For the second year in a row, Giant Spoon has taken home Adweek’s Experiential Agency of the Year award, also scooping up Executive of the Year and Rising Star of the Year in this year’s Adweek Experiential Awards.
Following its massive Game of Thrones experience at SXSW in March 2019, the creative agency and HBO’s mainstay production partner elevated its experiential game with more than two dozen physical events, highlighting a talent for creating narrative-led, Instagram-worthy projects.
After last year’s SXSW, Giant Spoon’s notable activations included an outdoor pop-up neighborhood for New Yorkers to watch HBO’s streaming movies, a San Diego Comic-Con activation that took attendees into the worlds of NBC sitcoms and an immersive CES experience for Westworld Season 3 themed around data privacy.
The agency was set to return to SXSW this year with an interactive Johnnie Walker cocktail activation—until the Covid-19 pandemic halted experiential marketing as we know it. Like many agencies, Giant Spoon had to lay off staff in its experiential division, which makes up 15% of its business, and halt production on physical projects in the works. But the agency hasn’t lost hope.
Co-founder Marc Simons says his team is focused on creating virtual activations for clients, and considering how to handle experiential post-pandemic.
“While this is undoubtedly a challenging time for our industry, it’s a moment to reimagine experiences to adapt to this changing world. We’re using this time to sharpen our tools so that we can craft the future of experiences—whether IRL or virtual—for the long haul,” he says. “When we do come back, it will be an opportunity for all of us to not rely on what’s been previously practiced, but to dream up what’s possible for the future.”
Experiential Executive of the Year
Since joining Giant Spoon in 2016, Patrick Jong has helped transform the agency into a leader in the experiential marketing space. The agency’s executive director of experiential has overseen Giant Spoon’s buzziest brand stunts, including fully realized worlds for Game of Thrones and Westworld at SXSW in 2018. In 2019, he led the ideation and execution of two dozen projects, including Under Armour’s Rush Performance lab in New York, where guests could participate in fitness trials from brand athletes to illustrate elements of the Rush apparel line’s fabric technology.
From home, Jong continues to work with his team to create narrative-led experiences for the digital space, and brainstorms how experiential can fit into a post-coronavirus world.
“I’m motivating my team to stay hopeful that our expertise is still highly valuable during this time,” he says. “And we’re continuing to stay patient as we wait for the day when those talents can be applied to building the physical events we all love.”
Jong also sets aside time for himself daily and encourages his team, and all agency teams, to do the same.
“If we empower them to take time for themselves, should they need it, just as much as we empower them to fulfill their roles,” he says, “the work will be all that much stronger.”
Experiential Rising Star of the Year
As Giant Spoon’s associate account director of experiential, Victoria Sobel believes the best experiential work is produced when all agency teams are involved. Sobel, 27, says her favorite part of the job is working with a variety of people with different expertises, from internal strategists and creatives to external partners and clients.
“A collaborative environment was always a driving factor when thinking about what type of career I hoped to pursue,” she says. “For me, experiential is at the nexus of problem-solving, creativity and people.”
Before the pandemic, Sobel helped organize activations including the Westworld Season 3 promotion at CES. The show’s fictional data company, Incite, had a tech booth on the show floor and held a much-talked-about dinner themed around data privacy. She also worked with her production team to manage 10 venues participating in Under Armour’s Human Performance Summit—a four-day brand takeover of its HQ city that included keynotes and workouts with pro athletes.
As she works from home, Sobel says she’s focused on effectively managing her teams’ time, and finding the value in videoconferencing as a new norm.
“We’re now able to have more face time with clients than we typically would on a daily or weekly basis,” she says. “Status meetings that were once over a Polycom are now face to face via Google Hangouts. I don’t think we can discredit the benefit that has for client-agency relationships.”