As evidenced by the gallery section of The PR Net site, events and experiential productions have been buzzing all summer. It’s great to see brands bring their communities together IRL, and it’s been especially nice for us to bring our members together in person across multiple markets. We checked in with some of the event pros in our network for a behind-the-scenes look at the state of the industry, from attendee sentiment to the latest trends to know.
Sports Illustrated Swimsuit On Location, 3CS
“Consumers are craving IRL experiences now more than ever – after being stuck at home for so long, they have missed not only the human connection but emotional engagement with brands,” says Chelsea Wilson, founder and CEO of 3CS Productions. “People want to reconnect and share their experiences through their social channels. We’re seeing clients get comfortable spending on experiential again, and are confident that the focus on experiential is only going to grow.”
Brands are only too eager to accommodate consumers’ desires for IRL connection. Jed Weinstein, founder and CEO of Rise & Set shares, “As the world has gradually opened back up post pandemic, brands are hoping to make up for lost time. We, like all those in our industry, have had to improvise and adapt to the ever changing mandates and COVID protocols. While this has been challenging it has opened up new opportunities for creativity within these guidelines.”
He continues, “We have been fortunate to have been able to travel again and execute all of our clients' needs. The team recently spent time in Memphis working alongside Warner Bros. for the release of Baz Luhrmann's, ELVIS. We hosted a group of content creators at Graceland for an amazing weekend of activations, content shoots and unique events. Our guests were given once in a lifetime filming access at Elvis’ house at Graceland, visited his favorite Memphis hotspots and much more. The trip presented unique challenges in coordinating domestic and international flights for guests with continued uncertainty about changes in travel into the United States. It was incredible to be part of such a special experience involving the entire cast of the film, Elvis’ family and the first stateside screening of the movie."
Elvis in Memphis, Rise & Set
Alexandra Jensen, Tinsel Experiential Design's head of creative production, shares a similar sentiment. “After our industry has navigated the ups and downs of the pandemic and its variants, this fall feels like we are truly back in action and as busy as ever,” she says. The desire for in-person experiences remains insatiable with an exciting reconsideration of how ‘we've always done things.’ There is a feeling of optimism for what is to come.”
Needless to say, event producers have their work cut out for them. Forging unique, exciting and authentic connections between a brand and the consumer takes creativity and imagination; a photo moment alone will no longer cut it.
“D2C brands create beautiful campaigns, but how are they connecting with their consumers?,” asks Tamalin Srisook, founder of Savoir Agency. “For over a decade, I've worked with multinational agencies and brands (YouTube, Blue Shields, Unilever, Lululemon, etc.) to successfully create unique and immersive experiences for their consumers. Lately, I’ve been finding myself describing this process to clients as experience designing.”
Feel Good Series at Lunya powered by Dosist, Savoir Agency
“Brands are excellent at being visually appealing and creating beautiful photo opportunities, but I’m not seeing them interact with their communities in meaningful ways on the ground,” she continues. “A common mistake I've seen lately: campaigns lacking a well thought out consumer journey experience. We see transformed spaces that look amazing online, but the 360-degree experience is not there. Once the photo is taken, then what? Are you discovering what your customers are actually interested in? Are you generating experiences that build brand loyalty? This is an opportunity for brands, especially D2C, to identify, understand and engage their audience. Think of a focus group, but larger and more impactful – this is experiential marketing, which allows your brand to create lasting impressions and interactions and influence their perception that you can’t get through traditional advertising. Offline events are becoming more and more important for brands. Most audiences are digital savvy and won't attend events that don't offer something extra in the form of special experiences or exclusive content.”
Creating in-person experiences requires a different strategy than for digital, of course, but the online aspect remains an important one for guests. “We keep seeing trends in the event world where social media is part of the celebration, before (during the planning process), during the event and, of course, after the event happens.” says Anirays Camino, CEO of Wepah Events. “Even for private events, clients ask our event coordinators to print a sign or banner where guests can see the custom hashtag that identifies the party as well as their Instagram handle. It is definitely a very important part of the exposure the company gets when launching a product.”
Rolls Royce & Gucci celebrate Elena Cardone’s birthday, Wepah Events
Among other trends: location, location, location. Bronson van Wyck, founder of WORKSHOP (a Van Wyck & Van Wyck sister agency), shares that “Miami and Palm Beach have become new hotspots for luxury minded weddings, events and activations, driven by a slew of new residents and major events driving even greater interest in these destinations, such as the inaugural Formula 1 Miami and AmfAR Palm Beach Gala that we activated at this year. AmfAR Palm Beach was the first time the iconic non-profit organization hosted a fundraiser here, and so we wanted to marry the best of AmfAR’s art and humanitarian heritage with the location – producing an elevated open-air dinner with nods to Palm Beach through tropical foliage, design elements and bold colors.”
He continues, “New York is also back and thriving with new design and hospitality hotspots opening, such as the new Ritz-Carlton New York, Nomad location. We’ll also be focusing on translating the intimate ambience and hospitality of smaller events into larger consumer facing activations and entertainment driven experiences moving forward.”
Ritz-Carlton New York, Nomad. Courtesy of BFA.com / Yvonne Tnt
People are definitely traveling and enjoying their lives out and about, though they know the health risks are still around. Dera Lee, founder of Dera Lee Productions, says the onus is on brands and event producers to create something worth taking that risk. “People want to create lasting memories, live in the present, be mindful and are grateful to be alive, so as we develop strategies, we always ask ourselves: ‘How does this activation celebrate life and create a lasting memory for the guests?’”
One key trend she's seeing to achieve that is “more intimate experiences that allow guests to express themselves, lead to inclusion and showcase their own personality celebrating who they are. Another trend of note for Dera’s team: “design and fabrication that requires less waste and using more sustainable matter. Any leftover food or materials are being donated and not wasted.”
About-Face Beauty at Lollapalooza (Courtesy Sean Smith), Dera Lee Productions
BMF founding partner Brian Feit says their team is increasingly focused on that value piece. “We’re seeing a trend of clients seeking quality over quantity,” he says. “They’re looking for smaller intimate moments – with a higher price per person – focused on a richer guest experience and richer content opportunities. We’re also seeing more and more clients seeking integrated support for their events, connecting all the dots at BMF to make these events really stand out – including strategy, PR, social, and influencer marketing, etc.”
Finally, the power of partnership is a big one for brands working to foster relationships with consumers. Zach Perles, director of business development at Industria Creative, calls out collaboration as an overarching event-world trend. “We are seeing a number of clients coming to us with hopes of creating partnership opportunities with other like-minded brands. Whether that is tapping into our deeper roster of client partners or engaging in work to identify and create partnerships – many brands are looking to compound their efforts via smart, strategic alliances in order to create even fuller, more robust engagement moments for audiences. And, while there is still much to learn, we are of course also seeing increased interest in developing experiences in the Metaverse as clients look to reach audiences in both the physical and digital realms.”
In sum, creating connections is a key consideration for event producers all over the world, and the best in the business are thinking far outside the digital box to achieve this.