The pandemic has forced people and companies to either realign how they do business or pivot away from what they are used to doing.
The XP Agency, co-founded and led by experienced entertainment executives Tamara Francois and Adolfo Vazquez, has stayed in business due to the knowledge gained over 20 years working in marketing. It’s an “Amplified Experiential” company that delivers real-life experiences supported by virtual/digital reinforcement.
Throughout the years, they’ve worked with many recognizable clients. Netflix, Sprite, Toyota, and Coca-Cola are just a few examples. They’ve just completed a campaign for Aflac that featured hip-hop legend Nas as a music supervisor.
BLACK ENTERPRISE spoke to The XP Agency founders to discuss how they’ve survived and continue to thrive during the coronavirus pandemic, the collaboration with Nas, and their experience doing experiential marketing.
How has your vast experience in this industry helped you form this agency, and what precisely do you do as the XP Agency?
Our marketing agency exists to help people understand how a product or service fits into their lives. We do this by creating opportunities that allow people to experience that product or service first-hand. Our 20 years of working as experiential marketers have taught us how to do this very well.
Experiential marketing is an industry that has evolved over time. It started as guerilla-style street marketing stunts, and it exists today as highly strategic, complex marketing campaigns. We have been a part of every iteration of the industry over the past two decades. This has fostered an acumen and deep understanding of creating experiential marketing campaigns that truly resonate with people.
In addition to having a great understanding of the industry, we also had a long-standing history of deep-rooted working relationships with clients, which helped tremendously when we started The XP Agency, allowing us to immediately work with big brands like Coca-Cola, Netflix, and Toyota in our first year.
How has the agency thrived during the pandemic? What kept you going, and how were you able to continue to work when others were trying to find ways to stay afloat?
Most competitors transitioned their existing events into virtual experiences, and this is where many agencies missed the mark because many events did not translate well into a virtual space. We never believed that you could just take a dynamic experience that would have been produced at an event like SXSW or NCAA March Madness and then stream it via Zoom. That iteration of the experience fell flat in our minds. We also did not want to create reactionary experiences.
The key to our success is three-fold:
1. We did not create reactionary campaigns. Everything that we presented to our clients had to make strategic sense to achieve their client’s business objective. The sole reason could not be “because of the coronavirus.”
2. We continued to think big. We did not allow the pandemic to limit the way we developed ideas. To create impactful marketing campaigns, we knew we still had to push boundaries.
3. We redefined what experiential meant. We realized that when the industry used the term experiential marketing, what they really meant were “live events.” So we had to redefine what a branded experience looked like outside of a live event, which led to our agency developing experiences in other areas. This was the genesis for the thinking behind the animated short we conceived for Aflac, where we featured the brand’s biggest asset, the Aflac duck, and incorporated him into a dynamic cinematic work to convey the role that Aflac plays in people’s lives. The short is currently available on Roku (limited time) and also at www.parkbenchfilm.com
The animated short for Aflac recently premiered at Sundance’s Brand + Story Tellers, and Nas was a music supervisor. How were you able to land that and get Nas on board?
Our roots are in the music industry, where we both worked for a decade before transitioning into marketing. Adolfo had a previous working relationship with Nas from his time at Interscope Records. Once we saw how the film was developing, our client had a strong vision for Nas’ involvement. Aflac knew and was adamant that Nas had to be a part of the work. Adolfo reconnected with Nas, who fell in love with the vision of the film, so he agreed to provide the music supervision of the short.
What tips could you offer regarding the survival of working through the coronavirus pandemic?
The coronavirus pandemic really changed the world and the way we live. People’s behaviors shifted, and the way we move and operate is very different than it was just a few years ago. Instead of seeing this as problematic, businesses should consider that these changes in behavior actually created a desperate need to solve new challenges. This is the greatest opportunity for businesses in any industry today. The key is being able to understand the role that your business, product, or service plays in your customers’ new lifestyle, and adapt, if necessary, to fit their needs.
As an experiential agency, what’s in store for the future?
Now that we’ve expanded our definition of experiential marketing to develop experiences outside of the confines of a live event, the world has literally become a play space to create branded engagements and campaigns for our clients.