Global viewpoint from New York
A view from Tham Khai Meng

Global viewpoint from New York

I’m writing this on Super Bowl weekend. Here in the US, the Super Bowl is big. Very big. If an alien in a flying saucer landed on the White House lawn during the game and asked to see the president, he would probably have to wait.

The word "football" means something different in the UK. Over here in the US, the players wear full body armour. I marvel at the spectacle. Modern gladiators competing in an arena where, instead of all eyes being on the emperor, they are on the brands. Every year, the big question is: which brand will be crowned Russell Crowe?

As the Mecca of consumer culture, New York has some of the world's best experiential marketing

With 111 million people watching and 30-second spots going for $4 million, the question is anything but academic. Some serious midnight oil gets burned on this.

This was the first Super Bowl in the New York area. And New York City rose to the occasion. As the Mecca of consumer culture, it has some of the best experiential marketing in the world, with the iconic Apple Store, the Hershey’s store and M&M’s World. This year, Broadway became Super Bowl Boulevard, with seven blocks of brand experiences from names such as Pepsi, Xbox and even SAP. Bud Light went the furthest with its immersive experience.

These days, everyone is looking for a new angle. Red Bull went from being an energy-drink company telling stories to sell its product to a media company with an energy drink. Who knows where that will lead? Maybe here: Felix Baumgartner filmed his parachute jump from space with a GoPro camera – and that company also wants to get into the media game.

We’re hearing a lot of talk about the "internet of things". That’s when the milk carton in your fridge Tweets you to say it’s getting low. Imagine, they say, being able to advertise open hotel rooms directly to stranded passengers. That’s a vision of the future right there. But is it a future you like the look of?

I’m bullish on it. Yes, we face pressures and threats. Here in the US, like everywhere, clients are expecting more value for less money. Lower-cost digital work eats away at budgets. Social media leads some to think that we can do work that doesn’t cost a cent, and there’s the belief that smaller screens mean lower costs and smaller budgets. That’s wrong. We need bigger emotion, broader capabilities and deeper engagement in order to break through the unprecedented clutter.

In addition, as the pressure on creative grows, the war for talent gets fiercer. Once, we had to compete with our fellow agencies for the best creative minds. But, now, we’re also striving with the likes of Google, Facebook, Twitter, cool start-ups and even our own clients. Finding great talents and allowing them to tell great stories on multiple screens at once is going to be a battle. But we’re up for it. So, put on your helmets!

Tham Khai Meng is the worldwide chief creative officer and chairman at Ogilvy & Mather