Winning in real-life: Mark Pickering's experiential entry tips

  • Experiential
  • July 8, 2014
  • Mark Pickering
Winning in real-life: Mark Pickering's experiential entry tips

I’ve been fortunate enough to have been asked to judge the Effies, Axis, the Beacons and the TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards, which were all great experiences and have given me some insights in to winning awards, specifically in the PR/Experiential category, which was added as a specific category to the Effies in 2009. So as the gongs from the recent Cannes award nights get cleaned of their champagne and finally take their place in agency and client boardrooms across the country—and with entries now open for the 2014 Effie Awards—I thought it was a good time to offer some tips on putting together an award-winning experiential entry. 

Explain clearly why experiential was chosen as a channel and how it links directly to the business challenge, strategy and overall objectives for the brand. This seems like a no-brainer but the corpses of dozens of entries that haven’t provided this basic information were littering the floors of numerous hotels across Auckland. Make sure that your entry justifies why experiential was chosen as the channel. Was this a stunt to gather earned media, digital or social interactions? Was product trial and/or direct sales the key focus?

As experiential is new to many people in the marketing and advertising game in New Zealand this needs to be explained in detail, both in the response to your client’s brief and in the entry. The general perception in New Zealand remains that experiential campaigns are an ‘add-on’ or small element of a wider creative campaign, so your rationale for using this channel has to be clearly and intelligently laid out in your entry.

Ensure the campaign entered has delivered measurable KPIs and outcomes. The most important part of delivering this comes well before you enter the awards. All experiential campaigns should deliver against KPIs and measurables agreed by the client. You will need to guide the many clients who are new to the experiential channel and work through some key deliverables for them. Consumer engagement numbers, depth of engagement measures, attitudinal and awareness measures are all elements to be considered when setting up objectives for your experiential campaign. These should all then be compared and reported in your entry, along with the standard marketing data such as sales and brand tracking. I have seen a number of entries this year where absolutely no results were mentioned in an entry or when the results don’t match the KPIs outlined in the strategy. Some entries have no KPIs or results at all. 

Does your campaign have an experiential idea as the core creative or strategic thought? Then enter it in the experiential category. So many entries have passed my eyes that have a significant part of the campaign (and in some cases the core idea) being led by the experiential element. Even if the focus of the experiential idea was to drive people to a social, PR, traditional or digital media channel, enter it in the experiential category. There has been a lack of experiential entries in recent years as the writers of the entries fail to have a wider understanding of the experiential category and focus on their core areas of knowledge – digital, PR or a wider traditional media idea. An effective campaign with experiential as a core element will also be welcomed in this category, especially if it has delivered tangible results and linked its outcomes directly to the marketing strategy and objectives.

Integrate with internal stakeholders and other media channels. The best experiential campaigns are those that are tightly integrated with other channels to amplify the emotional engagement created through the activations. Digital and social are frequently used to create further platforms for consumers to engage with the brand and the activation and to help it ‘live outside’ the event moment. These channels also allow for further sentiment and engagement measurement as consumers continue to engage with the project and share or continue the dialogue. Both platforms also allow for the broadcasting and sharing of video and photo content, something consumers constantly desire to share and interact with. Similarly PR and radio are other great channels to share this content and to broadcast the great stories coming from the brand activations.

Experiential also needs the support of other stakeholders within the business and because of it’s fun and ‘live’ aspect it has the ability to really motivate other teams and parts within the brand’s wider business. Think how it might have affected the culture of an organisation or been used to bring the wider business and its staff in to the campaign. This is particularly relevant with sponsorship leverage campaigns.

Overall, be clear and intelligent in why and what it was that you did. To reiterate: as a new channel to the Kiwi marketing and advertising landscape it takes more information than usual to justify your choice of experiential as a creative idea and strategy, so make sure your thinking is clear and measured and that your KPIs and results are well explained and compared to industry norms. 

  • Mark Pickering is chair of EMANZ (The Experiential Marketing Association of NZ), a founding member of the CAANZ PREScom (PR, Experiential and Social Media Committee) and founder and creative strategist at experiential agency Fluxx

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