With in-person events sidelined, Giant Spoon reinvented itself
The story of Giant Spoon in 2020 was eerily like that of its best-known client, “Westworld.” It began with fun and games and then took a chilling turn.In January, the agency was in Las Vegas doing what it does best: orchestrating an intricate immersive experience at CES for “Westworld.” Themed around a major plot point for the third season of the HBO hit—data security—the Giant Spoon team invited 200 tech influencers to a dinner for the fictional startup Incite. Once there, they were deeply unsettled by the depth of personal knowledge Incite had about them, thanks to Giant Spoon culling each of their digital footprints. The elaborate stunt was aided by actors and a 600-page script. And instead of a bill, diners were left with, in the agency’s words, “a reality check: a snapshot of their future and a prediction of their life expectancy.”
But Giant Spoon was in for a reality check of its own. Within weeks, lockdowns started sweeping the country, making its immersive installations impossible. SxSW, typically one of its biggest annual showcases, was abruptly cancelled. In March, the agency announced it was laying off 20% of staff, forcing some rethinking at the agency.
“The magic of Giant Spoon was never just that we built ‘Westworld’ and invented a new format of experiential immersive theater,” said the agency in its submission. “The magic of Giant Spoon is that we look to reinvent everything, everywhere.”
That includes the agency itself, which sought out new business opportunities by bringing culture-breaking ideas to a wider client base. It signed on Snapchat as social agency-of-record and Square as media AOR and reeled in 16 new retainer clients and projects for brands including Kate Spade, Tiktok, Activision and Merck.
That isn’t to say Giant Spoon abandoned experiential during COVID. For another HBO show, “Lovecraft Country,” the shop created a socially distanced screening including a “contactless” drive-in for 500 people that transported attendees to 1950s America. Giant Spoon set up vintage billboards for faux businesses en route and created a period-perfect radio station with 160 minutes of original content. Window washers from “Lovecraft Auto” cleaned attendees windshields and remote actors improvised over an intercom. Snacks were served from ‘50s-era lunch boxes.
Giant Spoon flexed its creative muscle in other ways, putting now-president Joe Biden into the game “Animal Crossing” by first by offering players yard signs, and then creating a virtual campaign headquarters within the game called Biden Island. For Vistaprint, it did holiday ads highlighting the importance of individually customized gifts, set to a Nat King Cole tune with the lyrics retrofitted to “Unregiftable.” For Synchrony Bank, the agency created a 6-minute video showing a plant store employee blowing her paycheck every pay cycle to drive home the importance of saving.
Giant Spoon’s pivot paid off. Although the agency’s revenue declined in 2020, by the second quarter it was on a growth trajectory, with 35% of revenue coming from new client work. “In a year that rattled the industry,” it says, “we are fortunate to have been able to bounce back.”