Cannes Lions 2016: Creatives Should Focus on Understanding the User More, Says Steve Vranakis

by: Navjot Singh on 21 June 2016

In an exclusive interview with at Cannes Lions 2016, Google’s EMEA Creative Director gives a low down on how creatives can fully utilize video and VR

"I think we should all be creative activists, because I think we all are at heart" - Steve Vranakas

During an action-packed first day for Innovation at Cannes Lions 2016, 12ahead caught up with Steve Vranakis, Creative Director EMEA, Google, to get insights from his perspective on which digital trend should creatives be focusing on more, especially as the festival gets more attention from the agency world and in particular, if there is a case study that they can learn from.

Steve’s viewpoint is that “We should be fundamentally understanding more and more of the users and tapping into the insights from the user’s data, and try to figure out these things that technology can help them do better. And if that is your starting point and not technology, then you are probably approaching it the correct way. And that's what we try to do, believe it or not, in an internet technology company like ours. It all starts with the user.”

One of the interesting projects that Google have recently worked on was “Inside Abbey Road”. Steve went on to explain: “This was a project that was rooted from user research, where we took one of the world's most iconic music studio that has had a huge influence and impact in pop culture over generations and opened the doors up to the world. It was mainly revolved around getting the users able to do something that they were not able to do and using a technology like virtual reality (VR) to get them there. You need a story, an idea which people can empathise with. There have been some fantastic pieces recently, from people like Aaron Koblin (formerly of Google), and Chris Mill, where they talk about the empathy machine, but this idea of the human experience and the idea that you are no longer a bystander in this experience, but you are an actual participant and the narrative is built around you (i.e. The user). When you approach these principles of putting the customer first, it fundamentally changes the way you how you bring this idea to life.”

But on a generic scale, do we still have a long way to go before people really understand how VR or Video via 360 degree works? 

“Inside Abbey Road was a recent VR project which YouTube did, but there is so much confusion in this area at the moment because people are getting caught up in technique because they are getting caught up in the thought that if you spin a camera around and create a 360 degree experience, then you have provided somebody with a level of virtual reality and I am not sure that the two are quite the same thing because I think one could be an aspect of it. You really need to understand what the users are doing and what the users want to do and how you can use this technology to get them there.” Said Steve.

So, the key takeaway learnings from our meeting with Steve were that creatives should be focusing on the latest video and VR technologies, but to do so successfully into their project plans, they should:

Have a strong understanding and insights into the user.

Have a strong understanding and an insight into the environment that you want to take somebody into and connect this to the first takeaway.

Fundamentally be able to create this (VR/360 video) experience that doesn't force someone into that situation but is emphatic both to the environment and the subject matter that they are speaking to, but also to the person that has been put in that space.