XLIST Council Spotlight: Johan Vakidis
Johan Vakidis — an award-winning global creative professional who has worked across communications, technology, entertainment and gaming — was born curious. Not only does he have 25 years of experience under his belt, but he continues his obsession with education. “I’m a firm believer that there is something new to learn every single day, to the point where I will not sleep until a new thing, or skill, is mastered daily,” says Vakidis.
After 20+ years in China taking on creative leadership roles at places like Ogilvy, AKQA, R/GA, The Walt Disney Company and Publicis Groupe, Vakidis is now back in Canada with kyu collective at Sid Lee and C2, fostering a team of creatives specializing in everything from environmental design and programming to collaborative experiences and innovation.
“I like to immerse myself in culture and consumer behavior and learn firsthand how experiences from stories and technology can drive love for brands, products, and services in both real and virtual worlds,” he says.
Keep reading for our interview with the global creative leader and XP Land XLIST council member to uncover tales from his previous life in China, the importance of co-presence and how digital and IRL experiences complement each other.
Tell us about your time working in China. How did you end up there for two decades?
Originally, I only intended to stay in China for one year, but fate had other plans, and I found myself immersed in its culture for a staggering two decades. Life simply took its course, and I wholeheartedly embraced the countless opportunities that came my way. The work I engaged in allowed me to forge meaningful connections, and the fast-paced environment was exhilarating. Throughout my journey, I had the privilege of working in various agencies and digital establishments, creating everything from advertisements and content to games, apps, and large-scale brand experiences.
You’ve always been known as a digital creator. How do you balance digital with IRL experiences? How do they complement each other?
I’ve come to realize the increasing significance of real-life experiences over the past three years, particularly after emerging from a world where digital interactions have become the norm. I’m captivated by the concept of co-presence, where multiple elements seamlessly blend into one cohesive experience like IRL audiences in a room mingling with other attendees’ digital avatars.
We’re also evolving technology so that physical audiences can collectively connect to digital content and even interactive experiences. Soon, event participants will even be able to provide real-time feedback to shape, inform and even educate intelligent machine learning about what they want to experience as an activation is happening.
Why does experiential matter to you?
There’s nothing more powerful than gatherings and the connections they create on many levels.
What is the best experience you have ever attended?
Tough question to answer; the best experiences are the ones that changed me as a person forever. The Festival of Sport, organized by Nike in China, had a profound impact on me. And, interestingly enough, I was directly involved in its creation. We brought together coaches, athletes, and a wide range of sports facilities like indoor courts, skate parks, tracks, and booths. Essentially, it was a comprehensive collection of sports designed to encourage people in China to step outside and engage in any sport of their choice — which holds a much different concept in Asia than here in North America.
The whole experience was incredibly empowering. I saw attendees of all ages and backgrounds embrace the opportunity to pause their routines and venture into new territory. The atmosphere was vibrant with a thematic focus, lots of enthusiasm and a sense of novelty. It was akin to those magical childhood moments when you’re strolling through your neighborhood or a park, see a group of kids playing and they invite you over to join them. They don’t care how good you are or whether you’ve even played their game before. It’s just about having fun together.
What made this event even more significant was its ability to challenge the prevailing digital-centric mindset in China. And reassert the importance of real-life activities. It broke through the digital barrier and resonated with a virtual audience, too. Yet, stayed true to our core message about the value of tangible experiences.
What excites you most about experiential’s future?
How being together and gathering will be capable of manifesting itself. It will be grand, and to me, it will only increase in desirability and importance.
Johan is passionate about creating experiences that evoke wonder and have a profound impact on audiences. He comes with a wealth of global experiences, having spent the last 20 years in highly connected markets, predominantly Asia. Beautiful storytelling is what drives Johan to push every experience to new heights.
Join us in XP Land. A community for experiential creatives and experience-makers, brand leaders and IP-owners, space stewards and venue visionaries — all of those in the business of epic gatherings and live, immersive storytelling.