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New Realities and High Expectations: What Are the Experiences of the Future?



As brands consider the potential of new tech and liquid customer expectations, BLVD’s director of technology Nicolas Dube-Pauze and executive producer of experience and innovation Graham Budd explore what the future holds for the world of experiences

New Realities and High Expectations: What Are the Experiences of the Future?

What even is an ‘experience’? Following the events of the past 17 months (and counting), that’s become a very fair and pertinent question. We humans are hard-wired to want to share moments communally, and so the pandemic-enforced lockdown felt at times like an affront to our very nature. 

But like fresh green shoots sprouting up through concrete pavement, creativity and technology still found a way to connect us. Tech and its power to connect us is our driving passion at BLVD, and so it’s been heartening to see so many events pivoting to digital and streamed experiences - often leveraging AR and VR technology to surpass our expectations and provide us with something memorable. Covid-19 has changed the meaning of the word experience, and there’s every reason to believe the result will be in some way permanent. 

Nonetheless, nobody truly wants to be stuck on one side of a Zoom screen forever (other video calling apps are available). Seeing human faces confined into boxes on one side of a laptop or phone screen undoubtedly has a shelf-life as an engaging experience, and some might say we’ve already passed it by. Video calling in its current form can be exhausting, and our expectations are (rightly) going beyond that. As a result, brands are exploring the potential of more ambitious experiences which are set to define the future.

The Hybrid Model

When we do finally emerge from our various states of lockdown, there will be a clamour to return to the ‘real world’ physical events we all used to love. That’s a fantastic thing, and there are some exciting ways in which we can incorporate tech which has been utilised in lockdown (VR and AR, for example) into amazing physical experiences. 

However, it also pays to be realistic. There will be a large number of people who, for various well-founded reasons, won’t be comfortable flocking back to packed-out stadiums and event halls for a long time yet. Brands would be wise to be mindful of this, and be inclusive to those who prefer to continue with primarily digital experiences. Happily, there are some innovative ways in which we can expect a ‘hybrid’ combination of physical and virtual to become more prevalent in the coming years. 

For our part at BLVD, we’re lucky to have worked for a long time alongside partners in the sports and entertainment industry. We’ve been working with Canadiens de Montreal, for example, on expanding their game-day experience for fans. Amid the pandemic, the sports sector allowed ‘fake fans’ to populate the stadiums, as real-world supporters remained part of the experience from their homes. Why can’t that continue post-lockdown? Those who want to can of course enjoy the traditional venue experience again, but franchises could continue to offer lower-price digital tickets for those who prefer to tune in from the safety of their home. This has the potential to carry a positive knock-on effect for both businesses and audiences. As well as expanding the reach of any events, it also provides an option for those who might otherwise have been priced out of attending.

A Whole New (Brand) World

There are a few stand-out examples of mid-pandemic experiences which are setting the tone for the future and providing inspiration. The most famous is undoubtedly Travis Scott’s appearance in Fortnite, in which 12.3 million Fortnite players attended the star’s virtual concert. The event perfectly captured the potential of digital events to be unique, engaging, and memorable in a way that would have been mind-blowing even had the pandemic never happened. 

Another interesting example of tech-enabled digital events was Tomorrowland, an EDM festival which normally takes place in Belgium. In 2020, however, a team of around two hundred 3D artists and technologists ingeniously created a virtual festival like no other in the space of just three months. A virtual world called Pāpiliōnem, which users could explore digitally, contained eight different purpose-built stages. 

There’s a lesson in Tomorrowland’s success for brands. Digital experiences are perfectly capable of connecting us in meaningful ways, but they also contain the potential to create a bespoke brand world which, if done properly, audiences love exploring. The rewards for brands who want to create these worlds are immense, and this is a trend we can expect to see evolve, even in a post-lockdown landscape. 

Blurring Realities 

To say it’s an exciting time for the future of experiences is an understatement. As creativity continues to be fuelled by technology and innovation, the potential is staggering. 

We’re at a point where the line between fiction and reality is blurring. Thanks to advances in AI, for example, who’s to say we won’t soon be meeting fictional characters in fictional spaces? VR and, in particular, AR, are offering us unparalleled opportunities to bend reality and provide unforgettable experiences. 

Needless to say, the potential for savvy brands is enormous. Those who are set to benefit will be those exploring the possibilities right now.

Nicolas Dube-Pauze and Graham Budd are respectively director of technology and executive producer of experience and innovation at BLVD.

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Rodeo FX, Mon, 21 Jun 2021 15:12:29 GMT