First off, fans of the Creative Spaces series will have to wait until March to read the latest feature on rock and roll photographer, Chris Hershman because I got pulled into a project and didn’t have time to transcribe it and write it up.
I have learned, however, that any work on a experiential marketing projects is damn near impossible to capture in a portfolio. It’s a shame, really, because the #UpForWhatever campaign has given me opportunities to stretch a lot of creative muscles that the average project just doesn’t touch. Having worked extensively on 2014’s Whatever, USA and now on a smaller scale for Superbowl 49’s House of Whatever, I want to try to explain what I was not only able to bring to the table, but invited and encouraged to bring, serve up and enjoy alongside the masses.
First off, the Whatever campaign has taught me that in most instances (excluding #UpForWhatever) experiential marketing rarely lives up to it’s name. Simple booths or sponsorship peppered with a drive-by celebrity or spokesperson appearance or forced sharing opportunity does not an experience make. An experience is in the creativity, the attention to details, the not knowing how to do something because there’s no precedent to base it on, and the willingness to let the consumers take control of the event. Oh, it’s also in the act of creating an experience.
A true experience has a natural quality of “You had to be there.” And that is what BudLight is empowering their teams to create. And that is what makes it so difficult to explain your role in the whole thing, whether you’re a consumer along for the ride or a creative helping piece that ride together.
Allow me to break down some of the work I did on Whatever, USA and House of Whatever.
Using a list of generic titles (mailman, head of transportation, crossing guard, etc), I built 24 unique and multi dimensional characters. Each 3-4 page write up included a creative description of the character’s appearance and personality as well as a brief history and explanation of both internal and external motivators. Those juicy details were then boiled down into simple lists: strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes.
The goal was to be able to hand these write ups to the actors and have them be able to read, digest and run with them immediately. I’m pleased as punch to report that that goal was widely achieved.
For client presentation, we molded each of these character studies into a faux facebook profile – an at-a-glance look into each of these characters as real, relatable people. Because that is what they ultimately were.
I cannot hope to explain the amount of ‘stuff’ that is happening at any given moment at these events, but I can tell you that all of that stuff has to come from somewhere. Specifically, it all comes from the brains of Mosaic’s creative team. Everything from a bar theme (The Buddy Bar being a favorite), to a small occurrence only a few might notice or get to enjoy (A human-sized game of beer pong), to a huge, unmissable event (A drag race hosted by drag queens), all comes from the bombastic brains of the creative team. It’s pretty nuts and wonderful to be a part of. There’s an undying support of creativity and ideas and just when you think something is fun but maybe not ‘good’ enough, someone swoops in and amps your idea up.
It’s one thing to have the ideas, it’s another to figure out how to execute them. The whole creative team pitched in on fleshing out each and every detail until our ‘what ifs’ became fully realized experiences and activations. For the events that meant making sure we had everything we needed planned for and sourced – from props and talent to a gameplan for build out and strike. For the characters, that meant costume designs, prop lists and a whole lot of time sourcing very specific items.
If you’re developing all of these characters and hiring all of these talented, charismatic improvisers to bring them to life, you should probably give them ample opportunity to engage with the consumers. The characters we developed were eventually paired down to the most compelling and necessary 13 and tasked with numerous roles throughout the event experiences: host, facilitator, participant, etc. Each involvement complimented their character and brought new life to the event. Brand Ambassadors can be some of the most helpful people at an experiential event, but our characters were more prepared and more interesting as hosts, etc.
Each character had a detailed itinerary mapping out what events they held a role in, but also what experiences their character might just swing by as a participant and how their character spends their time when they aren’t at one of these scheduled items. They all had ‘day jobs’ – the mailman delivered Whatever’s version of mail and so on.
These actors have to come from somewhere. I was charged with planning and running casting: securing an accessible and affordable audition location, drafting a casting notice and disseminating it through the appropriate networks, fielding questions, scheduling audition times, setting requirements, reviewing headshots and resumes, creating an audition planning, running auditions and casting the strongest talent for the roles.
Once cast, we briefed and prepared our talent to the best of our abilities. In some cases this called for a series of workshops featuring exercises that would give each performer an opportunity to feel out their character, try a few different approaches to their roles and responsibilities and, most of all, prepare for anything that might come up during the event. I not only organized and ran these workshops, I made adjustments and directed the actors as we went along.
Once the event was rolling, real time directing was required to keep everything on track, get the strongest possible performances from each individual and enhance the overall experience of the event.
I created and cast the characters, but was also responsible for making sure they were contracted, insured and always where they needed to be when they needed to be. Should one of them break their contract in any way, I was also responsible for sending them home and following up with legal if necessary.
Live Event Production (aka The Nature of the Beast)
In the moment, you are whatever you need to be. Go-for, light board operator, front of house, host, travel coordinator, contract liaison, consultant, drag queen handler, dresser…anything and everything. There is no “that’s not my job,” there’s only “how can I help?” You plan ahead and play your position to the best of your abilities, and if everything you’re responsible is running smoothly, you lend a hand where it is needed.
That’s the beauty of the Whatever events. Everyone does their part and more. Everyone wants the event to be as amazing as it can be. Everyone wants to give the consumers a real, unforgettable, inexplicable experience.
I have a BFA in directing and theater arts from an acclaimed theatrical program and a degree in creative writing. I have a background in casting from my time in Los Angeles. I am a formally trained actor and a Second City Conservatory graduate. As a copywriter, I specialize in concept and script writing. I co-own a full-service video production company. I perform all around Chicago as an improviser. I’ve been working in advertising for years as a creative – helping with strategy, concept, copy, direction and execution. When I say that Bud Light’s #UpForWhatever events allow me to stretch all sorts of muscles…I mean it.
It’s why I love the campaign, it’s why I love the agencies working to bring the campaign to life, it’s why I never say no when they call and ask if I am Up For Whatever.
Tagged with: all around creative • casting • chicago comedy • chicago copywriter • creative director • creatives • director • experiential marketing • live event production • producer • up for whatever • whatever usa
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