What advertising can learn from the UK’s largest light festival

The UK’s largest light festival, Lumiere London produced by Artichoke, illuminated the capital last weekend to crowds of people. It is a curation of world-class artworks created by a number of international artists who showcased in key areas of central London. Installations appeared in King’s Cross, Fitzrovia, Mayfair, London’s West End, Trafalgar Square, Westminster, Victoria, South Bank and Waterloo.

We were asked to be part of the festival having contacted the team at Artichoke back in November. We’d previously connected to their Lumiere festivals in Durham and were keen to be involved in the festival in London. There was a joint ambition to exhibit some artwork in and around Fitzrovia and the Imagination building is situated in the centre of a beautiful cobbled crescent on Store Street in the heart of it, which seemed like the perfect location for an installation. We have a long history of producing wonderful Christmas light installations on our building’s façade and this seemed like the ideal place to present our piece for the festival.

We wanted to have an installation which was fun, light-hearted, and interactively driven by the viewing and participating public. Often artwork is a passive viewing experience so we really wanted people to interact with the piece and be responsible for the light’s movement or colour which would reveal the architecture of the building as the light passed over the façade.

We were keen to explore new techniques for controlling the lights and create an environment which would immerse the percipients within the piece. We are fans of classic computer games; their simplicity, colours, and innocence are so engaging. We quickly agreed that an adaptation of the classic 80’s game of Pong with its strong visual language, simple gameplay, and universally recognised format would encourage people to interact with the piece. We didn’t want to use traditional video projection techniques to display the game, instead opting to use light fixtures to visualise the gameplay elements. We used a single beam of light moving across the façade to represent the ball and LED Neon as the paddles, whose position was controlled by live interactions from the public. We allowed the participants to feel completely immersed in their experience, so built an environment with stereo sound effects and gesture controlled interactions so participants could enjoy the piece.

In everyday life, brands are increasingly looking for experience led marketing, which is why advertisers should take note. Customers want to connect with brands and share their experiences in their social networks. Customers remember fun interactive experiences and are more likely to share things they find beautiful, therefore reaching a wider audience. Brands want to create “Instagram moments” which people want to share with their friends, which makes light artworks like this very popular. We are naturally drawn to light and movement and these artworks are just one way to create moments and experiences for people to enjoy and engage with.

Light art like this resonates with us as a natural form of beauty — something that others forms of advertising cannot achieve. We want to engage with light, colour, movement, and creativity. People will share experiences and content which they think are beautiful and that in turn will be shared further. In an internationally recognised light festival like Lumiere London, where time is limited, there is a greater incentive to experience the works first hand and share that experience with your friends. It allows advertisers to have an instant impact on consumers.

This was evident in our installation, which was continuously busy and had the public engaging and enjoying it with their friends, as well as with strangers. This highlighted the effectiveness that lighting spectacles could have within advertising, as it allows people to talk about brands to a wider and more diverse audience.

However, if this method is to be used within advertising then brands must remember that there is a fine balance to not dilute the validity of the artwork with too much brand messaging. Brands can certainly utilise activations like the Lumiere festival to engage with their customers and connect with them through experience, but the beauty can easily be lost with too much commercialisation. At Imagination, we are always looking for new ways to create meaningful, shareable content so I expect we will see things like this used more frequently.en to all brands. Experiences and interactions like this are engaging, fun, and memorable. They are attractive to a wide demographic and often create naturally shareable content. Any brand could benefit from interactions and immersive experiences which connect and resonate directly with their customers.

By Jonny Milmer,

Head of Lighting Design, London Office