How to make great experiential ads

The advertising industry has been enamoured with the marketing potential of immersive events, VR and AR for some time now. But how do you make a really effective experiential ad? We spoke to a number of experts to find out

The advertising industry loves a buzzword, and the words that have been top of everyone’s list for the last few years now have all been related to new technologies. For a while everyone was obsessed with projection mapping, but then that was quickly usurped by the bigger experiential possibilities of VR, AR and full-on immersive brand events.

At first, marketers seemed to believe it was enough to simply include the word VR in a press release to get attention, regardless of the actual content, but in recent years we’ve seen significant advancements in the creativity and entertainment value of these experiences. But they are not without their unique challenges. Below we talk to creatives and directors from LA, Amsterdam and the UK about how to make an experiential ad that will blow away those that see it live but will also make them share it with the world.


One of the initial challenges in all experiential advertising is overcoming the barriers to entry. You have to persuade people to come to your event, or encourage them to download an app to view it on their phone, or get them to find a set of VR goggles, and then be bothered to put them on.

“Never assume that if you build it they will come,” says Henry Scotland, Managing Partner at Iris in London, which has created compelling experiences for the likes of Adidas and Samsung. “When you’re asking for someone’s precious time physically or digitally, you have to be brutal with the questions you ask yourself at creative reviews; things like: ‘will anyone honestly give a s**t?’, ‘will people talk about this/share this?’, ‘is it brilliantly useful, funny, beautiful or clever?’ … if the answer is no to any of these, you’re highly likely to be wasting your money.”

Faux chicken shop created in East London to promote new adidas Glitch shoe by Iris

Geoffrey Lillemon, co-founder of the Department of New Realities at Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam, says that getting audiences to engage with apps nowadays is a particular problem. Essentially, because we’ve become tired of filling up our phones with brand apps that take time to download and are then disappointing.

“Suddenly you can’t make experiences that are necessarily app driven unless you give a real reason to,” says Lillemon. “Or installations that put people in a vulnerable position that they’re not comfortable with, like you can have with VR headsets…. Things need to be inviting, you need to articulate that the experience is really grand and is worth the inconvenience of doing something outside of your routine.”