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ad:tech 2019: How technology is enhancing one-to-one cultural experiences

Tue 3 Sep 2019 | Eleni Sarla

“Tech can be the manner in which people discover culture and explore their passions meaningfully” — ad:tech London speaker Eleni Sarla talks to Techerati about top-tier leadership and the rising role of technology in arts and entertainment

Earlier this year Eleni Sarla was promoted to CEO of Target Media Group, a Havas division dedicated to arts and entertainment communication, having joined Havas Group in 2017. Ahead of her presentation at ad:tech London in September, Techerati sat down with the self-described culture vulture to discover how she is finding the “ultimate leadership role”, why the born-creative decided to move from a media agency to an arts and entertainment specialist, and how technology is being used to heighten one-to-one cultural experiences.

Tell us about your career so far. Lawyer to marketing agency CEO in a different hemisphere, it’s an interesting journey…

We are all driven by an inner voice. Sometimes we listen to it, sometimes we don’t. I was never really an active listener when it came to my inner voice. I certain knew what I loved to do – and absorbing the arts and culture was something that I found very early in life: music, the theatre, exhibitions. So when moments in life come about that force reconsideration you get a chance to make some bolder choices.

I chose creativity when my legal career turned out to be dry and humourless. I chose Amsterdam when Australia started to feel small and disconnected from a bigger global view. Then I chose media because it stretched my thinking, and finally a combination of my business and personal life came together when I was given the chance to lead the Target Group.

It’s approaching a year into your new CEO role. How has the transition to the top job been, and what have you learnt so far?

It was certainly a transition. As a woman, you sit patiently (or not so patiently) waiting to be tapped up for the ultimate leadership role. You are too concerned about being on the shortlist to think about what you are actually going to do when you get there. So there was a huge dose of humility that came with taking on the task.

I ascertained quickly that it was a different one. The task is defining the culture of business. Its strategy.  This is a process of learning, trying things, succeeding in some, failing in others. But always being clear in where you are going so that those around you know their role in helping the business get there.  

Tell us about Target Media Group – what does the company do, and how does it fit into the larger Havas village?

The name of the company doesn’t really fit our capabilities. We are a specialist Art and Entertainment communications group which includes all facets of Marketing for the Arts and Entertainment industry. 

We are specialists in marketing, design, PR, content production, media, data and analytics and most importantly we understand the ins and outs of the entertainment business: film, TV, live arts, gaming, publishing and music. It only made sense that a business owned by Vivendi, the world’s largest arts and entertainment group, would also own a specialist arts and entertainment agency. 

We are also a microcosm of the village model — a model that taps into the needs of our clients and creates bespoke teams with their needs in mind. Whether creative or media, we put the right people together, irrespective of the false divides that our industry has created and without the expensive overheads. One lead, one team, one client vision.

Join Eleni At ad:tech 2019, 25 - 26 September 2019, Olympia

The Advertising Agency CEO Panel
25 Sep 2019, 11:35 – 12:20
Keynote Theatre

Why did you decide to move from creative agency to media agency to an arts and entertainment specialist?

I like to think a bit of serendipity was involved, but ultimately we make active choices don’t we? Creativity is in my blood and I will always love the creative facets of our business more than anything else. But opportunities arise and the chance to learn, build knowledge and transmit skill to new areas is something that I’ve never passed up.

The creative to media opportunity was a stretch that I needed in a period of employment under-stimulation — that’s the brutal truth, I was bored. I fortunately found myself working with a leader that saw the merit in utilising my creative talents in a media environment. Cue the opportunity to lead a business that combined creative and media offering, that serviced an industry that I spend my life immersed in at weekends and the fit seemed apt.  

The arts and entertainment sector typically generates personal, one-to-one experiences. Given this, what role does tech play within it? Is it merely a vehicle for consumption, or does it have a deeper role to play?

Everything about the arts and entertainment world is about one-to-one experiences. It’s an industry driven by desires and passions. You either dig it or you don’t and you make your choice to attend and invest in time with the experience or you don’t.

Tech, like any facet of our industry can (and arguably should) be used to heighten the experience. At its worst it is utilising the richness of data and the fact that people spend their lives on their phones to push sales down the throats of consumer who are easier to find, segment and follow around to ensure that they choose your experience over another.

But the opportunity is deeper. Tech can be the manner in which people discover culture and explore their passions meaningfully. Tech can be about personalising information based on interest, it can be about access to experiences I otherwise wouldn’t have, it can be about creative education without the expense, it can be about new forms of creativity via new media.

How will recent levels of technological advancement impact creativity within the sector?

Isn’t that the million-dollar question? The opportunities are endless and if only I had the crystal ball that told me what they were! Courage is what will make or break creativity within the arts and entertainment sector. The sector needs to take the benefits of tech and use it to their advantage – it needs to try things, learn from it and try again – it needs to be prepared to embrace the potential and fail and then find the space where tech meets art in the most positive ways for consumers.  

Do you view technology as a disruptor or contributor in this space? What has been its impact on the arts and entertainment sector specifically?

Oh most definitely a disruptor and a contributor. Of course, everyone merely hears the sensationalist views presented by the media – that AI and bots are going to replace humans when it comes to creativity but I like to focus on the opportunities for the arts to be more meaning and accessible than ever through technology.

This could be about new media – watching David Hockney embrace new tech/media within the development of his art is evidence that tech can be a vehicle for brilliance.

It could be about giving access to art to people in different ways – I recently saw a VR performance art piece by Marina Abramovich at the Serpentine Galleries – when I otherwise would not have had access to a performance by Marina Abramovich. 

“Everything about the arts and entertainment world is about one-to-one experiences. It’s an industry driven by desires and passions”

And of course there are the deeper and richer experiences that augmented, visual and mixed realities present and which are being taken up by museums, galleries and publishers all over the world to tell deeper and richer stories. Augmented reality by publishers to get kids interested in reading – isn’t that a win?

The arrival of 5G has been touted as a ‘gamechanger for humanity’. Is that hyperbole – or are we only just beginning to realise the fundamental impact it will have on society?

Oh it’s definitely a game-changer. I worked with some large telco brands prior to taking this role and the scale of this opportunity really is marvellous. We won’t realise the impact for about 24/36 months but it will be monumental and upon us very fast. We need to be acting now and capitalising on the benefits.  

How do we want to take part? What are the opportunities for the entertainment world? Being able to render complex post-production in a third of the time? What does that mean for the film world, for production times? What about attaching our entertainment properties to brands that are looking to develop their offerings outside their core competencies?  Entertainment in the back of cars – it’s not a concept, it’s a reality that Audi is exploring and arts/entertainment brands are there.  

What does a 5G gaming experience look like? Mixed, augmented and virtual realities become instantaneous experiences, and these already enormous entertainment properties will take advantage of them to make the youth experience even more potent and to provide powerful multiplayer experiences – I don’t think Candy Crush is going to look so rudimentary with 5G because the computing will shift to the cloud, leaving much more room for creativity.  

Communications for this industry needs to follow-suit. We need to build samples and snippets of the experiences that we are asking consumers to participate in, and which will make our arts/entertainment partner experiences stand out. We need to use the power of 5G to create creative exposures in what used to be two-dimensional meaningful environments. The traditional 6-sheet poster (so loved by the arts world) will speak differently when it comes to life with 5G – I love the impact that this creates.   

Which piece of emerging tech are you most excited about?

It has to be 5G. This is going to make the most engaged and consumer-driven industry even more potent and important. Data streaming has already revolutionised the music and film worlds (who will be the next Netflix and Spotify?).

Speed alone creates possibility – collaboration by musicians from across the globe with no delays. Or restorations that are taking place utilising experts from other sides of the world and robotic arms – this is a game-changer for the arts scene is the less developed societies. 

And then there is personalisation. I’ve always loathed the spray and pray nature of communication. With 5G we are looking at the ability to generate personalised videos with interactive video layers that take emotional cues from you based on your phone’s front-facing camera to adjust what you’re watching in real-time – is it creepy or it is useful? Only time and experimentation will tell.

Experts featured:

Eleni Sarla

CEO,
Target Media Group, HAVAS UK

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5g advertising AI
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