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Anything Goes in Brand Experience & Activation, And Vicki Maguire Fucking Loves It

Awards and Events 184 Add to collection

Vicki Maguire, chief creative officer at Havas UK and president of this year’s Cannes Lions’ Brand Experience & Activation jury shares her thoughts with LBB’s Alex Reeves

Anything Goes in Brand Experience & Activation, And Vicki Maguire Fucking Loves It
There are few agencies in the industry today who’d rank the Brand Experience & Activation category at Cannes Lions as low on their priority list. A natural home for all of the most pioneering work in the marketing landscape, it’s a good job the category has a star jury president to oversee it in Havas UK CCO Vicki Maguire. Everyone wants to enter this category and with two years to judge she and her jury will have their work cut out for them.

LBB's Alex Reeves spoke to her ahead of the awards to get an insight into what she values most in this kind of creative work and what she’ll be looking for in the virtual jury room.



LBB> After a year and a half of Covid-19, why does the business and creative world need award shows?


Vicki> So, I love and hate award shows in equal measure. They shine a light on the best of our industry but are also liable to bring out its worst. Where they are unequivocally brilliant is that they’re a really good barometer for how culture at any given time is feeling – and I can’t wait to look back at the work we’re seeing this year in five years’ time. That’s going to be a fascinating snapshot.

Regardless of what you think about them, they are talent magnets. And I love the fact that people are still entering now, during a pandemic, because they have a piece of work or a brand they love that they want to see celebrated or rewarded.

 

LBB> You’ll be awarding 2020 and 2021 Lions – I know the years are being judged separately but it must be super illuminating to see the comparison between pre-Covid and Covid work. I know it’s still in the pre-judging phase, but have you noticed any trends or has it given you any new perspective on how the industry has changed?


Vicki> I’ve been impressed with how fast we’ve been able to pivot. The best brands, especially some of the bigger ones, felt the change in culture and adapted their work and their tone of voice accordingly. Some brands know their consumers so well that they instinctively knew the kind of messaging they wanted – and in turn, that meant their consumers actually wanted to hear from those brands. They turned to them in a time of need. And I love that.  

Some didn’t read the room at all. And I can tell you now their work will not be awarded. 

 

LBB> Brand experiences have, like everything, changed a lot recently. What changes are you most excited about exploring in the (virtual) jury room?


Vicki> Honestly, this category is one of the most exciting Cannes has. It’s basically the ‘pioneering’ category – where brands try out new ways to connect with their customers and bring new experiences to life. It’s like the Wild West, in a really good way. I also believe it’s the most entered – which tells me that brands and agencies are putting not just their energy behind this kind of work, but their cash. 

It’s both exciting, and an absolute beast to judge. Anything goes in this category, and I fucking love it. 

 

LBB> The Grand Prix in brand experience & activation went to Microsoft 'Xbox Adaptive Controller' from McCann New York in 2019. What is it about that campaign that you'll be looking for in work in 2020 and 2021? 


Vicki> I would have fucking loved to have done that campaign. It made perfect sense, but it hurts me that I didn't do it. I love that a massive brand like Xbox really knows what drives and inspires their customer. Not only did they gamify gamification, they also monetised it. I wish other brands had that level of understanding.

In the UK and Europe, we've just come off an abysmally cack-handed attempt to create a football ‘Super League’, put together by people who just saw football as a commodity – not as the beating heart of communities and countries. Compare that to the Xbox work. There’s something about it that tells me they know their punter really, really well. 

 

LBB> This has been a year that has seen the industry chuck out all of the rule books, so in some ways, this year’s Cannes Lions is a launchpad for the future – how does that frame how you’ll be looking at the work? Does it give the juries an extra responsibility?


Vicki> I think the juries in any Cannes carry responsibility. We obviously have a responsibility to award the best. But I’m seeing big campaigns from huge brands, and I’m also seeing ideas that are amazing with no budget. As a creative and as a creative jury, we have a responsibility to stretch and flex our mindset to be able to see beyond all the old tropes and come at it with fresh thinking. 

As I say, this is a Wild West category. The random, weird and pioneering ideas we see here could be a category within themselves in five years’ time. How exciting is that?

This is why I love the make-up of my jury, because there’s stuff that I’m looking at that for full disclosure, I haven’t got a fucking clue about – and that’s the stuff I’m going to really enjoy talking about and debating in the virtual jury room. 

 

LBB> What advice will you be giving the jury?


Vicki> My advice to the jury is the same as the advice I give to my creative departments: we’ve just got to roll with it.

I’ve got jurors from all over the world. Some of us, thankfully, are coming out of Covid, others are heading back into it. But in that jury room, collectively, we’ve got a responsibility to put circumstances to one side, roll up our sleeves and get on with the job.  

 

LBB> What's the most memorable brand experience for you, personally? And why? 


Vicki> I bought a mouldy Whopper once, but I don’t think it was intentional. 

 

LBB> Cannes is also a time of celebration. What will you be celebrating this year?


Vicki> I’ve sent all my jurors two bottles of rosé to try and get us into the Cannes spirit. And I - and I think all of us - will be celebrating the cultural impact our work has managed to make in the most difficult of circumstances. It’s not been easy, but the quality of some of the work – in spite of everything – is remarkable, frankly, and it fills me with faith for the future of this industry. 

More than anything, I’m celebrating that in the time it takes some campaigns to go through research, the world has not only identified Covid, but has come up with a series of vaccines to help fight it. Try telling me there’s not a lesson here in just getting on with it.

 

LBB> What do you hope to see at Cannes 2022?  


Vicki> People in person. But less of the pale, male, and stale, please.


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Havas UK, Tue, 01 Jun 2021 14:44:33 GMT