By the drum

July 7, 2022 | 4 min read

In partnership with The Drum, the 4A’s created a content series titled 'Convene. Challenge. Change.' As part of the series, 4A’s president and chief executive officer Marla Kaplowitz will lead a discussion with an agency leader and one of their marketing partners to discuss challenges, opportunities and new ways of working in a post Covid-19 environment. The series will also challenge norms, identify learnings and inspire actions that will create new standards to help drive the industry forward.

In the fifth episode in the series, Kaplowitz sits down at the Cannes Lions festival with Ricardo Marques, vice president of marketing for Michelob ULTRA U.S and global, and Gabriel Schmitt, co-CCO of FCB New York to discuss how their strong client-agency partnership is a breeding ground for the best creative work.

Kaplowitz initiates the conversation by asking Marques to talk more about their partnership, why FCB was selected, and the way they dealt with initial challenges of the pandemic and how that has evolved.

“Great partnership ends up and leads up to great work. It goes back to trust, to having a lot of fun doing it as well, and to having the ambition to be willing to do great stuff,” says Marques. “The ability to take risks together, the ability to go through the storms and challenges when things are not working out as ideally as they should – all of that culminates into what we're seeing here this week.”

The pandemic created a mix of panic and opportunity. When Kaplowitz asks about the opportunities, Schmitt nods to being solutions oriented with the idea for Michelob ULTRA Courtside. When COVID-19 shut down the 2020 season, Michelob ULTRA partnered with Microsoft and the NBA to reinvent the live viewing experience. Michelob ULTRA Courtside, powered by Microsoft’s new AI-driven Together Mode, digitally immersed fans at home in the NBA.

“The NBA had announced they would cancel the season essentially, and if they were to resume at some point, at any point it would be without fans,” says Schmitt. “We started talking and then we had this idea if the fans can’t go to the courts, what about a Microsoft Team’s type environment to have the fans watching the game somehow.”

The partnership and great ideas didn’t end there. Schmitt approached Marques about the idea of combining the real and virtual in the world’s first hybrid tennis match. Michelob ULTRA presented “McEnroe vs. McEnroe,” the world’s first tennis match to feature a real person versus a virtual player tennis player. In the match, the real McEnroe goes up against his younger self, a virtual player powered by A.I.

“The common thread between these two moments is one of absolute trust and one of jumping into the abyss of the unknown, nobody knew exactly 100% this would work,” says Marques. “This was a never done before combination for different technologies on the physical court.”

Kaplowitz asks what work is next for the dynamic duo and their overall client- agency partnership.

“We very much want to be back again next year with something amazing, and that's what we're going to be working on in the next few months,” says Marques. “I always say, if you work with people that you want to grab a beer with at the end of the day, that is a very healthy relationship. It doesn't only need to live in the virtual office or in the four walls of the office, but it's actually a friendship.”

“I think that creativity is what moves all the engines,” says Schmitt. “We're super bullish in being truly business driven, to forecast really good problems that can lead to amazing solutions that lead into true brand building.”

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