Avoiding the spiritual and metaphysical (probably wise with 300 words), there are two worlds that everyone can recognise: the real world, and the artificial. The daily commute: “real”. Movies? “Artificial”. Naturally, there are grey areas, but overall this is an uncontroversial concept.
Marketing, like movies, represents the artificial world. Like all artificial things, it’s essentially contrived. It isn’t part of the world around you, it’s a departure from it. On the tube, a bench or a train serve a real purpose, but the ads aren’t integrated in this way. They’re just there. The only value they provide is notional, and in relation to their subject product. Sometimes, however, marketing does brush up against the real. It leaves a media space (which is essentially a protected canvas to do something artificial), and has find its own path to meet us as we go about our lives.
Theoretically, this is experiential marketing. Only, most of the time, it isn’t. Most experiential maintains marketing’s artificiality. It will create its own media canvas (say a space in a shopping centre), and create an artificial world within it – essentially a traditional ad writ 3D, still divorced from the context around it. You break the third wall, then erect a new one.
If agencies could shake this paradigm, then experiential could give marketing a path to reality. Everything you see in the real world – taxis, cafes, trees, toilets – these could all be twisted, repurposed, improved upon, to deliver a brand message. Disruption would be achieved not by shouting loudest to interrupt life, but providing the most value to integrate with life.
Marketing should look for relevant and fun ways to build itself into the real world, not try vainly (and in competition with millions of others) to distract people from it. Experiential can do this, and when it does the discipline will be propelled to the top table of strategic brand considerations. Such an approach would not only be impactful, it could make the world a little better too.