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Trends and Insights on Experiential

Bruce Henderson is Chief Creative Officer of Jack Morton Worldwide. He is responsible for the global brand experience agency’s creative vision, and is the chairperson of its creative council. Moreover, he is Jury President in Experiential, one of our new categories at D&AD Awards 2018. 

Here he argues why brands should create meaningful experiences, which recent campaigns turned into memorable moments and marked the current cultural landscape and his aspirations from the Experiential category.


I should start by saying that I’m a writer by vocation, and not an evolutionary psychologist. But as someone who started his career at a digital agency in the late 1990s, who then worked in integrated marketing and who now focuses on brand experience, I firmly believe that while technology changes rapidly, human beings don’t. And that understanding is very important to the work we create for brands, and also in terms of how we evaluate that work.

People’s loyalty to brands is built on memory structures, and work that touches people emotionally builds memories most effectively. That’s why brand experience is increasingly recognized as critical to brand building and why I’m excited about the work we’ll make and see in this category in the coming year.

When we think about creating and evaluating work that touches people emotionally and solves clients’ business challenges, the best tools we have are still ideas. Specifically, ideas grounded in a keen understanding of people, as well as the brand and the culture at large. And truly extraordinary ideas – regardless of what shape they take – are most often simple, moving and original. Because simple, new ideas that touch people emotionally tend to make deeper, more lasting impressions, which helps build memory structures and brands.

As we consider the year ahead, it’s worth taking a look back. Two of the most memorable pieces of experiential work last year were a 130cm-tall bronze statue (Fearless Girl) created by McCann for State Street Global Advisors, and the Nike Unlimited Stadium created by BBH in collaboration with Jack Morton. One employed a technology that is over 4,500 years old, and the other used some of the latest technology to allow runners to race an LED ‘ghost’ of themselves to enhance their performance. I love new technology, but in and of itself it will never be the answer to our clients’ challenges. Technology was a fabulous enabler of the work, but what both experiences had at their heart was a deep understanding of each brand’s particular intersection with people and culture, which found expression through a simple, moving and original idea.  

So as I look forward to presiding over the first-ever Experiential category in the D&AD awards, I’ll ask the jury to consider the following questions: Is the piece of work simple, moving and original? Is there a clear idea based on brand, audience and cultural insights? Did it succeed in solving the challenge it was briefed to solve? If it meets those criteria, it’s probably effective work and worthy of consideration – and it may even be truly extraordinary and an award winner.

If you think you have a campaign that deserves a Pencil, enter your work into the D&AD Awards and see if our judges agree. When it comes to awards, nothing matters more.

For more creative inspiration and the opportunity to get up close and personal with the world’s best design and advertising, join us at D&AD Festival. 

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