Another winner at the 2019 Cannes International Festival of Creativity was US publicity agency McCann New York for its Microsoft campaign ‘Changing the Game‘.

Taking home a Gold Lion in the Brand Experience and Activation category, the campaign focused in the creation of a new Xbox Controller designed for users with physical disabilities. Its development counted with consultation from children and users with disabilities who could feedback on its experience and affect change in what the final product would be. Overall the campaign garnered over 1.1 billion impressions after an ad being featured in a Super Bowl spot called We All Win and chronicled the children’s experience creating and utilising the Xbox Adaptive Controller.

Jaime Mandelbaum, Chief Creative Officer for VMLY&R Europe and jury president for the Brand Experience and Activation Lions summarised Microsoft’s reason for winning best:

“You’re not just creating confidence [for] them and really are resetting their whole relationship as they grew up in formative years. It goes completely beyond changing only the relationship that the brand has with its consumers.”

The ad resonated with audiences, but a key feature was the creation of the controller as a tangible product. Mandelbaum commented on this saying:

“We’re past the point of seeing themes like inclusion and gender equality being done only for awareness sake, [and] now we need to see brands taking action and really being a part of the solution, not just talking about something that we heavily discussed.”

Microsoft Adaptive Controller (Credit: Microsoft)

There are two key things to take from the success of this campaign, at least from my perspective: #1 Microsoft’s work around the brand experience, and #2 the way the presentation of this product and its story captured audiences.

#1 The term ‘Brand experience‘ has several interpretations. It focuses on finding solutions, on the experience of consumers, it seeks to have a conversation with the fan and not just talk at the fan. This is exactly what we see happening throughout the ad campaign, conversations with people with physical disabilities, a direct consultation from the source about how these products can be better developed. It is a confession from the brand saying “we know we have a shortcoming here, and we need your help to fix it,” which is extremely powerful as a display of corporate vulnerability and sincerity.

#2 The content Microsoft created for this campaign was from a storytelling perspective, not necessarily looking to sell us anything, but showcasing this stride towards inclusivity. The content produced was emotive, and it appealed audiences to empathise with this marginalised group and perhaps think harder about inclusive designs of not just a video game console controller but other everyday designs.

Brands are most effective providing their target audience with a valuable and engaging experience dictated on their terms. A mantra for brand loyalty that says “as long as you (the brand) keep working for me, I will keep on supporting you;” this, of course, for as long as it’s done in the spirit of affordability and quality. After all, if someone better comes along brand loyalty is subject to change.

PS: Next up I’ll be discussing Johnson & Johnson which also won a Grand Prix Cannes Lion for Entertainment with their campaign on HIV awareness with their documentary 5B.