Live events and communications agency WRG directors, including Lord Grade, have discussed the importance of ‘theatricality’ in events, slamming brands that fail to adapt to the emerging ‘experience economy’.
Non-executive director Grade – the former CEO of Channel 4 – was joined at a panel discussion at WRG’s London office by WRG executive creative director Mark Gass and creative director Dan Shipton, who worked on Kate Bush’s Before the Dawn tour.
Shipton said that Bush’s tour, which banned mobile phone use, was an example of how acting, film and music come together. He described how Bush was carried through the audience, breaking the barrier between artist and audience. “Being actually touched at a live event is quite an experience. For many [physical contact] can be too much of an invasion. Bush wanted to be carried through the audience but people respected it. Boundaries were broken with fans,” he added.
Reflecting on the mobile phone ban, Shipton said: “If I take videos, I never watch them back. Memory is so much more important and it means there’s not a sea of phones.””
Gass, meanwhile, discussed the speculated shift to an “experience economy”, using the experience of buying coffee at Starbucks – where your name is written on the cup – as a metaphor.
He said: “Goods and services are not enough […] A handful of beans is just a commodity – worth a few pence – but as we move buying coffee into being an experience it adds value. People are prepared to pay for that moment.”
Elsewhere, dated consumer experiences were criticised. Grade said that the experience of shopping at M&S and Tesco are dated. “It [M&S] has not kept up with consumers need for the theatrical. The clothes are fine but there’s no care taken in the presentation. It’s a brand that seems oblivious to people’s hunger for ‘awe’. Tesco, meanwhile, is somewhere you go to because you have to go there.”
The Oculus Rift and digital technology were also discussed. Gass said: “TED lectures are the perfect example of an emotional experience in a theatrical environment. Digital for us is not just about social media. Oculus Rift can create 3D experiences that you can move in, but the question is: Once it becomes generic, where is the exclusivity? The thing that people remember is the live.”
Grade added: “The digital highway is just an Eddie Stobart lorry unless you put something on it. So whatever the definition – 4K, HD, etc – it is all about the content. The people that can cleverly use the seemingly endless digital formats are the ones worth knowing and paying.”