How do you integrate the strategy component in your working process at Jack Morton?
At Jack Morton, we have a central point in all our projects: ideas and creativity. The goal is to find the right idea, an idea that tackles the client’s challenges and connects with the people most important to it. We strive to create something extraordinary, which can be translated through various elements of the experience: be it architecture, design, interactive elements etc. However, in order to have an idea, you need to have a solid foundation. Often the brief from the client is not enough: the brief can be very factual, it may express a concrete need but the real challenge is often not written in the brief, it runs deeper. This is where strategy kicks in. There is no project at Jack Morton that takes place without involving strategy. It’s the job of our strategic team to write a creative brief based on their insights about the brand, its challenges and what it wants to achieve which is then developed into a creative idea. The role of strategy is to open a new perspective. We want the client to say, “Hmmm, I hadn’t thought about it that way”. If we manage that (which can take weeks of work), if we shift the perspective of the client, then we open an opportunity to create an experience which elevates the brand’s ability to engage with its audience. We have the opportunity to create something extraordinary.
That makes you consultants. Overall, are you management consultants, marketing and communication consultants, event consultants? What is your job?
It depends on the brief. If a brief is to launch a product, we have to understand the market, the target, the competition, the product communication and this is marketing/communication consultation. Each of our offices has strategists. They come from different fields: advertising, strategic planning, market research, political strategy. This diversity is very important for us as it brings in many different ways to look at the challenge. At the end of the day, a good strategy is simple, clever and eye opening. It should fit on an A4 piece of paper. It does not matter how deep the analysis is, if you cannot explain it simply, then it is not a clear strategy.
Rather than go with a strategy set in stone, we bring an insight, create interest and start a conversation with the client. And within those discussions, we learn a lot and come back to the office to finalize the strategy. Based on that, we create the idea, and this is managed by the creative director and we start unpacking it, with regular feedback to ensure the project remains aligned with the strategy.
How does an experiential agency like you bring as consultants, compared with management consultants or communication consultants which may have a broader view?
Our value added is usually a shift in perspective. We work with so many different industries and often we’re able to bring in inspiration from a completely different field for the client. It is also a diversity of talent, backgrounds and countries. But mostly, it is the possibility to engage in discussions at a level which brings them value. We bring insights that are generally about communication strategy, but one thing we do especially well as an experiential agency, is to bring insight related to people and how they experience the space, the brand, how they see it . Creating an experience is an opportunity for a brand to connect with people on many different levels, through all the senses.
You were talking of your know-how of how the human being reacts in experiences, is this a key value of event? Should we go even further in what we offer?
Events create an interface between people and the brand. It is a physical, experiential interface. It means we have to interpret the brand to make it reachable, but on the other side, we have to understand the audience. We have to consider both at the same time so we can build these bridges. The goal is to understand audiences (people) and anticipate their reaction. We have to know what will happen with the audience when they live this or that experience. We have to communicate to the client what reaction we are trying to engineer. Even if we have renders and VR, it is always hard for the client to understand the reaction of the public. This takes psychology, sociology, and a bunch of other skills. I come from architecture and it is a very useful skill set as we learn to understand how people will behave and react in a specific space. We have other profiles, scriptwriters for instance, which is a great profile to design emotional storytelling.
Do we need new profiles?
The event-specific skills enable you to get the basics right, make the logistics and production work, and this is essential. However, increasingly you need greater diversity, with such profiles as architects, people from the film industry, psychologists, amongst others. We never go in as a production team without strategy and creativity. “You produce it, you’re good”… No, no, no: if you don’t add the strategy and creativity, you are just part of the noise.
Massive and quick pitches are a concern in Spain. Is it also a problem at your level?
Yes, it is a problem at all levels. Many industries have become procurement driven. So anything can be put into an excel sheet and this is a burden for the entire industry. This leads to a massive reach out to agencies to ensure procurement’s objectives. There is also an expectation of immediacy which puts pressure on creative and production teams. At the end of the day, it often comes down to trust, relationship and communication. Whether we know our client and partner for many years, or we are looking at a new opportunity for a client we do not know, our aim is to build trust and converge toward delivering extraordinary work no matter what the timeline is.
The first step to strategy is probably asking the right questions. Which would you highlight?
There are some common elements but at the end of the day every client is different: on top of knowing the audience, the brand, each company has its own structure and you have to understand this. There is no magic recipe, it is about really focusing on the idea and the strategy behind it and then ensuring a top execution. And then making sure you have results which can be measured. Data is part of every single project and part of how we show the value of our work and the client justifies the project. Data has become the currency, we have to master it.