Virtual Experiences — Creative Alternatives for the Current Times

A Q&A with Dusty Bennett, EVP, Creative & Executive Producer

What advice do you have for clients who are looking to fill the void of their in-person event/experience?

Though face-to-face brand experiences offer a unique immersive environment, VR can evolve into a more critical component of brand experiences for now and in the future. We’re collaborating with brands on developing a presence in VR that will supplement their existing e-commerce infrastructure while still expressing themselves as well as diversifying the ways in which they build and deliver engaging customer experiences. This is the perfect time to integrate the technologies of the future while we all wait for the in-person experiential marketing environment to improve. Ironically, most in-person events are built virtually as part of the creative approval process so it’s a natural shift to create fully executed virtual events from this initial creative process.

Do the virtual experiences, that you reference, have any inherent advantages over in-person experiencers?

I’m a theatre guy at heart, so creating worlds where you still use your imagination, to fill in the gaps, appeals to me. With virtual execution, via a desktop experience, the immersive aspect does involve a level of the user’s imagination and creativity. Though you may be in your living room, the fourth wall can be broken, and your imagination can connect the dots to put you in a wholly immersive virtual experience. Additionally, virtual events have a more inherent ability to plug in other digital marketing efforts; better positioning the success of a more integrated campaign. Virtual experiences also allow for a broader audience reach — experiences that are launched digitally via desktop VR, AR and headset VR allow anyone, around the world, to experience the event. This not only expands the typical in-person audience but also allows brands to still immerse the customer in an experience even in the age of social distancing.

How does creativity manifest in situations like a pandemic?

As a baseline, I can certainly say that situations such as these make you not take for granted what you do and love doing for a living. Long, overnight load ins and load outs are sincerely missed right now. With that being said, times like these are a great exercise in creativity knowing that more conventional ways of executing are limited. Your mind has to pivot to find more creative ways of psychologically getting into the minds of consumers in order create a new type of meaningful experience. New creative bonds with your team also have to be established since collaboration feels limited. This task alone forces new ways of creative thinking. These times also force you to also ask additional questions such as will work from home continue in the future? And, if so, how will that affect ways of being successful for clients?

How will the pandemic shape events for the future?

Listen, let’s be positive and spin a typically, bleak situation: the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing companies to react today in an effort to try and maintain some sense of normalcy. After all, normalcy would be a welcomed feeling. With that being said, while today seems reactive, I think clients will use this crisis to take a serious look at their long-term strategies as they relate to many areas, including live events. No doubt, in-person event popularity will rebound once we are on the other side of the crisis — consumers will always value physical, face-to-face immersive experiences; however, marketers who employ virtual approaches to personalize every attendee’s experience will earn a better return from events, whether solely digital or in-person, since “normal” will be a new normal.

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