State of the experiential nation

I was lucky enough to recently attend the largest Event &
Experiential Marketing summit in the world in Chicago. I immersed myself
in three days of learning with over 500 others from around the world
and came away feeling a whole bunch of things: inspired (absolutely),
brain whipped (definitely), and connected (in a myriad of ways). But
mostly I feel charged up about the future of the industry in New

When I told people in Chicago that there are only a handful of full
service experiential agencies in New Zealand the reaction was one of
shock. Then when I explained that there are only around 4.5 million
people in our country the shock quickly turned into a lot of hooting and
thigh slapping, which I tried to not take personally.

industry in the US is nearly twenty years old versus our eight years and
the potential for growth here is massive. Clearly the answer to
achieving this growth is not just that we need to quadruple the
population of New Zealand (although that would be useful). No, the
answer is in fact mostly about further education of our advertising,
media and communications industry.

Both myself and a handful of
pioneering experiential colleagues have dedicated many hours to building
a strong foundation for the experiential and event marketing industry
over the past few years. We are now getting traction with award-winning
and hugely successful campaigns. Along with this, our work at the
Marcomms Leadership Group (MLG) at CAANZ has included enthusiastically
received initiatives such as the 2011 MLG International Speakers Forum
on Experiential Marketing. Awareness and increased credibility is making
the wider comms world now look up and take notice.

However, I am
conscious there is much to do and more clarity needed around the benefit
of experiential and event marketing, and in particular around measures
of success. This area is one that is needed for both clients and broader
comms agencies to genuinely engage with us as an industry.

On the
Wednesday night at the Chicago Summit I met and chatted over a drink
with a woman called Molly O’Donnell. Molly was an engaging, fun,
straight-talking New Yorker. She also happened to head up some of the
biggest experiential programmes for Microsoft globally.

insights into the value and importance of experiential and event
marketing programmes for Microsoft were phenomenal and humbling.



Microsoft won the Grand Ex Award this year (check the other winners here)
for their mind-blowing campaign for ‘Call of Duty’. The campaign,
‘There’s a Soldier in All of Us’, involved a 16 acre site, 10,000 gamers
and a $1 million prize booty for the top gamer, the King of the Hill.

site brought seven parts of the Xbox Call of Duty into the real world
with the experiences ripped straight from the game. Think hardcore races
on army jeeps around an extreme course complete with explosions and zip
lines between zones. And then there were of course the multiple gaming
zones for competition, all so beautifully crafted and with the most
stunning lighting design it made me want to weep.

You could say Molly and Microsoft ‘get’ experiential.

the results weren’t only based on 10,000 people having an experience
they will never forget. Nope. The results were based on 2.4 billion PR
impressions (that’s with a ‘b’, people), 175 million Facebook
impressions, 21.5 million media impressions and 10 million Twitter

And did it translate to sales? Well you could say
US$1 billion in sales in six days was, in Microsoft’s own eyes, a pretty
welcome measure of success.

And my second favourite measure of
success? The launch rates on Facebook as one of the Top Ten global
topics of all time—the only entertainment topic in that list. And
intriguingly, it is the #2 live stream event of all time. That means it
beat Obama’s inauguration. The only live stream event that had more
watchers was Will and Kate’s royal wedding.

This campaign wasn’t
just about 10,000 attendees, it was about the key influencers that
attended the event feeling compelled to share the experience.

we don’t all have the budget of Microsoft. In most cases that’s beyond
most brands’ reach. However what is within reach is the ability for
social media and digital programmes to launch compelling, shareable live
concepts to influencers who will then propagate positive brand messages
out to a massive, eagerly waiting bunch of their fans.

So after
those three full days of inspiration, ideas and connections what does
that mean for me? For my agency? For the NZ industry?

My belief is
that right now we are doing a good job of creating engaging
experiential and event marketing programmes, some of these world class.
But the rest of the world is already well immersed in the magic of the
experience. New Zealand is well on its way but in order to deliver
results for our brands and achieve growth in our industry we need to
broaden our thinking and our strategic approach to include brilliant
ideas with very clear measures of success.  Only then will we go from
good to great. And great is the place where we will really experience

  • Megan Clark is managing director of Copper Brand
    Experiences and chair  & founding member of the Marcomms Leadership
    Group, CAANZ.

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