Cannes Lions 2016: We Live In A Time Where Creativity Is Being Revolutionized By Mobile And China Is At The Heart Of Digital Transformation

by: Navjot Singh on 26 June 2016

Eric Cruz, AKQA’s Executive Creative Director in Shanghai, Provides His Insights into Digital Transformation in Greater China

"The vast majority of Chinese grew up in a mobile first world and skipped the personal computer era. So, things like WeChat are actually better than Facebook because they don't just compile and integrate all the different functionalities, but actually take it notch or two or three up from where it is at right now." - Eric Cruz 

12ahead: Where do you think creatives need to improve on in China? Are there any success case studies you would like to share?

Eric Cruz: We have been very fortunate in the last couple of years working on a very cool project called Nike Rise House of Mamba, where we created the world's first interactive LED Basketball court. Inspiring the next wave of basketball players to raise their game, thirty players were drafted from a region-wide search to be coached by LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. Nike Rise House of Mamba challenged and trained the final team using motion-tracking drills and reactive visualisation to create a pinnacle experience, teach the fundamentals of basketball and push the boundaries of sports training. We armed the players with sensors on their arms, wrists and legs.  In that first year we were able to track all the players’ movements in order to make the game better. In the second year, how we implemented that was that we essentially created the game further and introduced what was called "coaching the coaches". So, imagine the LED floor as a kind of an iPad, so where the coach can in real-time give you the play that they would love you to do and be able to coach you as well. So, in that sense we have been doing that for a couple of years now and taking the idea of how data metrics and real life situations can be utilised and fed into an actual play itself. Imagine this as less of a marketing campaign but more of a product. In many senses it is taking it to the next level in that companies like the NBA, CBA and even the PBA can utilise for future training.

12ahead: Where do you believe creatives can improve and how has disruptive thinking in the creative industry changed?

Eric Cruz: I think it is interesting that this year with the introduction of the digital craft jury at Cannes we are starting to see work play beyond marketing campaigns. So, for example we are starting to see data science being applied to more branded storytelling, and that's when it starts to become more interesting in that it’s going to open up a whole new field into exploring creating a different facet of what we would normally do in terms of our creative process. That will evolve and that will change. I think things like the Internet of Things (IoT) is definitely going to force us to re-evaluate how we create brainstorming. Less about marketing resourcing but more about figuring frontier moving forwards.

12ahead: In China, WeChat is dominant. But do you believe that non-Chinese social media platforms are gaining attraction in China?

Eric Cruz: In China, I have seen an evolution because in the past it used to be that Asia, and especially the Chinese, used to be sort of inspired by other ideas from around the world. Certainly products and services such as Facebook and WhatsApp have been emulated by Chinese companies. But what we have seen in the past few years is that they've not only become a fast follower, but they have been led up to surpassing the people that they were inspired by. So, things like WeChat are actually better than Facebook because they don't just compile and integrate all the different functionalities, but actually take it notch or two or three up from where it is at right now. So, functionalities such as press to hold and talk on WeChat which you don't see on Facebook are starting to take attraction in China and even things such as Apple Pay, which by the way is not doing so well in the US, WeChat Pay and AliPay are succeeding quite heavily in the China market. The interesting thing about China is that it is a society that grew up mobile first so they are used to it and they really skipped the PC generation. So, if you have a full nation that is digitally enabled through a mobile device, then there is just going to be a lot more innovation that's going to happen. So, when we think of campaigns, especially at AKQA in Shanghai, we have to think of mobile first in terms of our approach. The great thing about WeChat is that it is integrating a Web browser and a chat app and a social app into one centralised place. In many ways where you saw trends like what people are doing in terms of a microsite and in terms of social space in the last couple of years, we are able to put all that together into one place, and that is very exciting because we are able to do so much more compared to things like Facebook app, which didn't quite take off.

12ahead: User experience is big in China. How much of an impact is UX having in China and what challenges are faced in the UX space in China?

Eric Cruz: I came from a traditional agency background, and I shifted into a more a digital and ideas and innovation agency. I think things like user-experience and user-interface  become part of your pallet as a creative and storytelling becomes different because it becomes much more dimensionalised and much more engaging and it is less of a liner to the pattern of how to story tell for a brand. I think the exciting part of the digital space today is that it’s actually gone away from just being on a mobile or a PC and it’s become environmental. In places like what we were able to do with Nike Rise 1.0 and 2.0, that was scratching the surface. In terms of when IoT becomes really predominant, then we start to see more and more revolution. So, for example at this year's Cannes Lions we have seen quite a few pieces hat demonstrated that. The Samsung safety band on your head, which measures the impact you may see from a football player for example-  that could literally measure the data, in terms of the learn data that accumulates over time.

This year at Cannes we have seen a lot of virtual reality (VR), and the fact that you are not only seeing a story and landscape but are able to be part of the story and you are in the story. So, I think that production and the way we make movies and interactively showcase video will change in the future. You are not only a passive viewer but you will become part of the story itself and be able to experience it. One of the most important things I have seen in the past couple of years is that we are seeing trends to where agencies are moving into companies. What I mean is that Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) of different companies are starting to have a lot more influence and interaction within their own organisations. There is less of the need to go outside of the company for creative pool force. Companies have in-house content managers, writers, designers etc. It is a game changer and how companies can survive in this age.

12ahead: Interesting you mentioned about video and VR. Some people are saying that VR and not the same as YouTube 360. What are your thoughts about that and how can you relate that to the APAC region, which is very mobile?

Eric Cruz: Asia is many ways is very rich territory, in that a country like South Korea is leading the way in digital innovation, even surpassing a country like Japan, as it is the most digitally connected country in the world, on par with Sweden. China is starting to become like that as well, and it is much bigger territory, however it is still very much evolving fast because what they have achieved so far is compress at least 60 years of innovation into the last 5-10 years. But China is inevitably being inspired by its neighbours, especially Korea. I believe that Asia will eventually become a much bigger platform than it is now in terms of creativity and innovation.