Agencies as experience creators: why Marina Bay Sands hired Imagination to create its famous light show

Marina Bay Sands Spectra light show by Imagination

Two of the best-known landmarks in Asia Pacific have roped in Imagination, an agency, to create a light show; an unusual but increasingly common brief as brands look to create experiences for customers.

Imagination is the agency behind the recently overhauled Marina Bay Sands light show in Singapore, a brief given to the agency after showing its expertise creating the Sydney New Year’s Eve show for seven years.

Spectra at MBS occurs twice every evening, using more than 100 types of lighting and laser fixtures that are powered using the water in the bay. The show, which took two years to create, uses sound and water to create a show of four acts that aims to tell the story of Singapore’s origins as a cultural melting pot, ending on Singapore’s future as an innovative global leader.

Marina Bay Sands Presents Spectra from screenimag on Vimeo.

Spending two years creating a permanent show that runs twice an evening isn’t the normal brand-agency relationship, but Alistair Petrie, creative director of Imagination Asia, said that as storytelling becomes more important to brands, live experiences will play a bigger part.

“Great brands and leaders know that telling a story in advertising is important, but it's the delivery of that story through every touchpoint that is where customers learn to love your brand. We see our best clients recognise the power of creating meaningful experiences for the way they conduct sales on the front line, engage their people in order to deliver on a vision, drive engagement or change their business from the very core. UX is a term that has been taken over by the digital world - but it's always been at the core of how we think when we create live experiences for people, and great clients have always recognised that,” said Petrie.

Specific to the project with Marina Bay Sands, he added that trust was an important part, not least because the project was two years in the making but that the investment in the technology was sizeable.

“All relationships rely on trust - it's just this one needed the client to trust in something that was so far outside of anyone's sphere of reference, so they really needed to just believe in the collective team's experience and creativity on this one. Unlike advertising where so much of the work can be re-worked in post-production, we just don't have that luxury. Millions of dollars worth of permanent engineering was being fabricated to deliver this show. We all needed to be working so closely together daily, and the client needed to trust in the process more than ever,” he commented.

In line with the reputation for innovation that Singapore wants to carve for itself, it is fitting that the country’s most recognisable modern icon Marina Bay Sands creates an innovative and scaled-up show. According to Trevor Smith, production director at Imagination Sydney, the technical challenge was largely in the underwater lighting technology that it built.

“Spectra sets itself apart from other light and water shows because of its use of new underwater 500 watt LED fixtures – specially developed for the show. This allows the lights to show perfect whites and richer colour hues. In total, there are more than 100 types of lighting and laser fixtures used in the new show. The show only uses energy-efficient LED lights and the fountains are powered by water filtered and recycled from the bay, in an effort to make it more eco-friendly,” he explained.

The demand for experience-led activations and businesses that can deliver on live experiences, is growing. In the UK, out-of-home specialists Exterion Media recently launched a Live offering due to demand from clients for experiential know how. However, the ability to deliver on experiences on the scale of Spectra is another matter and the briefs may not be as regular. Nevertheless, agencies like Imagination are able to carve a niche for themselves that’s likely to come further into demand.

Charlotte McEleny

Charlotte McEleny is The Drum's Asia Editor, charged with finding all the interesting industry news and insights from the Asia Pacific region. During her year in Asia, she's covered topics as wide ranging as industry overwork to artificial intelligence, and interviewed top CMOs such as Alibaba's Chris Tung, and world famous creatives such as Rankin.

Based in Singapore, she travels the region regularly, attending and presenting at many top events, such as Spikes, Ad Week Asia and Innovfest.

Prior to her role as Asia Editor, she spent 10 years working across the London marketing trade magazines, even picking up an award for Best Digital Team at the PPA Digital Awards during her spell as digital editor at Marketing.

All by Charlotte