A Day in the Life: Cameron Farrelly, Account Director, Music Marketing Partnerships, The O2
In Part 1 of a two-part interview, TMV’s Laura Thorne had a sit-down in London with Cameron Farrelly of Pd3, to discuss a typical day, his approach to music and brand partnerships, the ultimate gig experience, and why Katy Perry is his BFF. Watch the video which is contained within the body of the interview below
Who: Cameron Farrelly, Account Director, Music Marketing Partnerships/The O2
(The O2, operated by AEG, is London’s largest indoor music venue and one of the biggest on the continent, with 20K seats)
Company: Pd3, “a creative agency with experience at its heart” (clients include Nike, The O2/Academy Group, McDonalds & more)
LGT: How do you evaluate a client and their needs, what is the process that you go through? Let’s say you met someone in a bar…an artist or a label, in the music space. How would you evaluate what you could do for them?
CF: So I think there’s different levels of what a brand wants to achieve in the music space, whether that be simply an association with the music – to be seen to be “down with the kids” – or if there is a product or service that they think appeals to those music fans. I think that is the first, and most important step.
I think that every idea we come up with has to be part of the music experience, nothing can ever be a badging exercise, there’s no point in paying 5 million pounds to sponsor a festival and just put some flags up. You have to be part of it, and you have to enhance the festivalgoer’s experience. The days of passive sponsorship are gone – for example, if you were a banking company coming into the music space then you have to make sure that in the bar, you have an express lane that has quicker service using your card, or that your bankcard opens the VIP luxury toilets, something that enhances the experience using the brand’s service or product, that gets people talking about it, that’s natural.
Just putting up a stand or handing out brochures is a pointless exercise. So always make sure that the idea meets the brief of what the client is trying to achieve, and if it is brand awareness, make sure that there is something that can live on in the post-gig experience, or highlight the pre-gig experience. However a brand should never get in the way of the music, and if a brand does start to get in the way of the music – for example if the band was playing on a hologram of a SIM card or giant can of Pepsi – the authenticity of the music sponsorship collapses. It’s imperative that we keep it authentic and pure, cause that’s what the music is to its dedicated fans.
LGT: Have you ever had a client propose something that you are thinking, oh my goodness that is really just not appropriate? Have you ever had to really steer a client away from something?
CF: I think that the way we work really well with our clients, particularly internally at Pd3, is that we have a really strong filter system. We have to be quite transparent about what we think works and what doesn’t. So particularly in brainstorms, ideas come up that just have to be shot down, and if we didn’t have that transparency and curation of what we think is acceptable, then we wouldn’t be as good an agency as we are. I think everyone who works here accepts that, and the clients we have accept that as well. So an idea is never totally killed, but I think it can be moved and shaped into something that works.
LGT: I know these things can become political sometimes.
CF: Absolutely, I think you have to take everything on board, but just have to look at things differently. There are certain things that we want to put our name to, and it has to be fresh thinking.
LGT: I was looking at information I received about Pd3 and it stated: “Pd3′s goal is to give fans the ultimate experience, and can give beneficial insight into how they create these fan experiences, bringing them closer to the brands.” What is the “ultimate experience” anyway?
CF: An ultimate live music experience that involved a brand: most importantly, I want to know before I go – I want to make sure that if a brand is doing all these wonderful things before a concert, or a festival, that as the consumer I know what to expect. Should I get there early? There’s no point in a brand investing in lots of activity when people are arriving five minutes before doors and it doesn’t get the eyeballs or the footprints through it. “Know before you go” is definitely something we adopt when we activate for our live music clients. If we’re not telling people about that early stages of activity, then it’s not going to have the results we need. When I get to the gig, I’m there to see the artist, I’m not going there because of the venue — I’m not going there because of the beautiful grass in Hyde Park to watch the band play.
If a brand can collaborate with an artist to do something that’s totally relevant for me — as opposed to being about the genre or the environment — I think that’s where we can be successful. So if they were to give some kind of giveaway that would be a commemorative keepsake, which had a nice balance between what the brand has to say and the artist I’m there to see.
I would like to – as part of the ultimate gig experience – to have a space to chill with my mates before the concert starts, to kick back, have a drink, have some space without promotional staff getting in my face asking me to jump through hoops in order to participate in something. I ultimately would like then to be upgraded to a very nice spot to watch the gig once it starts, whether that be a cool space that’s right for me and my pals, or a random act of kindness that I go from level four to the front row. I think that would be quite ultimate, that feeling that you have when your friends can be part of the experience. It’s important for a brand to be inclusive, rather than exclude people: I think those days of excluding people from a VIP experience who aren’t on a certain network or who don’t have a relationship with the brand are gone. It has to be about togetherness, so if my friends and I can do that that’s great. Then I want an after-party, and I want to re-live the experience the next day — I want to be able to see photographs of that gig up on the venue’s FB page or the Festival’s FB page, video content from the gig, a live track, get an mp3 sent to my phone…get a phone call from Katy Perry ringing to thank me for coming to the gig…something that lets the music experience live on.
LGT: I can believe she does call you.
CF: Do you know what, she did actually do that on her UK tour? She had a competition to win a meet-and-greet. I’m a big Katy Perry fan, and I texted a number of times, and I won the meet-and-greet. Anyone who texted got a phone call that next day, it was a recording from her, saying, “hey, it’s Katy, thanks for coming to the show” and it just made my day, it was just the most fantastic thing. I haven’t told anybody that, so we shouldn’t put that in.
Creating something shareable, that lets me share it through my social networks, to put on my FB, to tell my pals that I was there last night is great. Probably a brand’s role is to give me the tools, rather than my rubbish mobile phone photo, or my ten-second video, to give me something great that I can put on my avatar as a badge that says I can do that. O2 are fantastic at delivering on the post-gig experience, and using people’s content to create something interesting. For example we do a thing at the O2 Academy’s and The O2 called FanCam: FanCam encourages people to film one song on their mobile phone. People are already naturally doing that, they are filming the gig and the next day they are uploading their 30-second clip – it’s horrendous, it’s got very bad audio, but it gets 2000 views as everyone wants to see it. So we knew that insight, that there was a demand to see that content. So now we work with the artists to encourage people to film one song, and we get the live audio from the mixing desk and cut all fan-submitted live footage to that, so we’ve created a beautiful, watchable piece of content from last night’s gig – with fantastic audio that’s shareable. Therefore O2 played a role in delivering a really great experience that is targeted for their audience, without just sticking a logo on something and expecting to see results.
LGT: So how quickly can you turn those around btw?
CF: Everything has to be in the moment, everything has to be fast moving. Working in music, it is not nine-to-five, it can be eighteen hours a day, it can happen at any time, particularly when social media is integrated into it. People have things to say – you can’t leave someone who’s commented at 9pm asking about the door times at a gig hanging until tomorrow. It has to be reactive, it has to be immediate, and likewise with what we feed our social networks. So with FanCam, videos where we encourage people to send us their content, we do that within 48 hours of the gig. There’s no point creating this awesome content unless it’s going to be seen by the relevant people. So it’s kind of a natural ecosystem of sharing and enhancing the live music experience. That’s why our clients really like working with us at Pd3 – because we are agile, we’re fast, we are all in touch with the music experience. Everyone here is passionate about music, going to gigs, so we know what the bands expect, and can deliver.
LGT: How do you think that those kinds of experiences bring brands closer to fans? Show me how this actually works. What does closer mean exactly? Do you have any tangible evidence of this in terms of metrics to bring back to your clients?
CF: We do quarterly VSI research at The O2 – Visitor Satisfaction Index – and that’s done by taking quite large segments of event goers at The O2 and seeing what their issues and niggles are, and we address them. We get together as a team – with AEG, with O2 – every quarter to address what the big issues are, and find a tactical solution for them. So, again, it isn’t about putting the name above the door, it’s about working as a partner, to make sure that people who come to their music venues have an amazing experience and do feel closer to the sponsor. One issue for example is that getting home from The O2, when there are 20,000 people leaving an event, is a nightmare. Taxi drivers we found weren’t educated as to what times gigs were finishing, so at 6pm we were back-to-back with taxis; at 10:30 pm when we needed taxis, there was nobody there. So we started a scheme called “Keep Cabbies Coming” where we gave cabbies a little blue card with a number of stamps – they needed to get 50 stamps within a month to get a free set of tickets for them and their family to come and see an event at The O2. Part of that was educating them that they needed to be back at The O2 at 11 o’clock to make sure to take our customers home. That was all borne out of the result of visitor satisfaction research, and when customers know that that’s delivered by the brand O2, I think it’s a natural feeling of feeling closer because we have enhanced their live music experience. It’s not just about what happens on stage – we can’t make Britney Spears perform better – but we can make sure that the things that surround the experience are better, and if it feels like it’s in touch with what you’re doing, that’s it.
Research and constantly checking yourself is really important. Everything we do is measurable, especially with social media, everything in live music and social media is transparent. If someone doesn’t like something, they’ve got a platform to say that that has to be addressed. If we make content that isn’t up to scratch, if we work with artists in a way that isn’t authentic, or write copy in an obvious tone of voice it’s all on show. So, we can’t hide, it’s real deal results. Those results can differ between the amount of people who tuned in to watch the live stream of an event on New Year’s Eve, right through to how many people liked a certain question we asked the FB community on Friday afternoon about their favourite band, through to the number of tickets sold during pre-sale to Tinie Tempah – there’s so many different levels.
There’s the research and results that you can count as numbers, there’s the research and results you can see, then there’s the research and results that you can hear, be it the audience clapping, or the audio from the FanCam. Everything is measurable, and with every idea put forward, there has to be some kind of understanding of how are we going to prove that it has worked at the end of it. That’s not just about proving it to the client, it’s about proving it to the fans, because the music fans are just as much our client in a way. We have a social responsibility to make sure they are having an awesome time, because those people we’re working with are my friends, they are the agency’s friends, they are everybody, they are human beings. We can’t just group them together.
LGT: Just to be clear, you are working with acts that are playing at Academy/AEG venues but they also have their own teams who are promoting them. So you are augmenting their team’s activities, yes? Are you also looking at the artist’s FB, engagement, how many likes they are getting or just looking at your own channels?
CF: I think that when there’s a successful collaboration, it is integrated, so it’s a fine line as to whose social networks they are. When Tinie Tempah played The O2, we took Tinie Tempah’s class photo, got a camera onstage, Tinie Tempah came up on the big screens, and said, everyone we’re about to take a family photo of us all together so smile! We then took a 10 billion pixel photograph of the 20K people in the arena, that was then shared the next day on Tinie Tempah’s website, and then shared via The O2′s FB page. People could ultra zoom in – right up to level four – to see themselves, tag themselves through FB, and share that photo with their friends. Therefore we’ve opened up this amazing digital experience to more than just the 20K fans that were sitting there, because if you’ve tagged yourself, everyone in your stream gets to see that and share that and look at that. It’s a way of integrating both, it’s enhanced Tinie Tempah’s experience, it’s enhanced Tinie Tempah’s fan base and how they interact, and O2 has facilitated that relationship. So working with the artist is imperative.
Another thing that we did with Tinie Tempah when he played the 02 is had floor tiles with QR codes – O2′s brief was to really start using mobile as part of the pre-gig experience. So we put down floor tiles with Tinie Tempah’s logo and fans were encouraged to come up and scan them with their QR code reader. That took you through to Tinie Tempah’s merchandise store, and as a result you were given a 10% discount. So that’s working for Tinie Tempah in that he’s selling his t-shirts, and it’s working for O2 in that we are working closely with an artist and giving our customers something nice to talk about and engage with. Perks for all.
LGT: You can’t really separate the two because there’s so much overlap.
CF: I think the best campaigns are those that are collaborative. If we are working authentically with an artist, then I think that’s success, because it’s happening under the roof of the brand space, it’s happening under The O2. We encourage our artists to do interesting things with the brand, but doing that in the space – O2 – are then able to talk about the class photo they worked on, we are able to share that in the thanks-for-coming email that goes out to the 20K people that came to the show.
LGT: Content probably gets repurposed between the different partners quite a bit…
CF: Absolutely, yeah. We do work closely with as many artists as possible that come through the venues, and that isn’t just the Tinie Tempah’s and the Lady Gaga’s – it’s the up-and-coming bands, the unsigned bands and the support bands – you find that the bands that are now playing the O2 Academy venue’s will one day play The O2. So it is an ecosystem that we need to be respectful of on behalf of our client we can’t just get them when they get to Gaga stage.
LGT: …and it’s also really fun… I don’t know what your preferences are, but I bet that you have a lot of bands that you really like, and it’s just really fun to see them go from baby bands…
CF: OMG, this job has not only allowed me to fulfil my dreams, but to tick things off my list that I never thought I’d be able to do without some calculated stalking.