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Blog: Alton Towers… please never on my watch

Black-sky thinking is vital for delivering brand experiences, says Mark Stringer, founder and chief executive of agency PrettyGreen.

Most of us over the years have been involved in putting on stunts and experiences featuring an element of danger or potential risk of injury – purely thanks to the activity itself.

I’ve been lucky enough to be part of the virtual agency/client team that put a man to the edge of space, back flipped an BMXrider over Tower Bridge and thrown people off death slides and what being involved in these extreme brand stunts and experiences has taught me is the importance of what I term “black-sky” planning. 

Black Sky planning is a horrible session (or series of sessions) where the full team run through every single “what if” scenario under the sun. A session where you sit with the production and health and safety and comms teams and jointly pull apart everything that could go wrong, how you escalate issues, how you think through every possibility – be it a minor or major issue.

  • What happens if someone’s sick in the line, how do we get rid of the smell?
  • What if it there’s a heatwave, can we distribute water?
  • What’s the nearest hospital, do we have the contact details?
  • How many fire extinguishers and where are they located?
  • Who’s in the ELT when there’s a code silver?

As an outsider, it would appear Alton Towers ELT kicked in quickly (although I’m sure there was a period of panic before the calm of the crises kicked in). And it’s about the team/brand and co. remaining in control whilst enabling the experts to do their job, and the comms teams ensuring the media are being managed and catered for.

They’ll be a lot of clients sat around probably dismissing the relevance of the Alton Towers shocking disaster. “What’s putting on a pop-up in a disused shop got to do with Alton Towers?” they’ll ask their agencies. Well, for me, that’s probably the biggest mistake a brand/client can make. 

In all my years of being involved in putting on some (frankly ridiculous at times) experiences, the biggest issues I’ve ever experienced haven’t been on seemingly “dangerous” events, but from the ones that on the outside just feel like warm fluffy experiences; a stabbing at a ticket give-away, a bag of heroin found at a tea party,  a dislocated shoulder in a ball pit, broken bones on a slide, guarddog attacking a journalist’s son, total police shut down due to crowd safety, World War II bombs uncovered on the day of opening. These are real examples might I add!

I’m not saying you can plan for every scenario or that a simple sampling product giveaway needs a CEO escalation session. But a small loose thread when pulled hard enough can destroy the fabric of the whole company and an experiential campaign without a joined up crises plan is putting both your client and your agency in an unnecessary precarious position.

My advice? Plan for the worst, learn from the disasters and never think it won’t happen on your watch.

Mark Stringer is founder and chief executive of agency PrettyGreen.

More: PrettyGreen launches partnerships and promotions division

Using festivals to build a brand

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David Atkinson, managing partner, Space

There has been a re-evaluation of the role of brands and festivals in recent years, says David Atkinson, managing partner of Space.

The middle of the year has always been a focus for face-to-face activity, more so with the growing status of festival culture. Around eight million people attend the UK’s 700 festivals spending £1.5 billion in the process. For many, the festival has become an alternative to a holiday.

In recent years there has also been a re-evaluation of the role of brands and festivals. Where once brands were a necessary evil to bring some additional income to let the promoter to pay for better acts, or providing functional elements such as alcohol, they can now be a more integral part of the experience.

As the festival market has mushroomed, the audience for festivals has changed radically. There is a more diverse demographic mix, tending towards the more mainstream, taking in older groups, families and more middle class festival goers. Consequently festival goers are also more affluent.

At a time when many traditional media options are showing declining potency, festivals have emerged as an opportunity for brands to get in the faces, and hands, of their audiences. However regarding these crowds as captive and passive consumers of marketing is to misunderstand the brand/festival dynamic.

Brand resistance

Yes, festival audiences are more prepared to accept that brands have a role, but the resistance to feeling that they are being targeted remains intense. Today’s festival goer may be something of a weekend rebel, slinking back to their electrically hooked up tent between acts, but the cynicism about overt marketing is as intense as it was with any Sixties flower child.

Rear view of a crowd of people watching their band perform beneath the strobe lights on stage

For brands to find a space at events, they have to prove their relevance and usefulness. Fortunately most festivals are almost uniquely flexible in allowing brands free rein when it comes to creative face-to-face marketing.

Brands need to chill

To really make festival activation work, like festival goers, brands have to chill out. Being a control freak is not the best way to get the most from a festival. Work closely with organisers right from the initial planning stages. They know their audience better than anyone, and are sitting on ticket data that can provide insight for brands.

Rather than brands seeing this as unnecessary interference, they should accept that collaboration creates a better experience and a win-win for all involved. Steamrollering an event with your brand is not the way to build acceptance. Working to create an event within an event that truly adds to the festival experience, will have a great and longer lasting effect.

Space worked closely with Parklife to curate its Desperados Factory warehouse space. Both parties sat down together to create something that fit well within the overall event, but provided the brand with a stand-out property. By using the organiser’s sway with acts, Desperados was also able to attract more compelling talent.

This more strategic approach is seeing brands moving from a position of passive badging of existing assets, to creating of their own experiences and stories, driven by an increasing need to demonstrate that they are culturally relevant and connected.

One-off deals have less currency that ongoing partnerships. Two- to three-year agreements allow brands to build on their learnings and make the following year bigger and better. Desperados took its festival experience forward with Detonate, a multi-sensorial event that mixed music, graffiti, dry ice, lasers and confetti cannons to produce an amazingly memorable event.

Savvy brands are realising that festival activity like this can provide a focus for ongoing communication throughout the year. Red Bull’s Music Academy is an example with its series of workshops and concerts around the world providing a brand experience that is longer lasting.

Festivals were social before social media, but with digital options now well used, brands can amplify their message and use social to stay in touch all year round. Offering up shareable content keeps people interested in the brand beyond a few heady days in summer.

David Atkinson is managing partner of agency Space

More: Top brand experience agencies: Space

Content: Keeping It Real

Content is the territorial dispute du jour, which every agency is claiming to do brilliantly, says Jonathan Terry, head of JWT Live.

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Jonathan Terry

Content is, of course, a useless word. It’s the ultimate non-descriptor. It’s become the C-word of advertising: ubiquitous and provocative.

Its uselessness within the advertising vernacular was confirmed, upon my discovery that the antonym of content is, in fact, style.

Style describes how something is made; its form, its material, its weft and its weave. Content tells us that something (generally another noun), has something in it. For example chicken has high protein content. Content tells you nothing about the “content” rather that it contains… something. A book has a table of contents. You can empty the contents of your suitcase.

As I pondered – spilling the contents of my cup in the process – I started to wonder what was inside this content we’re all competing to make.

Reports around the world are showing that people are craving real experiences more and more in the digital age. Real experiences are what people engage with and share online, they provide most of the content for social media.

Case and point: In the top ten most watched (and talked about) shows of 2014, seven out ten programmes were reality based. Great British Bake Off in first place, Uruguay vs England in second, Britain’s Got Talent in fourth, Germany vs Argentina, I’m a Celebrity, Strictly Come Dancing and Call the Midwife.

What makes most of these shows real is their temporal nature: watching the Superbowl on catch up isn’t the same. And, TV programmers have learned from this by creating rounds across contests: The Big Decision. Audiences are lured in to see the drama unfold. Who will make the cut and why? Event-based programming is on the rise.

Some of the other highest rated shows over the year include: 24 hours in A and E, Gogglebox, Top Gear, Masterchef. While not event-based, these shows present real people in real situations, real human drama and it is as enthralling as fiction.

Authenticity is becoming the new TV battleground, as broadcasters and digital publishers (Vice in particular) battle to tell real stories, in real ways that millennials want to hear.

Brands and agencies have also triumphed, some of the best advertising “content” ideas of recent years have a strong suit in real. Red Bull sent a man to jump from the edge of space. Dove enabled real women to question what real beauty meant, with Sketches. Volvo’s Live Test Series has become the paradigm for content strategists the world over.

Here at J Walter Thompson London, we created the Canon Come and See campaign, highlighting real stories around the world, waiting to be discovered. We created a life-changing campaign for Kenco called Coffee vs Gangs. The scheme gave young Hondurans a route out of the spiral into gang life by giving them the opportunity to become coffee farmers. For Shell we helped transform the lives of thousands of people through the renovation of a derelict space into a first-of-its-kind kinetic football floodlit pitch, with floodlights powered by footsteps.

All of these campaigns, and many more, created stories that lend themselves to longer form films; three minutes or more. Using reality within content, is one of the ways agencies and brands can create films that viewers will watch until the end.

The next time you start talking about a bunch of content, consider keeping it real.

Jonathan Terry is head of JWT Live.

Experiential & PR: Friend or Foe?

As the lines are increasingly blurred between experiential and PR, Purity’s Rob Quinn, asks if the two different disciplines are ‘friends’ that can work together or ‘foes’, viewing each other with suspicion and ultimately looking to move into each other’s territory?

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Purity MD Rob Quinn

There is no doubt that as experiential has grown it has increasingly linked with PR to enhance the profile of events and experiences. There has been a growing realisation by specialists in each discipline that the sum is greater than the parts and experiential is increasingly seen as the platform to create the content for PR to leverage. Big names from the coolest of sports brands through to high street financial services companies are using PR before or during their experiential campaigns to grab the media’s attention.

Brand experience and event agencies are joining forces with their PR counterparts to create some great work. Earlier this year Kaper PR and Big both played a role in delivering the celebrity wow factor as Mastercard holders came face to face with their heroes in a series of ‘Priceless Surprises’ with the likes of Kaiser Chiefs, Usher and Paloma Faith in the run up to Mastercard’s sponsorship of the 2015 Brit Awards.

On a smaller scale a campaign that made me grin was Lyle’s Golden Syrup dispensers that only delivered porridge and golden syrup to commuters who smiled at the dispenser. It used clever recognition technology and logistics through Slice and maximised media exposure via Mischief PR. It reminds me of the Carlsberg billboard in Brick Lane dispensing beer under the line Probably the Best Poster in the World – no doubt securing acres of media coverage whilst delighting consumers.

We also recently worked with Edelman PR to launch the Green & Black’s Taste & Colour Tour. Edelman managed the media and we worked with them on the creative concept and then delivered the production and logistics of the tour. Similarly we’ve worked with Touch PR on a number of PR stunts, from parking a life size tractor cake in London for Assured Food Standards to hosting a whisky tasting 40 meters in the air for Grants.

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What all these campaigns have in common is that they deliver unique and often unexpected experiences that live longer in the memory, interweaving concepts and touch points to create a powerful and immersive message. Creating this sort of social currency and social commentary is pure gold for brands and, of course, agencies.

In many ways experiential and PR make natural bedfellows. PR engages with the media whilst experiential engages directly with the consumer. Both are also extremely adept at harnessing the power of social media. Put them together and you have a very effective communication platform. Who can forget Gail Porter projected on the House of Commons, it’s gone down in agency folklore.

When a great PR idea is combined with an experiential campaign the creative concept can be extended hugely and taken directly to the consumer to engage and delight people on a one-to-one basis. PR can often light the touch paper for an experience that a brand experiential agency ultimately delivers, providing logistics that underpin the PR stunt and ensuring the message snowballs.

It should be a match made in heaven but the temptation to step into each other’s territory is a great. Increasingly agencies offer each other’s services within their own toolbox and there is a danger here of confusing the lines rather than blurring them. Each require strategic thought and conceptual ideation that should be mutually harnessed and not forced upon each other with a lack of foresight.

When I look back over the last couple of years, to my mind, the best work has come from a collaboration of PR and brand experience agencies – each doing what they do best – producing clever, creative work that generates column inches and unforgettable experiences.

So, let’s be friends, we can do great things together.

Rob Quinn is managing director of brand experience agency Purity.

More: Blog – Rob Quinn on the World Cup ‘Experience

Drones: shifting power from creative director to creative coder?

The demand for drones to be integrated into brand experiences is on the increase. Adam Doherty, managing director and executive producer at immersive experience studio Marshmallow Laser Feast, explains their true potential.

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Adam Doherty

Those in the know forecast 2015 would herald the arrival of drones on the event scene and the prediction has come to fruition. In the space of just a few months, we’ve been asked to create several quadrotor shows, from car launches to experiential campaigns for big brands.

This is great news for anyone interested in how new tech can lead to new levels of experiential creativity and engagement. But most people underestimate the creative and engagement power of drones, seeing them as mere ‘floating pixels’; whereas they are, in fact, a new mechanism for creating powerful live 360 experiences.

The show quadrotors available today are so much more than flying circuit boards with lights. Their performance can be choreographed with millimetre precision. This level of accuracy can create a near infinite display of synchronised maneuvers.

Most interestingly, we can use this precise positional data to build extraordinary volumetric light forms. With projects like the Cannes New Directors Showcase, the audience becomes physically absorbed; not only by the lights, but remarkably by their direct heat too as the light shines out and over the auditorium. It’s quite an extraordinarily tactile and immersive sensation for such a ‘robotic’ show.

If consumers’ hunger for 360 VR experiences is anything to go by, we can be confident they will respond equally favourably to the immersive potential of quadrotor shows. But, as with any such nascent tech, we all face many challenges in ensuring these performances are robust and tourable.

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Price hurdles

Perhaps the main hurdle, though, is price. That said, in the same way that screen technologies, projection, LED and media severs were restrictively expensive a few years ago, as drone technology evolves, so too does the cost. This creates a more palatable entry point. Such ‘democratisation’ means drones will soon no longer be limited to those with big budgets.

With techniques like projection mapping becoming creative old hat in a relatively short period of time, drones surely mark a new chapter in live events. As a unique addition to the creative director’s toolkit, they have the potential to bring completely new and original experiences to the live environment.

Technological shift

Despite providing creative directors with more ammunition, quadrotors – and the increasing technologizing of events in general – signal the start of a paradigm shift for the industry. If we’re going to rethink the live experience so that it can better use amazing new tech, we will also have to rethink the structure that underpins the industry.

Choreographers may be able to craft staggeringly beautiful shows of human movement. But do their skills translate to the 360 world of a quadrotor show? I would say not. And the same applies to all other transformative experiential tech where, for example, you can’t simply port traditional filmmaking techniques into virtual or augmented realities.

Of course, events will always benefit from the human touch. But with tech set to dominate top-level events in the coming years, are we now witnessing the shift of power from the creative director to creative coders of the future? When the industry becomes more skilled at creating complex drone performances that can inspire audiences the world over, the transition from creative director to creative coder can’t be far off.

More: Event Tech 2015: Drones, Beacons and VR headsets

13 event tech to watch in 2015

Events and experiential: why they usually mean nothing – part two

Defining experiential and events is the key to success, says Momentum Worldwide’s Fran Elliott.

Fran Elliott, director of Experiential and Events at Momentum Worldwide.

Fran Elliott, director of Experiential and Events at Momentum Worldwide.

The solution…

In my last blog for Event magazine, I had written about the questions that have plagued marketers, brands and experiential practitioners for many years; “What does experiential mean?” “What’s the difference between an event and experiential?” and the reason why both brands and agencies need an industry wide definition. This time, let’s talk about the ‘How’ of this proposal.

Clarity and a standardised understanding of what an event is will actually help an agency help a brand with what they imagine and how they sell it. It empowers us to be single-minded about what we’re offering, and become masters of our discipline. It ensures that talent starting out in the industry sow their seeds in the area that’s right for them. (You’ll be surprised how many candidates I meet whose understanding of “events” is so wildly different to the discipline as we generally create it.)

As an industry, we must agree on what we understand by “event” and use this term in the right context, consistently. Across the board, expectations can be managed, expertise built upon and efficiencies driven. Marketers will be clearer on what they’re getting, agencies will be aligned on what they’re being tasked to deliver and, because this affords the industry the ability to measure more specifically, it paves the way for the live activation channels to sit further upstream when it comes to planning the full brand experience.

I say keep it simple. Know first off that a brand experience is NOT synonymous with experiential or events. It is as big as it sounds: A brand experience is every single aspect of a brand—live and digital—with which any person can come in contact with. It is the sum of the parts.

So if we know brand experience, what’s experiential? It’s an element of brand experience. A piece, and a very essential one. Experiential is basically the part of brand experience that encompasses live interaction. And an event? A specific, staged time and place for that interaction.

All events are experiential. Not all experiential is events. Both are part of the whole that is brand experience. It’s that simple.

If we get it wrong, if we complicate and obscure and use terms interchangeably, we continue to wallow in murky waters where “events” remains inconsistent, hard to measure, and a clunky catch-all robbed of their power.

But if we get this right: With clear, unified definitions of these elements comes focus and efficiency, both inside and outside of the business, which leads to better output and a healthier bottom line. We get clear briefs with easier-to-distinguish objectives and we get employees that are 100% signed-up for the task in hand.

And well, that’ll be an experience to behold in and of itself, won’t it?

Fran Elliott is director of Experiential and Events at Momentum Worldwide.

Events: why they usually mean nothing – part one

The problem…

Events. Experiential. Experience marketing. Only one thing is clear, which is: Not a damn thing is clear. Our industry is confused, and rightfully so.

Fran Elliott, director of Experiential and Events at Momentum Worldwide.

Fran Elliott, director of Experiential and Events at Momentum Worldwide.

What does a client mean when they say they’re looking for a “consumer event?” Do they mean a large, annual expo-type activation like the Ideal Home Show? Or, maybe they mean a roadshow going live at a number of shopping centres nationwide? Both are aimed at consumers, and both are technically events, but are entirely different beasts.

In the context of shopper, an event can entail a seasonal, in-store promotion like “Mother and Baby” POS campaigns in the Big Four. Is a secret pop-up with small-yet-exquisite touch points and an intimate guest list also an event? Is the Super Bowl an event? Are business conferences events?

Oh, and what’s the difference between an event and experiential? Is there a real difference between the two terms, or is “experiential” an interchangeable term used by people who want to sound smart at meetings?

And brand marketers, when your agencies use these terms, are they operating by the same definition as you? Is their definition grander than yours, or more limited? And when faced with discrepancy in that definition, does ANYONE address the elephant in the room—faced with the fear that they might look like the person who doesn’t understand experiential?

Herein lays one of the biggest challenges faced by our industry and ANY business looking to capitalise on the power of live, human interaction (which is to say, EVERY BRAND): the disparate, varied use and misunderstanding of these words.

This isn’t just about semantics. This is about making events mean something, maybe for the first time in the history of your brand. And what’s at stake is the power of live experience which, according to global Momentum research, drives 65% of consumers to recommend brands and 59% to buy.

Why definition is important for brands

Definition empowers marketers to sharpen up their rosters, and ensure that they know what they’re getting when agencies are briefed. If the industry establishes clear definitions of each of its sub-sections, clients will have a clearer understanding of whom the experts actually are in these areas, and place their business accordingly.

They’ll know what they can expect, and from whom they can truly expect the best.

Yes, it is typically part of a creative team’s remit to determine the best response to a brief, but the clients’ expectations (and interpretations) of the discipline need to be streamlined in order to be best managed.

Why definition is important for agencies

Can we all claim to be experts in an area that lacks a consistent definition? Not really. We must establish a standardised terminology before we can claim expertise, and in doing this, we all get to bask in the glow of a new and improved industry.

Fran Elliott is director of Experiential and Events at Momentum Worldwide. Her second guest blog ‘Events: why they usually mean nothing – The Solution’ will follow next week.

The World Cup ‘Experience’

World Cups are the pinnacle of experiential work in the sporting sector. They produce some of the best sports marketing campaigns, but also some of the worst. With England set to host the Rugby World Cup in September, Purity MD, Rob Quinn, views the line-up.

Rob Quinn of Purity

As the six nations draws to a close this weekend, rugby fans around the world will start the countdown to the 2015 Rugby World Cup when England and Wales will play host to the third largest sporting event in the world and hundreds of brands will go head-to-head to capture the attention of the world’s rugby fans.

When the first match kicks off on 18 September and 20 nations begin battle for the title they will do so in front of a global audience of millions. At 48 fixtures, 13 venues and 11 host cities there will be 24 glorious days of the world’s best rugby and some incredible experiential and event work branching out from the stadiums, cities, transport hubs and right across the country.

Official Sponsors

Work is already well underway for the official sponsors, Coca-Cola, Toshiba and Canon as well as for the worldwide partners that include the likes of Heineken, Land Rover and Mastercard, amongst others. Their official status will have bought them unique platforms and opportunities on which to build marketing campaigns that will allow them to reach the enormous audiences that World Cup event’s capture.

Experiential will be pivotal to the marketing campaigns that these huge international brands will have created to engage with consumers across the globe and we can expect to see the marketing industry at its creative best.

Event work for the official sponsors is likely to break new ground in their use of social media at live events to amplify brand messages and in their creation of online experiences for armchair fans.

For every official brand partner there will be a hundred other brands and businesses jostling in a marketing scrum to get a piece of the action and piggy-back what will be the greatest show on earth for six nail-biting weeks.

The Best

To be successful the brands need to connect with the passion people have for the sport, bringing it to life, fully immersing them in the atmosphere and the excitement in order to cut through the promotional clutter and marketing noise generated around the World Cup.

Last year’s FIFA World Cup produced some memorable campaigns from McCoy’s recreation of a local pub in Rio where fans could watch the games in the comfort of their local yet be able step outside and soak up the atmosphere on the streets of Rio. There was also sensory match screenings in the UK that re-produced the sights, sounds and smells straight from Brazil with aromas that evoked everything from the beaches of Brazil to the scent of the celebratory Champagne.

We can expect to see more of these immersive activations as the excitement builds in the run up to September.

The Worst

But World Cup event’s don’t just inspire great work they can also produce some of the worst work I’ve seen. Many brands simply fail to achieve cut through and consequently become part of the promotional clutter that surrounds these global events. In fact, I would estimate that around 60% of marketing around World Cup events fails to engage with the consumer in a memorable way.

A failure to plan properly and create the critical ‘build up’ is also a common cause of unsuccessful campaigns. Activation needs to start months ahead of kick off.

The Tours

For sponsors Land Rover and DHL, activity started back in May 2014 with the Rugby World Cup Tour as the Webb Ellis Cup began to travel the globe building up to its last 100-day tour of the UK and Ireland in June.

Having had the privilege to work on the Olympic Torch relay in 2012 from the very first day in Land’s End to the last in London I know just how inspirational these incredible touring events are and for a brand they tick every box – they engage with consumers in an unique way and create an experience that is never forgotten. They also reach huge audiences – last year’s Coca Cola FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour was one of the biggest ever experiential campaigns with more than a million fans connecting to the tour in 90 countries.

This year’s Rugby World Cup is being widely tipped to be one of the biggest and best yet as well as one of the largest sporting events ever staged in the UK. As a lifelong rugby fan I can’t wait for 18 September when the UK gets the chance to showcase the best rugby on the planet and also the best experiential work. It’s going to be a great year for sports fans and our industry.

Rob Quinn, MD of brand experience agency, Purity

For more opinion on experiential, check out Event’s Blogs channel.

More: Exclusive: Coca-Cola hires RT Marketing for Rugby World Cup

Agency TBA and also Unspun Creative have also won Rugby World Cup contracts.

The power of the unexpected

Surprise and delight. These two all-important buzzwords have been at the heart of experiential marketing since its inception. And indeed, surprise remains one of the most effective tools for marketers.

But it’s 2015, and we are living in an increasingly digital world that ensures we are very rarely caught out. Google Maps lets us know directions, road closures and diversions; Cortana reminds us to pick up some flowers for our ‘significant other’ when we’re next near a florist; we can check out potential employees, friends, partners on various social media platforms prior to meeting them; and Trip Advisor ensures we go to only the highest-rated restaurants and hotels.

Where has the mystery gone?

Whilst no one likes to be caught out, as a human race we are programmed to crave the unexpected. Just recently the Harvard Business Review reported on an experiment ran by scientists at Emory and Baylor that used MRIs to measure changes in human brain activity in response to a sequence of pleasurable stimuli, using water and juice. The patterns of squirts were either predictable or unpredictable, and it was the unpredictable sequences that the reward pathways in the brain responded most strongly to.

Indeed, the whole business models of companies like Graze Box, Birch Box and Secret Escapes, for example, are built around that element of surprise that we yearn for. The feeling that you never know what you’re going to get. Just like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates.

Breaking the internet

In late 2013, Beyoncé nearly broke the internet by releasing her fourth studio album without prior warning. In doing so, she is likely to have garnered more interest than if it was released in the conventional way.

Of course, this same principle works for secret events and unexpected stunts.

Anyone who has ever witnessed a flash-mob, attended a secret event or stumbled upon a spontaneous live stunt in an incongruous location is likely to have later bragged to their friends about their special, unique and unexpected experience. It’s all about feeding people’s desire for social kudos. That “I was there” feeling. Exclusivity. Feeling special. Important, even.

In turn, this chatter breeds ‘FOMO’ (Fear Of Missing Out – a dreaded feeling for millennials in particular) in those unable to attend, prompting them to seek out more news from brands so as not to miss out next time.

With everyone’s lives documented so much (occasionally too much) on social media, people are increasingly craving experiences they haven’t already experienced vicariously through someone else. They are constantly searching for something new and they want to be one of the first to experience it. You need only look at the queues outside your nearest Apple store when the latest iPhone model is released to know this is true.

Creating a spark

Did you know that little surprises fuel passionate relationships? A little good morning text or a spontaneous gift for loved ones (even if you did need Cortana to remind you) can work wonders for keeping the spark alive. An experiment conducted among middle-aged married couples found that engaging in less common and more exciting activities led to greater marriage satisfaction. And, of course, the same rule of thumb applies to consumer-brand relationships. After a while, consumers expect something fresh from brands they support. They will quickly get bored if it all gets a bit formulaic.

My job title at BEcause was recently changed to Director of the Unexpected from Managing Partner due to this growing trend. In today’s world where fresh new experiences are demanded every day by consumers we marketers need to add that little bit more. Keeping on top of the growth in creative live technologies is absolutely essential for this role. How can we use new and emerging event technologies to surprise our consumers, and grant them an experience they would never have expected?

It’s all well and good applying creative rigour to problem solving, but now marketers really need to be seen to be stretching the boundaries, exploring ‘the art of the possible’, and seeing if there is a bright new approach they would not have ordinarily considered.

Joss Davidge, Director of the Unexpected, BEcause

Inside Mobile World Congress

Agency Jack Morton invited Event to shadow its team at Ericsson’s Change-Makers experience – the largest brand space at Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress (MWC). Reporter Katie Deighton shares her very first MWC experience.

I arrived at the north entrance of venue Fira Gran Via after an over-inflated cab ride from the airport. This was my first mistake. Charlotte and Lewis, my Jack Morton contacts, were waiting for me on the other side of the site, which I soon realised was very far away. Gran Via has eight halls, a surface area of 240,000sqm and space for two helipads.

The venue has even installed moving walkways, à la airports, in an attempt to prevent delegates suffering from blisters on their way to a keynote. On my 20-minute journey to the Ericsson experience, I noticed the high-powered visitors at MWC used these as networking areas, often swapping business cards and talking business as they were robotically carried to their next destination.

Stepping into MWC is like walking into a foreign city, with its own laws, streets, suburbs and technology like you wouldn’t believe. Like many stands at MWC, Ericsson had an invite-only policy, allowing access only to current and potential stakeholders in the Swedish tech brand.

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Once my badge had been scanned, I entered what felt like a separate conference in itself. Two pop-up restaurants were serving up plates of American and Asian cuisine (chosen to represent Ericsson’s core markets), while almost 4,000 guests swarmed the space to trial the latest tech in four sections: grow, drive, perform and explore.

Quirky objects were used to demonstrate the theme of each stand: rugby balls, Russian dolls and jelly beans could all be found in the 6,000sqm space. A bleacher-style area acted as a seating area for delegates to sit down and catch up on emails and a stage for keynote speeches. The 30 meeting rooms were all themed around a separate case study of an Ericsson ‘change-maker’, while a VIP balcony area provided a quieter space for top guests to meet and survey the scene from above.

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After I had grabbed some interviews and a bite to eat, Charlotte took me on a quick tour of Hall Three, where big names such as Microsoft, HTC and Samsung had set up shop. If I considered the Ericsson space to be hectic before, I was secretly begging my guide to take me back to that calm oasis. Hall Three was like a club night for tech geeks – all bright colours, flashing lights, DJ sets and even robots.

We then made our way to the Ooredoo stand, which was really designed to be a calm oasis. Here, guests could grab a cold drink or a coffee, network around a digital pond installation or meet in a colourful room upstairs.

I caught a ten-minute snippet of the day’s keynote speech from Ericsson’s chief executive Hans Vestberg before beginning the 20-minute walk back to the north entrance and joining the half-hour queue for a taxi. My six hours spent at MWC are now a crazy blur of computer screens, suited delegates and unexpected 20-degree heat but taught me one thing: this really is an event like no other.