Monday 24 July 2023

Q&A with Craig Page, Facilitator, Experience Design

In a few sentences, describe AdSchool’s new Experience Design course.

The eight-week program equips agencies with the skills needed to develop great customer experiences. It gets to the heart of what constitutes quality experience design.

Ad agencies are passionate about building brands. They are great at using creativity to connect brands with people and build mental associations with advertising, however the lived customer experience of a brand shouts much more loudly and this is where most agencies struggle to put their passion for creative brand building into practice.

We have the empathy, creativity, imagination and understanding to help brands do better than what they’re currently doing in this space. There’s lack of insight, creativity and brand voice which often leads to generic, bland and forgettable journeys.

This course will help you and your team grasp core XD skills and get the best outcomes for clients.

Is XD the new UX? Are the terms interchangeable?

They are essentially all the same. It’s just that that first letter indicates the frame through which you view the person who’s experiencing the brand.

If they’re a customer, it’s CX. If they’re a user of a website or an app, it’s UX. If they’re the employee, it’s EX. If you want to describe the people you’re talking to – visitor, member, whatever it may be, simply put a letter for them in front of the X and you’ve got your acronym.

Experience design or XD considers the whole human experience. People are people at the end of the day and as far as this course is concerned, they should all be treated the same, whether they’re a customer, user, member, visitor or whatnot – they’re all human beings.

Who is the ideal candidate for this course, considering it encompasses foundational strategy with technical and commercial skills, like integrating tech stacks and creating a business case for an opportunity?

This course doesn’t specialise in any one area of experience design. It’s more about giving agency people the foundational understanding, or shared language, of how great customer experiences are made.

Whether you’re in account management, strategy, creative, production, whatever it may be, and you work for an agency that’s selling – or wants to start selling – experiences, then everyone needs to know the basics of how to design them.

The course assumes some existing knowledge, so is aimed at seniors or department heads with 3-5+ years’ experience who know the ad game but want to learn how to tap into the opportunity and upskill the rest of the team – not just planners and strategists.

You’ve designed this course to help with “weaponising agency strengths and filling in their blind spots.” What are some of the biggest blind spots for agencies?

  • Balancing texture and friction: The classic human-centered design experience focuses on removing friction and making the experience as easy as possible for the person going through it. The challenge is that it can lead to generic and boring experiences that aren’t really noticed or remembered if you’re not designing it as best you can for different audiences or if you’re not able to overcome your own expression. In that respect, you’re not doing a very good job for the client’s future business unless you incorporate some brand texture that ensures memorability and value without doing so at the expense of the person’s objectives.
  • Having a range of stakeholders presents a challenge, as it means differing points of view about the client’s business, what they need, and how the solution has to work for their own team or department. These viewpoints are often contradictory and none of the stakeholders are the user, customer or audience. There’s a lot of politics involved and that’s a challenge that most agencies often don’t have the capability to solve.
  • Finally, there’s the commercial side to it, and not just the cost of bringing experience solutions to life. You have to scale it, update it, keep it running in sync with a multitude of different operational parts for millions of customers, potentially for many years and that’s a big consideration for the client. You can’t switch off when the award entry is done, you have to care about the life of it. Otherwise, you’re going to propose things that clients could never do because it just isn’t viable to them. It doesn’t make sense from a business perspective.

How does experience design fit into the structure of a more traditional advertising agency’s offering? Is it a department or a service offering?

It has to be cross departmental and involve the departments who have strengths in this area. Creative agencies need to consider the brand’s whole experience, of which communications is a critical part, to be a competitive alternative to an in-house XD team.

That’s why every agency department needs to know this stuff. It needs to be part of the core functionality of the whole business. You see this issue come up in a lot of agencies that have dedicated silos with different teams, processes and cultures.

It’s similar to the stories you hear of consultancies acquiring creative agencies. When creativity and brand building aren’t integrated into the whole business’ DNA – If silos or departments are instead driven by frictionlessness planning or removing or reducing risk – then it’s really hard for those two sides of the business to align on what’s important, or what great work looks like.

And if you’re not presenting yourself as one offering, how is that offering any better than what clients can do in-house?

What are some great examples of experience design in the world? Is it only focused on digital products?

It’s not only focused on digital, it involves every single touch point, physical and digital, or any moment where you could attribute it to that brand or business and that’s part of the whole experience.

Everything from advertising to the retail and buying experience, website, packaging, the physical product itself, the app, and customer service.

Great advertising alone does not suffice anymore. If the customer experience is flawed, you get conflict and it has all been for nothing. Customers think they have been lied to and in that respect, the message you get from the experience is so much stronger than the advertising because it’s the proof in the pudding, right? It’s the real deal. It’s not marketing. If the experience is good, the product is good. There’s no disconnect or disbelief there.

As Jerry Della Femina, one of the old, Mad-Men-era guys said: “Nothing kills a bad product quicker than great advertising.”

Even back then, he knew; you can do all the best advertising in the world but if your experience sucks, you’re toast.

AdSchool Experience Design starts Aug 31 in Sydney, Melb and online. Find out more here.

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