Roll up, roll up – the digital circus is now in town. Come and see all the experiential treats that lie in wait now that our technical capabilities have advanced to keep up creatively, marvel at the new dynamic formats that elevate our viewing experience, or fully immerse yourself in a virtual playground of your choosing… Welcome, in short, to the age of experience. 

If the circus is a fitting metaphor for the glittering and plentiful brand experiences of today,  then we in the digital advertising industry are the creative conductors, helping to make these concepts a reality. Consumer expectation is at an all time high, competition is fierce and advertisers only have a few seconds to make an impression (we’re talking a thumb scroll here) which is why the tried and tested formats of the past can no longer be relied upon to generate the kind of engagement we now expect. 

The march towards digitization has helped shape and advance this experience economy, but as CX has matured from a disruptive concept to one widely adopted in most digital strategies, advertisers are now turning to high-quality creative as one way to differentiate themselves. Along with this renewed focus on creativity, we’re seeing storytelling begin to mature in tandem, moving away from a conventional narrative that may increase brand uplift for a time, and instead adding a new emotive layer designed to resonate with the user long-term. 

You need only look at the British retailer, John Lewis and their consistently impressive festive advertisement as a masterclass in effective storytelling, engaging creative and mapping user sentiment. For a six-week period, their consumers are completely immersed in a 360 brand world, hitting them at every touchpoint and amplified through strong digital distribution across their social platforms and strategic DOOH placements. The unveiling of their yearly ad has become an experience all in itself and an event that the whole family can appreciate. How many other brands can say they enjoy this kind of kudos in today’s climate? 

Ultimately, we all need to connect with consumers on a broader scale, which means context and relevance, targeting these experiences on an increasingly granular level. Campaigns have to be multi-layered, building on previous data learnings to both conceptualize and then deliver the right kind of creative at the right time and to the right person. 

We are living in an age where engagement and entertainment must now intersect, with immersive and high impact formats the key to elevating the CX further. As VR, AR and mixed reality become further embedded into digital strategies, we’ll see martech solutions develop beyond traditional Content Management Systems (CMS) into Digital Experience Platforms (DXPs) that will make us more proficient in connecting with consumers at scale to deliver these increasingly personalized experiences. 

The rise of dynamic creative will only further serve us in this aim, as its capabilities become more easily accessible, the complexities once associated with Dynamic Creative Optimization (DCO) now forgotten, as advertisers understand how powerful a tool this is to utilize. According to Adobe’s Digital Trends Report, 55% of marketers are now prioritizing more effective audience segmentation and targeting in order to deliver on their customer experience management goals, something which today’s DCO solutions, driven by machine learning can deliver, offering a simplified and automated process that can be deployed for virtually any campaign. 

That being said, there must still be a certain amount of agility in how we look at CX overall. It isn’t something to be perfected and then rolled out on a mass scale, rather it’s something that should keep evolving over time as consumer needs change and new technology emerges. 

Steve Jobs had it partially right when he said, “Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves” but I believe it’s a two-way street of communication, which requires us to listen as well as anticipate, especially as users continue to establish more autonomy online. We’re effectively walking a tightrope between providing a useful service and becoming one more ‘annoyance’ competing for their interest. 

As the average attention span decreases (down from 12 seconds in 2015 to 8 seconds in 2018) we will all need to up our game, focusing on multi-sensory experiences to heighten the emotional connection, and using every technological and creative tool at our disposal to exceed expectations and break the boundaries of what’s possible. This is the experience economy 2.0: get ready to attract, delight and engage the audience with your next digital performance.