When brands lighten up

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From our Circular Quay based studio a few weeks back, we bid adieu to the bright, vivacious and downright sexy winter visitor we’ve come to know as Vivid. Sydney’s annual festival of light – now in its fifth year – is having a substantially positive effect on the mood of locals and tourists alike as the nights get a bit cooler. But alongside the cultural benefits, it’s interesting to observe how the 2-week spectacle is opening up new opportunities for brands to create more meaningful and creative experiences for their audiences.

Hundreds of bystanders snap away on their phones as projectors beam 10-metre high galloping white horses onto the walls of the Sugar Store building to the sounds of Daft Punk. In the same sequence a pair of Audi A3 Sportsbacks start driving up and down the wall against a perspective-morphing background like a scene from Inception. It’s big, the music is powerful and to be honest – despite the shard of disappointment felt at the inclusion of physical A3 cars around the base of the building – it is thrilling indeed.

While some may balk at the product placement in the artistic content it’s important to note that the quality of Audi’s light installation was on par if not better than some of the main attractions. The Opera House this year felt aimed at the masses, blurring the line between mainstream appeal and the artistic integrity that originally defined Vivid Live. The MCA however, took projection mapping to a completely new level. Designed by Gemma Smith alongside Spinifex (the agency behind Vivid) the museum’s façade became more than just graphics mapped to music – it was seriously mesmerising.

Audi are not the only brand to have embraced Vivid as a creative ‘vehicle’ this year. Public excitement was at a high surrounding the BBC commissioned Dr Who projection, which coincided with the iconic show’s 50th anniversary. Attracting some of the festival’s biggest crowds, what could be considered to be somewhat cheeky, subliminal advertising seemed a sure win for the show as well as its fans.

Attracting more than 500,000 people annually, Vivid is pulling residents back to the often tired tourist spot that is Circular Quay and revealing itself to be one of Sydney’s leading arts events. As a local it’s great to see Sydney start to come alive during winter for a change, leading people out at night rather than hibernating in front of the telly in the months outside our famous summers. It's also fantastic to see brands start to take some risks in doing something different. Even better would be if they were to understand that by playing an active role in growing culture they benefit in many ways without the need to overtly claim it too much. Putting aside the usual expectation for immediate ROI or praise, a brand's involvement and contribution will no doubt build a greater respect and appreciation of who they are and the role they play in people's lives.

Words: Erin Hoffman Photography: Jefton Sungkar & Louis Birks

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