Brands have frozen experiential spends and may divert funds to other mediums: Rahi Shaikh, Director, BOI Media & Entertainment

A complete recovery is a distant horizon for now, but we need to be positive, says Shaikh.


The need of the hour for experiential marketing agencies is to stay relevant and connected with their brands and clients. A new chapter has unfolded for these companies which requires them to be agile and adapt to newer brand expectations.

We spoke to Rahi Shaikh, Director, BOI Media & Entertainment Pvt. Ltd about the impact of this pandemic on experiential agencies and the road to recovery.

Excerpts from the interview: 

What has been the impact of Covid on experiential marketing business? 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the novel coronavirus as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.  The declaration served notice to all United Nations members stating that the world’s top health advisory body thinks the situation is “serious.”

Since Experiential Marketing is in the direct line of business the industry was one of the  first to face the brunt of this economic turmoil.  

We are facing challenging times, as all gatherings Meeting, Incentives, Conferences, Seminars and Travel stands postponed for future dates or cancelled, this in turn has created a dent on our bottom and top line for the industry  as a whole.

Planning a series of decisive actions to counter the crises and stay afloat would help the agency to emerge more dynamic and efficient once the crisis is over.

Do you think brands will continue to cut down on experiential spends in a big way? 

Six months of peak business period has already passed. Brands have frozen spends and they realised the situation is not going to be resolved soon. Also, there are no avenues to spend the experiential marketing budgets other than planning & executing virtual events for now. 

Brands are already looking at other mediums to connect with their stakeholders, employees  and consumers. Unless new avenues are innovated by the industry, brands would divert the funds to other mediums of advertising and marketing.

What are some of your biggest learnings from the current situation?

As a business owner, the first learning was better financial planning for better cash flow to sustain prolonged crisis, maybe to have several or at least one alternative businesses in parallel. Agencies should also emerge as value partners to brands rather than vendors, this helps brands to stay connected with the agencies for any alternative solutions or even new businesses. Staying relevant consistently with your client is the need of the hour. 

What are some of your suggestions for smaller agencies? How can  they deal with this situation effectively?

As Martin Luther king rightly said “We must accept finite disappointment, but must never lose infinite hope.” 

Downsize, diversify and click the reset button on your current business. Take this time to implement learnings, correct the needs and prepare to emerge as a more dynamic agency when the crisis begins to wane out. It’s just a matter of time, this phase shall pass too & we as an industry will surely bounce back in a big way. There is no better way to communicate brand life cycle than doing experiential marketing. Stay put and try staying strong. 

What are some of the new initiatives that you have undertaken to deal with the current situation?

We took a pause, since in our busy schedule we had forgotten a lot of things around, this situation made us think and reset a lot of systems. We too did downsizing, also we are tactically diversifying into new verticals and a series of decisive actions on all aspects of the business to emerge as a better service provider. 

Have the brand expectations from experiential agencies undergone any shift in this new normal?

Brands are expecting agencies to innovate and find alternate mediums to connect with their consumers and teams, grooming clients on newer technology use. Virtual events and using it as a tool for brands to stay connected is one such aspect agencies are successful in implementing. 

Experiential agencies are best poised to also take on the digital realm in a new and meaningful way to the brands. Many projects that were  dependent on live experiences are already being implemented online. As an experiential agency we need to bring a lot of new ideas and thoughts on board for all clients which also could sustain even after the situation gets normal.

In your view, how will the road to recovery pan out for experiential agencies? 

Systematic recovery is in the pipeline, the central government has already issued a directive for micro gathering, domestic leisure travel is poised to take off. There is some silver lining as we see innovative ways live events are being conducted. Agencies should learn, adapt and groom their clients on the possibilities.

A complete recovery is a distant horizon for now but we need to be positive.

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