The annual Notting Hill Carnival saw Three Halves tasked with making Wray & Nephew stand out amongst the crowd. Naturally rooted in Caribbean culture, it proved a natural fit for our activation. However, associating any brand to a weekend with a very distinct history meant that the line between “associating” and “appropriating” was more transparent than ever before.

Created during a time when hostile and violent altercations where happening on the streets of London (including the Notting Hill riots), Carnival was a key tool in assimilating people of colour within Britain. Now accepted as part of British culture and visited annually by 2 million people, it provides the perfect platform for brands to connect with their audience, particularly those in urban lifestyle.  Whether it’s a guerrilla OOH campaign or creating a sound system experience, the cultural unity displayed means that brands can effortlessly embed itself into the spirit of Carnival.

However, authenticity has always been a key debate in discussions – can a brand truly embody the Carnival spirit, if ultimately, they are capitalising off the festivities? We’ve seen it in recent years where brands have done it painfully wrong and have angered the Carnival community with their actions. In turn, the NHC committee and council have also made it difficult for artists & brands by revoking licenses on opening day.

Yet, the past mistakes have been learning curves for all that are wanting to be a part of the experience. It has been made evidently clear that if you wish to be a part NHC, you must work with the community and understand the culture in which you wish to adopt. Directly trying to benefit from Carnival because it only helps you, particularly if there are no ties or links, will not fly in this space. You must tread carefully and respect the safe space that was once created for racial harmony, appreciation and unison.

Now with a new Carnival committee who are open to collaborating and brand partnerships – being involved is now easier than ever before. To create a similar campaign at any other time, would be a much more expensive ordeal and logistical nightmare. With the mass exposure and ideal celebrative mood (we can’t always predict if the weather will share the same philosophy), it’s a no brainer to get involved with Europe’s biggest street party!

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