NZME launches events and experiential divisions, looks to take brands to the people

Nothing is what it seems any longer in the media industry. Telcos are becoming broadcasters, radio networks are becoming TV stations, and now publishers are becoming event organisers.

Following on from a similar move by Fairfax in July last year, NZME has now announced the launch of NZME Events and NZME Experiential in a bid to further consolidate its business in these two areas. 

According to a release, NZME Events is dedicated to producing world-class business, lifestyle and live entertainment experiences for clients. And while the department has now been given a name and a discrete identity, event organising is by no means new to NZME.

The company already produces business events such as the Deloitte Top 200 and Mood of the Boardroom, lifestyle events such as the Viva Sessions and three regional home shows, the community-led Pride of New Zealand Awards, as well as the iHeartRadio concert series.

And if Carolyn Luey, the group strategy and operations director at NZME, has her way, then we’ll likely see more events added to that list. 

“NZME Events will produce premiere experiences that are powerful vehicles for advertisers and that can deliver significant social and economic impact to the community,” said Luey.

This new national division will be managed by the newly appointed group events director Ash Lomberg, who has since August 2014 served as the head of digital marketing solutions at the conglomerate. Luey credits Lomberg as being integral to the acquisition and delivery of the Deloitte Top 200 when it became available last year following former owner MediaWeb’s folding.

The other division, NZME Experiential, will led by Mike Lane, who has until now worked as the head of branding engagement.

Lane, who was one of the founding members of the Beige Brigade, joined NZME off the back of the success of the Alternative Commentary Collective (ACC), which resulted in cricket fans actually paying attention to what commentators had to say about the game.

Lane also applies the creativity that spawned the ACC to his role at NZME, and he says that this has already proven a successful approach.    

“Advertisers here and all over the world are hungry for innovation, audiences demand it and that’s what we excel at,” said Lane in a release. “We have the ability to take national brands to the heart of local communities across 26 markets and we never lose sight of delivering on our clients’ competitive objectives, which is why experiential has seen 46 percent year-on-year growth in 2014 for NZME.”

Experiential marketing offers a means by which to connect directly with consumers on the ground, and NZME chief executive Jane Hastings says that this type of engagement is becoming increasingly important.  

“It’s a highly competitive market and our clients need disruptive ways to stand out and get results. Given the strength of our audiences and brands combined with the power of our insights team it was a natural extension for us to lead the expansion into the experiential and events spaces.”

Fairfax similarly saw this as a natural progression last year when it diversified its offering by launching a specialist national events division, which was initially incorporated to manage Fairfax’s events, which include Round the Bays, Central District Field Days, NZ CEO and CFO Summits, Sustainable 60 Awards and the Women of Influence Awards.

Given the value in experiential advertising, Fairfax has over the last few months hosted several experiential activations at Auckland events in a bid to reach the audience that is still loyal to the Herald.

In November last year, Stuff hosted an activation at Art in Dark, which  saw event attendees queue in long lines to enter the Stuff tent to get a shot at literally creating art in the dark. Once inside the tent, Kiwis would be given LED glowsticks and were then told to draw or write in the air. These actions were then captured using long-exposure photography, resulting in a host of creative images.

More recently, Stuff introduced complementary WiFi to the NRL Auckland Nines as part of its sponsorship of the event. Once logged into the WiFi, users got immediate access to the Live League Blog being updated throughout the day by the Stuff editorial team. According to Fairfax spokesperson Emma Carter, the event led Stuff’s highest mobile numbers for a Sunday in the publication’s history.

And while these two experiential stunts were predominantly initiated for the purposes of marketing Stuff in Auckland, they also serve to showcase the experiential capabilities of Fairfax—and this is something that brands might want to take advantage of.

In much the same way that Vodafone and Spark are now competing as digital entertainment providers as well as telcos and as brands such as The Rock and Radio Hauraki now double as YouTube entertainers and radio stations, NZME and Fairfax are now taking their competition to a new platform.      

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