Telling it straight: Live Events

Telling it straight: Live Events
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Live events, who needs them? We live in a digital world now. A world of online co-creation and social media interaction; an extravagantly connected world awash with information and exciting content. Who wants the cost and hassle of staging something that brings a brand face-to-face with the public when exponentially more eyeballs are to be found in cyberspace?

Innovative brands, that’s who. It’s not just premature to write an obituary for live events – it’s foolish.

The digital revolution has created more opportunities for smartly-conceived events than ever. From live streaming, to social media ‘likes’; from blogging appeal to generating fresh content to be snapped up by a still ravenous and significant traditional media; a great event can be, well…a great event.

Consider the amazing impact of the record-breaking Red Bull Stratos, Felix Baumgartner’s intrepid skydive from the edge of space in October 2012. The live webcast attracted an astonishing 52 million viewers and as social media went crazy over the bravery and technical accomplishments of the jump, the online buzz generated helped Red Bull boost sales worldwide by 13%.

In a different vein, June 2013 saw Procter & Gamble organise the largest consumer event in its 175-year history. The Everyday Effect, held at multiple locations across New York City, was designed to demonstrate how the FMCG giant’s product portfolio improved daily life for people (http://www.pgeveryday.com/article/behind-the-scenes-of-the-everydayeffect) .

Of course, it delivered a powerful branded experience and sampling opportunity for consumers who encountered P&G’s marketing might on the street. But from head to toe, this was an event designed to be leveraged online, accompanied by webcasting and a massive social media drive.

Clearly, not every client can call upon consumer marketing budgets on the scale of Red Bull or P&G. But event marketing does not need to be epic to be highly effective. Finding and engaging a wider audience can be achieved through clever planning and skilful execution.

Long gone are the days when journalists had enough time on their hands to turn up at an event in the hope that there just might be a story to stumble across when they got there. Time-constrained hacks need more than a ‘maybe’ to be persuaded out and about.

For media to attend there needs to be a very strong hook; a world-first, participation of an A-list celebrity or radical product innovation. Editors are spread thinner and are harder to impress these days, and wherever possible they demand exclusive content. All of which creates obvious challenges.

Yet these obstacles are outweighed by the upside. The digital space has a voracious appetite for content, and good content generates excitement and traction. Put an event together in the right way and it acts as the focal point for a compelling story. Prime influential bloggers, serve up event-related content that is easily shareable via social media, give people something fresh to get excited about   . . . and the buzz gathers momentum.

Plenty of examples spring to mind. In London, Selfridges teamed up with ‘food architects’ Bompas & Parr to open a temporary crazy golf course on the famous department store’s roof, featuring impressive icing sugar-clad models of landmark buildings (http://style.selfridges.com/whats-in/bompas-parr%E2%80%99s-rooftop-crazy-golf-selfridges-london) . The Big Rooftop Tea and Golf Party gained plenty of coverage from traditional media and bloggers alike. Incidentally, Selfridges has a long history of devising events that succeed in getting people’s tongues wagging. Over 100 years ago, in 1909, the department store pulled in the crowds through the coup of displaying the monoplane flown by Louis Bl√©riot in the first flight across the English Channel. Imagine the social media reaction to something comparable today!

Back in the present day and also in London, the innovative eBay Social Shopping experience in Covent Garden (http://blog.ebay.com/ebays-social-shopping-experience-pops-up-in-london/)  gave Christmas shoppers the chance to buy the most in-demand gifts at any given moment, all powered by algorithms which read conversation across social channels. Consumers used the eBay app to buy items on ever-changing video walls.  

In San Francisco, jeans brand Levi’s supported a workshop in which local artists and visitors experimented with retro printmaking techniques, using skills in line with Levi’s traditional brand attributes. The San Francisco print shop attracted 31,000 visitors in a month and far greater interest online – with Levi’s adapting the community-based collaboration model into different formats and rolling it out as temporary events in other cities, such as Levi’s Photo Workshop in the heart of Manhattan, fanning word of mouth excitement as they did so.

Far from sounding the death knell for PR events, the digital media revolution has brought new opportunities. Once you give consumer brands the stage and story they deserve, the audience will follow.

Richard Brett, group managing director, Pulse 

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