As someone who hasn’t set foot inside an exhibition hall since my dad took me to the London Motor Show in Earls Court in 1995, I was intrigued to see what my visit to this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) at the Fira de Barcelona would throw at me.
Back in ’95, I was keen to see the latest GTi. In 2019, I was fully prepared to be wowed by 5G and the latest artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality. I was promised a world dedicated to technology while keeping one eye on sustainably. So, did MWC live up to the hype? Well, here is my take (a virgin’s view if you like) of the world’s biggest ‘tech event’.
It was like stepping into a Vegas casino. Loud. Busy. And extremely colourful. A massive market full of mayhem. Overwhelming doesn’t touch it, especially when I had been tasked with weeding-out my top five stands and experiences. Are there absolutely no jollies in this industry anymore? Apparently not. So, here goes…
The stand was a welcome break from the overloaded noise at MWC. An oasis. A calm space with attention to detail. The big focus was around the new Samsung Galaxy Fold with some great POS designs — mirroring the larger screen. The stand felt sophisticated, large and somewhere that offered a space to reflect and look at the products. There was also a 360-degree film phone capture interactive experience showing the new feature. The resulting film was sent to my mobile and played to the crowd that unpacked the benefits of this unique feature.
The virgin’s verdict: Lots of queues and participation that gave a great atmosphere to the stand.
It was surprising to see a car brand exhibiting at a mobile tech conference at first glance. But it’s not as far-fetched as it might seem given the remit of the show has changed exponentially since inception, and the wider context of the car industry pivoting to ‘mobility’ over ‘ownership’. The BMW stand was focused on ‘New moments of joy’ — including a nature-inspired refreshment bar and ‘natural interaction’ networking space complete with faux foliage. A great setting to showcase BMW’s prototype ‘iNEXT’ SUV.
The virgin’s verdict: A real show-stopper complete with futuristic, pastel interior worthy of Lady Penelope herself. It definitely got a ‘yes M’Lady’ from me.
In Hall 3, IBM was demonstrating how it is now ‘putting AI into everything and everything into the cloud’. On the stand, it brought to life the art of storytelling with multiple case studies. The immersive pods and a fully interactive ‘Agility Cube’ opened my eyes to the world of Blockchain and how IBM is transforming our lives through the internet of things and AI-based solutions.
It seems smart technology is behind everything these days. From helping ensure musicians receive the correct royalties to keeping billions of people on the move everyday with lifts and escalators that actually talk to the IBM Cloud.
The virgin’s verdict: Clean. Insightful. Engaging. Memorable.
From what I’ve heard, this is the most coherent version of this concept at MWC to date. Occupying a very long thin strip of outdoor space between two exhibition halls, not an easy space to fill. Android took this unusual opportunity to build a non-linear experiential journey with a faux high street including ‘record store’, ‘gallery’, ‘bus stop’ and ‘hotel lobby’.
With each experience there was a chance to collect stamps that could be exchanged for tokens that operated a ‘Mystery Prize ‘giant vending machine. My colleague won a cool Android beanie, but a Google Home was also up for grabs! (Needless to say, I’m still talking to myself back in my flat in High Wycombe!)
The virgin’s verdict: The installations were varied, fun and made the most of a potentially difficult space.
Within the ‘Innovation City’ GSMA presented the ‘The Future of Operating Messaging’ — a 100 sq. metre installation demonstrating ‘A Day in the Life…’ enabled by the RCS messaging protocol. The installation invites the visitor to sit below the central Google Tree and surrounds them with a tableau of everyday items subverted by rich colour blocking and arranged as micro-art installations. Themes included: ‘Getting Stuff Done’, ‘Shopping, Eating and Travel’ and ‘Play, Events and Socialising’.
The virgin’s verdict: With its disruptive architecture and central display, this atypical space grabbed attention from some distance. It provided deep engagement with product experts in a fun environment.
Great overall. A simple layout. And a great choice of materials, lighting, static and motion graphics. Loved the interactives on the stand. Really nice storyline. And the ability to make your personal music track by identifying the high-mid and low range of your LG crystal sound speakers. The gesture sensors feature allows you to conduct your own piece of music with hand movements. Rather than a tap-screen you can use your hand to control the device.
The virgin’s verdict: A great use of space. An effective interactive campaign inside a busy stand.
So all-in-all a very satisfying 24-hour trip to MWC. It’s on a different plane to the traditional world of advertising that I’ve been used to — but I feel truly fulfilled. My eyes are now well and truly open to the world of tech. Indeed, no longer a virgin, I’m already looking forward to my next expo. Let’s just hope it lasts a little longer.
Matt Box is a part-time stand-up comic and senior strategist at event and experience marketing agency George P. Johnson.
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