Cannes Interview Corner: Electronic Arts' Rob Bullough

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Rob Bullough, director of global brand marketing at Electronic Arts (EA), cannot contain his excitement at the prospect of joining the network of conversations at Cannes that will inspire him, until it’s time to do it all again.

Rob Bullough, director of global brand marketing at Electronic Arts (EA), cannot contain his excitement at the prospect of joining the network of conversations at Cannes that will inspire him, until it’s time to do it all again. He will be speaking at the Brand Innovators Marketing Leadership Summit at Cannes next week.

Are you looking forward to getting back face-to-face with colleagues and peers at Cannes?

Yes, the thing I've really missed about events, is where you get lots of different people coming together, sharing and chatting. Whether it's somebody presenting a keynote, or it's a panel, or it's just someone who you've met in a bar; live events create this network of conversations which doesn't happen anywhere else.

I really enjoy that feeling of dots starting to join, when this network of ideas and conversations start to feed each other. When I'm traveling home, I reflect and I always get hit with these massive insights, such as ‘wow, I speaking to Sarah, and she said this thing to this person, but then they had a different counterpoint’. It all starts to snowball and become these compelling set of exciting ideas which are ultimately the food that I live on for the next year or so, until we get to do it all over again.

There was talk it may be difficult to get people to disconnect from Zoom and make the trip but they are, why do you think face to face beats video conferencing so clearly? 

I have a theory that it stems from musicians and artists and people on stage delivering something to a crowd, they all talk about this energy exchange between what they're doing and the crowd experiencing it. They feed each other. We don't have any sensors that can pick up this energy, but I think we all appreciate that it probably exists. 

I think when we meet in real life with other people, whether it be a meeting or whether it be over a beer after a meeting, or whatever it happens to be, we actually have a very similar thing. I feel like we're micro-dosing on that same energy when we're meeting with people in real life.

I like videoconferencing but I've noticed that I could have a really energizing exciting (online) meeting but that whole feeling of energy snowballing is just gone the moment we end the call.

What is the big question for you at EA as the business emerges from the pandemic?

The video game industry has never seen a year or a year and a half like it. Which is an interesting one, because you have to then ask yourself questions like, is this sustainable? How do we responsibly sustain engagement like that? if we're thinking responsibly about how do we continue to engage our players, we have to think also about how do we reach new players authentically as well? How do we grow and find more people, but find and reach them authentically?

Authenticity is sure to resonate as a Cannes theme. Are there additional challenges you’ll be discussing as you network with peers?

Video gaming is an interesting industry because the brands are arguably owned by the players. It’s not like a toothpaste or something where the brand is very much in the domain of the of the corporate company, and they focus all their marketing on flogging that product.

With a video game, it's really different. You need to understand exactly what it is that the players think we are as a brand, and ensure that if we are going to innovate or move into a different direction, or we are going to stimulate growth, by chasing a particular type of play, that we bring those people with us. If we don't, then the whole thing is sunk from the beginning because they'll feel like we've pivoted away from the land that they that they personally own.

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