Saul Taylor / April 9, 2019
For those of us still trundling along in the slow lane, scratching our heads at the power of social media and its influencers, Jack Bedwani is a source of inspiration. One of the events industry’s shining young stars and co-founder of The Projects, Bedwani has managed to harness pop culture and its social channels without losing his Australian charm and entrepreneurial pragmatism.
What is the essence of what you do?
There has always been a passion for actively watching what’s happening in the world of popular culture in the DNA of our business. We were doing that before we realised we were doing it. When we started to have some success, we went back and looked at the strategy behind what was getting us to where we were going with our ideas. We began to understand that at the front of our creative and strategic process was this understanding of what was happening in popular culture, because if you strip it back, pop culture is really just a mirror of human behaviour. So, we’re looking for those human behavioural insights that are creating communities and emotion and bringing people together. When we landed on that, it was our secret sauce moment. We realised culture is a scary world to many, but really it’s just about connecting people. We’re using popular culture as a way to understand human behaviour and create emotive experiences.
How does that translate into your work?
Funnily enough, one of the very first projects we did in Australia connected an insight that there might be beautiful beaches, but there is no beach club culture. You can’t get a daybed on Bondi Beach — that’s not the vibe — and it’s beautiful that it is still completely natural and non-commercial. We found one of the few hotels on the main drag and converted their rooftop pool into a day club for 10 Sundays through summer. Something like that had never been done in Australia and really put us on the map. At the advent of Facebook, we were using groups as a way of circulating the content that was coming from this particular rooftop every Sunday. We would do that every Monday and lean into social sharing. Our real success came from the insight that this is a cultural phenomenon all over the world but it’s not happening there, so why couldn’t we replicate it and bring it to life?
A big one that set us off in New York recently was “Life Coach” for Coach. We’d seen a huge blow up in these experiential museums via Instagram — museums of ice cream or whatever. Two-dimensional experiences where there is no real meaning, thought or narrative beyond standing in a place and taking a photo with balloons popping in the background. It wasn’t anything deeper than that. We challenged Coach to create a pop-up which wasn’t an immersive experience but had a deeper, underlying thread of narrative and human interest which was an exploration of modern mysticism. We called it “Life Coach” for that reason. We explored these mystical cues by flying real tarot readers and astrologists in from all over the country and we gave people a deeper experience in self-expression and musical understanding. That really resonated with a millennial New York audience. The results have been enormous for the brand because we looked at doing something a little deeper than just a two-dimensional photo moment.
Do you find that you’re evolving with your audience?
Absolutely. It has impacted us hugely because the whole creative and design process has changed. We used to design experiences and events that created emotions and communities in the room. Whether it was a seating plan and thinking hard about who’s sitting next to each other to optimize that experience, or a narrative-led brand experience including a live performance, you really thought about the journey you’re taking the guests on and the narrative arc. But now it has changed. Not only is that important — and you need to create that human connection in the room — but you’ve also got to make sure that you can continue to tell that story through video and content thereafter. You’re not only designing for the 100 people in the room, but the 100,000 that will see it after. That has fundamentally shifted the creative design process.
How do you address that shift?
We start with the problem that our client wants to solve. It’s different every time. Often, it’s trying to sell more stuff or launch something new, but other times it’s to establish themselves in a particular way. So, we start there and look at who the audience is because we really understand what’s turning them on, what’s keeping them up at night, what’s on their minds and how they are moving through the world. That’s where our creative process begins. We look at these insights around human behaviour and think about what is going to be important to marry this brand with that set of customers by creating a memorable, lasting experience. From there, we link what we want to explore creatively with the message or the story we’re trying to tell. That process is quite refined and can sometimes be tricky. We obviously need to make sure we bring the client along for that journey and they understand how we’re getting there so we’re not making decisions in a vacuum. Then, once we’ve got that creative bedded down, we look at the content or the narrative that we’ll take online after the offline experience. We’ll look at the channels where we intend to place it, why people would care and make sure that we’re marrying the two so there is a genuine interest attached to it.
Often, you just have to sit back and let the experience evolve over the course of the day or two that it’s on and be present to catch up or lean into something that might be happening that you couldn’t have predicted. That becomes part of how you amplify or tell the story after it’s all said and done. Sometimes the magic just happens. You created this space and within that spontaneous moment things happen and you make sure that you’re present enough to acknowledge it to be able to tell that story for people afterwards. Because then there’s a beautiful “I was there” moment.
What makes a great event?
Meticulous attention to detail, a really fresh point of view and within that, something to say. The best events really leave people with a clear point of view and they’ve felt something or taken something away that they didn’t have or think of before.