 video allows the viewer to move around in 360-degrees, rather than being tied to a fixed shot. Instead of showcasing an upcoming event or experience with a standard promo video tour, why not let the viewer explore the event space on their own terms? Something we’re going to be working on later this year.

Virtual becomes a reality

There’s much talk of virtual reality and once again it had a big presence at CES, with the first pre-ordered Oculus Rift devices set to arrive in homes in the next couple of months. While VR first came to the fore with a big gaming focus, there are now endless possible applications across industries from retail and travel to sports and entertainment.

Last year, FC Porto was the first football club to broadcast a match in virtual reality, Alton Towers has this week announced the world’s first virtual reality rollercoaster (due this year), and there are companies streaming concerts in VR. These events tend to be one-offs and feel like test runs, but the virtual space could be about to change on a mass scale.

vTime is the first virtual reality social network where friends and family will be able to gather in virtual spaces no matter where they are in the world; all you need is a mobile and a headset.

Naturally, users are going to want to keep brands at arm’s length in these spaces at first, but what if branded environments could lead to offline rewards and redemptions in the real world?

This is a concept Universal Music is already exploring via its recently announced partnership with iHeartRadio, with plans afoot to stream four live concerts this year to those lucky soon-to-be Oculus Rift headset owners. For brands, there will be huge opportunities for prominent sponsorship of these virtual events – not to mention the inevitable ad breaks. In what will be such a personal experience, it’s all about the added value a brand can bring, rather than ‘we’re here because we can be/can afford it’.

Get strapped in

The wearables market has rolled along for the last couple of years, with mixed success. We all remember those brave souls who were first to venture out into public with Google Glass strapped to their face; but wearable tech has already come a long way. Watches, wristbands and even bras can now contain a wealth of technology that offers additional functionality as well as a steady stream of consumer data for marketers to use.

Brands should consider how wearable tech can benefit the consumer experience – whether that’s a more useful wristband for festival-goers or better contextual data capture that can be used to enhance and personalise an event. Coin, the mobile payment software is a brand that caught our eye at CES. They’ve partnered with Mastercard to implement their payment functionality into fitness trackers. Gradually, those ever so slightly clunky wrist wearables are becoming a one stop shop for personal health, finances and much more.

2016 will no doubt be another exciting year for brands with a few new technological toys to play with. While it’s easy to get bogged down in gimmicks that fail to genuinely add anything for the end consumer – and there are plenty of those – marketers can use technology to augment experiential campaigns in ways we could only have dreamed about just a few years ago.

Those brands that can strike a balance between exciting, tech-driven experiences and adding real value to consumers’ lives will win out.

Alex_Groom_Havas

Five favourite brand experiences at CES 2016

Lauren Walder, senior account manager at brand experience agency 2Heads, reveals her favourite brand experiences at CES 2016.

It’s been a fast start to 2016 with a trip to CES in Las Vegas, one of the world’s biggest tech shows attracting a huge audience of 170,000 visitors and many of the world’s top consumer brands. After a busy few days supporting exhibiting clients, I had a chance to explore the show – here are some of my favourite finds:

ZTE

Chinese telecoms giant ZTE attracted huge audiences to its Centre Court Experience – treating visitors to basketball player appearances and a free throw competition running every day. Leveraging their sponsorship of five NBA teams, ZTE had visitors flocking to take selfies with the NBA legends, sharing images via a special ZTE at CES Facebook page as well as other social channels.

As well as launching a series of new handsets, ZTE also used CES to announce its #ZCommunity – an online platform inviting consumers to share their wish-list of features for future devices – making it the first phone company to fan-source next generation design. With the ZTE Experience Truck parked outside the Las Vegas Convention Centre as part of a nationwide promotional tour, ZTE has clearly made a substantial investment in the event.

ZTE_Centre_Court_Experience_CES

Nikon

Nikon prides itself on educating and inspiring photographers of all levels by offering photography classes and workshops in many locations, so not surprisingly its CES visitor experience was the Nikon School Theatre. Here, Nikon Ambassadors – leading experts in a range of photographic fields – shared valuable techniques while demonstrating the benefits of the latest cameras. This educational experience tied in beautifully with the company’s ‘I Am Nikon’ slogan.

One of my favourite sessions saw fashion and advertising photographer Dixie Dixon presenting ‘The Art and Soul of Fashion Photography’ – featuring the newly-unveiled Nikon D5. National Geographic photographer Keith Ladzinski also ran a session demonstrating the new D500’s attributes, while adventure and action photographer Corey Rich presented a video, ‘Inspired’, showing images shot exclusively with the Nikon D5. The experience of these professionals putting the new equipment through its paces really seemed to bring their expertise within reach of the rest of us ordinary mortals.

Canon

Visitors were wowed by examples of the latest screen and video technology, and my favourite was the Canon 8K Ride Experience, which harnessed ultra high-resolution video to simulate a physical experience. We were shown a two-minute video projected onto three screens. The main central screen directly facing the audience displayed precision definition, while the screens on either side of it showed a blurred image to give the impression of depth. The video, shot in the Czech Republic using a Canon prototype 8K camera, took the audience into a forest and then through the streets of a big city.

Whilst the need for 8K may be disputed, the content was great. The emotion in the music, the various scenes throughout the film had been given a huge amount of thought. You could feel an inhalation as the train moved along the track towards its oncoming destination. And although the scenes depicted images from everyday life, they had been beautifully shot to show stunning landscapes and architecture at its best.

Canon 8K Ride Experience

Audi

All the major automotive brands  – BMW, Ford, Chevrolet, Toyota and first time exhibitor Kia – showcased innovations at CES but it was Audi that ranked as my favourite. Their experience showed off three big trends – autonomous vehicles, IoT connectivity and virtual reality.

It demonstrated the ‘connected car’ of the future, showing a new version of the computer than runs its impressive self-driving cars. In addition to a virtual reality car configuration system and new lighting tech, visitors saw the Audi Fit Driver – a system that uses wearable technology to monitor how stressed or tired the driver is at any time. The car then adjusts elements such as lighting and heating to enhance the driver experience.

Needless to say, virtual reality experiences abounded at CES – from the Google Cardboard to the Oculus Rift. Queues snaked all around the huge Oculus stand; visitor interest no doubt fuelled by the fact that a consumer version of the Oculus Rift goes on sale this year. VR experiences ranged from underwater vistas to the Toybox, which presented a virtual sandbox. This game allows two players to interact simultaneously with a variety of different toys. Moving beyond entertainment, VR experiences are now being developed for a host of applications: one company, Vivid Vision, has developed a VR game using Oculus Rift to treat people suffering from impaired vision.

Sony had a major presence at the Show, promoting its new VR PlayStation. Another major player, Taiwanese tech firm HTC, premiered the Vive headset, which merges the physical with the virtual by incorporating a front-facing camera allowing the wearer to make out surrounding objects and avoid collision.

Drones

An overhead experience in their own right, drones were everywhere at CES this year. Whilst they have been around for a while, they were so prominent at the event that it’s impossible not to mention them. We saw more sensitive and intelligent models than ever before, appearing in all shapes and sizes; many demonstrating their incredible video and photographic skills.

So, reeling from our exposure to games consoles for pets, flexible OLED screens and headsets designed to stimulate hair growth, we’re suitably primed for the Mobile World Congress, taking place in Barcelona in just six weeks’ time.