WORLDZ 2019 – The Best Massage For The Brain?

As one of the ultimate massages for the brain, WORLDZ again exceeded expectations. With a meticulously curated mix of entrepreneurs, corporate executives and seekers of social justice, attendees were presented with a bracing array of thought-provoking presentations.

One of the three most intriguing announcements over the course of the two day event came from Vans Global Brand President, Doug Palladini.

I had a chance to chat thereafter with Palladini, who described the Vans Checkerboard Day as an annual event (held this year on November 21) that will “inspire creative expression globally and provide fans the opportunity to participate in creative activations, experience why creativity matters, and give back to organizations that support creative self-expression.” Putting its corporate money behind those words, Vans will donate $1 million of sales made globally to this year’s charity partner,

This is the type of high touch, strong impact corporate move that can make a difference. The creativity generated today by a kid buried in a screen is rather narrow. The street credibility of the Vans brand coupled with the thoughtful and significant dollars being invested should reap rewards by any measure.

The second brilliant chat I enjoyed was with with Alex Amancio, CEO and Co-Founder of Reflector Entertainment and Former Creative Director for Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed.

We dove deep about the future of transmedia content and production.

Amancio, along with Cirque Du Soleil creator Guy Laliberté, co-founded Reflector as a disruptive and boundary-pushing transmedia studio. More specifically, Amancio and I discussed the means by which technology has broken down the barriers between creators and fans. By finely tuning into the fans’ voices, Reflector is able to more nimbly deliver compelling content, which in turn allows the fan to provide more input in a virtuous cycle.

Amancio was the visionary behind Madonna’s recent live AR performance at this year’s Billboard Music Awards. Although based in vibrant Montreal, Amancio spends sufficient time in LA to stay connected to the long-standing elements of the entertainment business.

Tim Kring, Screenwriter & Co-Creator, Heroes talks creativity with Alexandre Amancio, ex-Creative Director, Ubisoft/Assassin’s Creed & CEO, Reflector Entertainment.

I asked Amancio about future projects. UNKNOWN 9, which was teased out at New York Comic-Con last year, will be Reflector’s first true cross-platform approach. Content on multiple platforms is being built outwards from fully fleshed “Storyworlds” (a term coined by Amancio), allowing the company to tell richer, deeper stories that connect with fans everywhere.

The platforms of distribution include films, mobile and console games, graphic novels, comics, TV and digital. We discussed the challenges and benefits of timing the release across platforms and commiserated on the difficulty of coordinating that strategy within a traditional licensing model.

My third eye-opening conversation also dealt with the seeming ‘head in the sand’ mindset of large brands and especially studios.

Josh Neckes, co-founder & president of Simon Data, discussed his company’s customer data platform (CDP) that is helping major brands scale and improve the customer experience (CX). Neckes eloquently described how his company is at the leading edge of a new phase, one in which it is incumbent on companies to be more personal and specific with its customers. Simon’s clients include Peloton, Equinox, Open Table, Kayak, WeWork. “These are are the companies open to this model,” stated Neckes, “as are about 70 others.” These companies are not encumbered with the old ways of doing business, as is too often the case in Hollywood where each company wants to be ‘first to be second.’

Neckes and I easily dove deeper, and he described our societal changing moment of having phones, 24/7 connectivity, social media…all of which allows studios, hospitality and travel companies to address with specificity the interests of the companies’ customers.

“There is a presumption today that the brand will know something about you, but most brands are not set up to facilitate anything. The question is how to re-orchestrate Air BnB or Lionsgate to go from one-to-many to one-to-one?” Disruption is endemic.

I asked Neckes to tell me how he is accomplishing this goal.

“It all starts with data. All of us are constantly generating signals about intent, folks don’t realize how big their data set is. Most folks are unaware of how many apps are open and collecting that data. At Simon we not only store but make sense of that data. These tendencies allow us to target experiences for you.”

He sketched out an eloquently simple equation for me:

Data + Orchestration = Success

“We use data science to make the experiences smarter. Of course we have many secret sauce algorithms.” Fortunately, Neckes is well aware of the dark side of all this data availability. He and his team remain on the leading edge of issues raised by data protection legislation abroad (GDPR) and domestically (CCPA).

“We and all in the industry have a moral obligation to deliver what is transparent and honest. The more the industry can talk about it, the better.”

We plan to talk more about it.

A two minute recap of the entire conference is available here

Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.