How the event industry foresees its future: Aniket Sharma
Agencies have very quickly upgraded themselves with virtual technologies in bringing the brand experiences alive writes Aniket Sharma, Co-founder and Head- Strategic Planning, 121XP.
Experiences that reach the consumers directly in a very physical tangible way is the sheer core of experiential marketing event industry. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all final leg business and we are no different. All on-ground experiences be it large or small format events, rural or urban activations, or even retail & shopper driven experiences have been shelved or postponed or moved to digital forms.
Nearly all of the brands have been directly impacted and caused for all business to a sudden unplanned discontinuance, needless to say it is going to have a direct impact on all marketing and advertising efforts and budgets which will directly impact the dependent experiential agencies. What won’t help the experiential agencies cause is the fact that for most brands experiential is an afterthought decided by the left-over budgets after spending on traditional media channels. Add to that nobody has any clarity when the ordeal will be over and what is the maturation period for the consumers to be back into action. It could be anything from 6 months to 18 months for things to regularize.
In such unsettled scenarios, the challenge of survival for the small and medium independent (including startups) organization remains pivotal and real. Not just the smaller independent agencies but the future of the experiential SBU’s in bigger group organizations will also be in jeopardy and will definitely attract shrinkage. The threat of role redundancy for the staff, unit, and SBU’s as a whole is as real as it has ever gotten. Clarity on the revised experiential plans from the brand partners for the year are going to be extremely crucial for annual agency prospecting and planning. Price wars to win accounts post the pandemic are a real threat too and can have devastating impact on the industry as a whole. The last but not the least challenge I would want to highlight (like in any other business) is about the rolling of money. Smooth operations especially in this industry depend on healthy rolling of cash flows. Current disruption has also affected the client pay-outs cycles and monies have been put on hold till offices and businesses resume. Delays in these outstanding payments are further complicating things for the experiential frat.
Currently, the event and experiential agencies are in the process of identifying with our client problems and trying their best to predict the new normal patterns and acting accordingly to pivot to newer solution for the newer problems in an attempt to drive the business of clients back in action like in the previous normal.
Transitory after the pandemic- most event agencies have very swiftly pivoted to virtual event experiences. Since the social distancing norms and fears make the possibility of public held events almost impossible the virtual formats are taking over. Agencies have very quickly upgraded themselves with virtual technologies in bringing the brand experiences alive. The brands themselves have pivoted to virtual launches for their idea pipelines. Not just do the brands have adjusted to this new normal the savings compared to the physical event is making it economical and scalable in the current times. While for the current times the virtual solutions are working for the agencies and brands alike, however, the virtual experiences will be a short-lived phenomenon in my professional opinion. The need to physically socialise will drive us all to come back to stronger than ever after the vaccine becomes a reality. Most of the industry peers and client colleagues can't wait for normal times to come back again and ditch these virtual experiences for good. Apart from the virtual experiences agencies and brands are also experimenting with social-distancing event ideas. Drive-in concerts are becoming a thing in Europe and we are not far away from seeing one of such experiences being brought to life really soon to India as well.
So yeah times are tough, and will continue to be for a while, but hang in there. If businesses can find a way to sustain themselves for the next 6-8 months, they will be in a good position to write their own covid-and-back success stories.
Last but not the least, the event industry has taught us all one thing: Jugaad. And this jugaad is what should give all of us the confidence to find and seize newer normal opportunities and making the most of these dire circumstances.
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