Retail in Asia


EXCLUSIVE : McCann New York X MarketingPulse


Internet has revolutionized people’s life, and as a consequence the way they choose what to consume, either as texts, products, experience.

Advertising agencies, which have seen the digital transformation disrupting all industries without any exception, have soon learnt how novelty is key in grabbing people’s attention; however, long-term planning needs much more than nice graphics and design, catchy tagline, good story behind it. To remain relevant, advertising campaigns need to be true.

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McCann New York is an American global advertising agency network, with offices in 120 countries and has been around since 1902. It has witnessed the shift from printed to online media and had to accomodate its business model to a new media ecosystem.

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Source : McCann New York

Joshua Grossberg, McCann New York Group Creative Director, is among the creative minds to convene at the MarketingPulse, a regional premium conference for marketers and brands to be held 21 March 2018 in Hong Kong. The conference aims to provide a platform to discuss for marketing and advertising experts to share best practices but also discuss  current issues within the industry.


Retail in Asia has met Joshua Grossberg, who explained to us how an over 100 year-old  advertising agency has been coping with digital transformation. His answer was quick,  McCann New York’s legacy was built on a simple statement: “truth well told”, and that goes beyond the channel of communication.

Joshua explained to us how communication can only be successful if built on something true about the brand and its relationship with consumers.

“If a brand is not speaking from a place of truth, then no matter how clever or glib we create a message, it will fail to resonate with the audience,” he said. “Authentic and powerful ideas instead will be fully embraced.”

Today, digital technologies simply provide advertising agencies with more data to know more about consumer behaviour but at the end of the day, no tool is enough if there is no true story.


Recently, there have been several significant changes in marketing. And they are definitely driving creative innovation. There are more platforms, technologies and avenues for advertising agencies to to reach the audience.

“While this complicates our job in some ways, it also makes it easier. We can reach more people in more places, but at the same time we can target our message better.
As a creative, that is pretty exciting. The palet available nowadays is so far beyond the tv spot and the printed ad or web experience. Even in social media, there is a new platform seemingly every week. Who knows what is going to be next? The possibilities are endless. Few months ago,  I could have never imagined that I would be able to create a VR bus,” Joshua continued.

Technology added one more task for advertising agencies.  They have to think about what to say and how to say it, but also where to say it. Context becomes more important as they have to compete for the attention of the audience in a totally new ecosystem that offer much more than a TV channel.

“We have to create messages that people choose to interact with, just like traditional entertainment, and sell at the same time,” Joshua said to explain how nowadays advertising is no longer promotional discourse only but it has to integrate an entertaining component that goes beyond the presentation of a value proposition for a product.


This new reality generated the proliferation of new trends. The newest technologies, such as AI or IoT enable a higher degree of personalization and make the process faster. This continuous research for the latest trend raises the bar on what it will take to do it again the next time.

Besides technology and the use of new tools to produce more engaging content, creativity is at the core of advertising. Creativity is not an option, it is the must; however, for creativity there is no formula. Joshua defines it by saying : “creativity is simply using every bit of your imagination and ingenuity to solve a problem.and it has to be different every time”. “When you stop thinking about what the solution is meant to look like, then you are free to start thinking about what it should be. And that is when interesting things start to happen”.

The secret to creativity for Joshua is  to look for assumptions about how things should be done and forget them.

The ground-breaking campaign was definitely “Field Trip to Mars” for Lockheed Martin that won numerous industry awards. Retail in Asia asked Joshua if VR immersive experience is the new marketing frontier.

Source : McCann New York

Joshua remembers how they came up with the ground-breaking VR idea for this large campaign to help Lockheed Martin demonstrate the role it plays in helping Humanity go to space. But it came as part of an attempt to solve a marketing problem, to help people understand just how real the potential of going to Mars actually is.

As far as the bus goes, what made it so powerful was that typically VR is a very constrained and isolated experience, thanks to the headset. This is not, it is a natural, group experience.

“Imagine tour buses that show you what Hong Kong looked like 200 years ago, or took you to places that are too expensive or dangerous to visit. Imagine taking investors to see a prospective real estate development before it was built, or field trips that help students understand what the bottom of the sea looks like. Even in the world of marketing, imagine driving by an ice cold Coke while sitting on a hot bus during the summer,” Joshua envisions VR. “A first stab at mixed reality that is not constrained by having to look through a device. And as technology expands, so will the possibilities”.

It was a challenging project as it was using a complete new technology. “When you make a TV spot or a digital experience, you are seldom inventing anything new in terms of technology. In this case, we had to invent technologies for nearly every aspect of the bus, from the user experience to the window displays, to the tracking mechanisms that helped the screens keep up with the motion of the bus. We had to figure out how to power it and cool it, and insure it. And that is all before the lawyers got involved.
The whole time, I kept saying that it would have been a lot easier if we were the second people to do this. Then again, it probably would have also been a lot less fun,” Joshua remembers the process and the issues in willing to be marketing innovators.

“Fearless Girl” was McCann’s next, similar project- an unexpected tactic that helps people understand the impact of what our clients are doing, and without technology. As for “Fearless Girl”, it did an amazing job of tapping into a sentiment that was widely held. The team did a fantastic job of creating something that expressed a sense of pride and confidence and fearlessness (for lack of a better word) that many people had not been able to express. It became an icon of a moment that was really overdue, above and beyond the product it was advertising.

Source : Shutterstock

“The team created something that, because of its emotional resonance, people wanted to interact with. And they did, in whatever medium they happened to feel most comfortable. And for a lot of people, that was digital,” Joshua explained.

Advertising campaigns like the “Fearless Girl” went viral and dominated online and offline conversations for quite a while, and it eventually started from an offline outlet.  However, the divide between online and offline is a presupposition to be forgot.  The line between the two has been blurred, if not obliterated. Everything is digital the second it becomes noteworthy. At the end of the day social media are all about being able to share your life with a wider circle of friends?

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Joshua left us with a quote by Gossage :  “people pay attention to things that interest them. And sometimes, if you do everything just right, it is an ad”.

The lesson that Joshua will unpack at the MarketingPulse will be about “truth”. People have too many  things to do with their time and attention and if they are not interested in consuming a specific content, they will not. How to make it interesting? How to create the next “Field Trips To Mars”, or do we have a new one yet?

We will find out at the MarketingPulse!