'Step into my office', a new series of interviews powered by The Future Factory and The Drum Network, focuses on the challenges and the opportunities facing agencies this year. We will be taking a sneak peek into the lives of agencies, how they work, what their motivations are and what their thoughts are on the current state of the industry. Paul Stanway, the creative director at XYZ, discusses how brand experience should be tailored, engaging and motivating for consumers.
So, what does XYZ do?
We refer to ourselves as a brand experience agency, as even though most of our work is in the events sector, we increasingly find that this encompasses other areas such as content creation, product seeding and digital experiences, all wrapped up in the brand experience – because consumers don’t care who provides the experience, they care that it’s exciting, seamless and engaging.
How long have you been around and why did you start the agency?
After several years as part of a bigger media group (when our previous agency Slice was acquired by the Engine Group) we were really keen to take back control of the work we were doing, and how we were doing it. So we started XYZ in 2012 to be a totally independent brand experience agency, committed to producing interesting work with interesting people. It’s a simple mantra, but when you’re committing everything to creating a brand new agency, you need to have something you believe in at the root of all that hard work.
What makes you different from your peers?
Every project we produce is completely bespoke for the client – we don’t sell packages or off-the-shelf ideas. We love the process of working with a client to create something that’s unique to them and who they’re talking to. We’re able to create specialist project teams, from creative design through to technical production and delivery, working more cost effectively than bigger agencies, without compromising on the concept, the production values or the strategy.
What have been the biggest challenges over the last year?
From an agency perspective, we’ve had the positive challenge of needing to scale up whilst maintaining our high standards of project management and production values during some very busy periods.
What do you see as the biggest opportunities over the next year?
A lot of our sports orientated work will be positively influenced by the Olympics and Euro2016, and the continued accessibility of technology to create experiences like never before is always hugely exciting for us.
What do you think the biggest challenges are facing experiential over the next few years?
Embracing technology in a way that adds value to live experiences is always going to be the holy grail. For a while it looked as though digital experiences might relegate live events to a second class status, but what’s become clear is that well designed and insightful live experiences that are relevant to the consumer and true to the brand are still the most powerful tool in affecting behaviour and causing positive change.
Large installations and complex set builds, mountains of printed collateral and energy-hungry technical equipment all add up to an industry that has yet to find a solution to a problem that’s not going to go away. We need to do more to address this problem proactively if we’re to have a long-term future.
Measurement, metrics and the data question
The Pandora’s Box of data has been opened, and now clients (quite understandably) want to know how and why events are effective. Rather than scramble around looking for a single measurement tool that works across all types of activity, agencies need to be responsive and develop models with their clients that are representative of the event, the audience and goals of individual projects.
Where are you based and why this location?
We are based in Fitzrovia, we picked this area as it's important for us to be easily accessible and near to clients that we work with.
How important is location for you?
It's important but not overly. We are not fixed in staying in this specific area but if we moved it would be to somewhere else in zone 1.
Do you feel the office needs to be quirky and irreverent or simply functional?
We try to strike a balance between creating an inspiring and positive environment to work in, without falling foul of the agency clichés that are a waste of money and can often be counter-productive when clients see your expensive interior design tastes.
Who are your current clients?
Ray-ban, Nike and Celebrity Cruises
What three projects are you most proud of?
Every 4 weeks for the entire year we created a brand new environment in their flagship store (Covent Garden), each one was challenging, unique and totally different from the previous one. Every single time it was completed to very high standards, on time and on budget.
We produced many different projects for Nike in the past year, so it’s difficult to choose just one. It would probably have to be the Nike Zoom London Innovation Summit, which was pan-European media launch for running apparel and footwear. We created an incredibly immersive environment that really helped establish the brand as the home of speed. It had everything from a room full of trainers on parachutes, a high speed transfer along the Thames in a fleet of speedboats, to sprint drills beneath the river in a tunnel linking the south bank to the north bank of the city.
To celebrate world Emoji day, we worked with Tesco Mobile to create the world’s biggest emoji.
We actually produced two giant emojis, one using paint adjacent to the London to Cardiff mainline route, and another on the flight path into Bristol Airport, using crop circle techniques. We engaged prominent video blogger Thatcher Joe as an ambassador to help drive online engagement with the behind the scenes film content.