SXS Events

  • 2015 Trend Statement

2015 Trend Statement

2015 is looking like an exciting year for the live events and experiential industries.

The UK seems to be well and truly out of the recession and the general sentiment from brands and agencies alike is very enthusiastic, optimistic and motivated. In this piece I will cover a few key areas of change as well as offer my thoughts and observations on other matters I see as important in the next 12 months.

Economic Climate

Whilst UK growth may still be quite low, I am confident that that we are in the early stages of a boom in live event activity. Budgets are still tight, but I believe that this is because clients are looking for value and therefore expect to receive significantly more for their money. This is making them consider further to which elements of the marketing mix budgets are allocated. So where do events fit into this?

Experiences as part of the marketing mix

I have always felt that when well executed,  experiential events can present excellent value for money compared with conventional above-the-line  marketing techniques. A great event can gain enthusiastic and therefore significant consumer engagement, receive free press coverage, go viral on social media channels and convey a brand value or simply get product in front of potential consumers – all in a way that above-the-line methods are unlikely to achieve. However, if badly executed, a live event can fail and can even present a risk to a brand.

In 2015 I believe that we will see experiential events become an even more recognised element within the marketing mix by brands and clients in all sectors. This will lead to more substantial budgets which will in return open the creative floodgates for agencies and teams such as SXS Events. This is an exciting time!

We have already seen many of the more traditional advertising agencies launch experiential departments – something which I am certain of which we will see more this year.

It is important to look at recent history as well. In the 90’s everyone was excited about having their first website. In the noughties it was all about social media. In both of these cases there were many examples of brands building irrelevant and often inharmonious sites and social media campaigns. Sometimes these were not well thought through, did not fit into a clear and engaging strategy and were done out of an odd sense of marketing obligation. I think that live events could become a victim of this too. So how do we avoid this?

As event professionals we all need to focus on a concept that I am constantly teaching our team members at every level: “The Why”. Why is the client having the event? Why are they really having the event? What do they want from the event? What do they really want from the event? Is an event the right way of helping an overall marketing strategy? Those questions might all seem to be the same, but they are not. Probably the most important thing I have learnt in recent years is that the motivation for producing an event are often not clear and the reasons a client may give rarely reflect the true motivational driver for activity. Rather than just sell something exciting, or flogging gimmicks we need to start with understanding “The Why” and then find ways of getting our events to tie in with this.

Social Media & Associated Technology

There has been a lot of flutter in social media around events. I have seen many interesting ways of using the numerous social media platforms to interest guests and consumers. Our team have also developed interactive sports experiences which link to social media, developed RFID systems and provided many tweet walls.

This is an area that is in a great deal of flux right now. I don’t think that social media engagement in events is going to experience a revolution in the near future – instead people will continue to post status updates, images and geo-location data of the events in which they are involved. . Brands are given the opportunity to share content showing the experiences around their events. If these posts are in line with the brand image and message we should see this as a good result. So to give guests and consumers something to post we need to create visual messaging that they can share. This can be as simple as ensuring event spaces are “selfie-friendly” and that lighting is suitable for camera phone shots. Other simple things to consider are to have ample “step and repeat” style walls available, have brand imagery strategically placed so it shows in most photos, and to have appropriate social media call to actions within an event environment.

Where possible it is ideal to facilitate the posting with guests and give them the content in a package that we prefer. When we built a large sport experience platform for a major shoe brand the system was able to upload data from the consumer’s performance around an assault course onto their twitter feed. This gave them bragging rights of their achievements as well as posted up content in line with the brand identity.

Interactive Tech

These days most people have seen impressive video mapping or one of the many holographic techniques online. Televised events like The Brits, The Oscars, Superbowl half-time and Eurovision all have some seriously impressive production that is portrayed well on TV. Because of this it is harder to impress people with technology at events, yet our guests are expecting to see this same high level of production. What we need to ask ourselves is “what can we give in a live environment that cannot be experienced on TV or YouTube?”. The answer to this is immersion and interactivity. Rather than just mapping content onto a building we are making that content responsive. Rather than just having a holographic effect, people need to be able to walk through it, or see an interpretation of themselves on the screen. Recently SXS have been using motion and laser sensors to trigger content playback. We have also used laser sensors to trigger special effects in such a way that the guest is passively controlling the experience.   For example on a recent project our Aquila rain curtain was turned off upon a guest’s approach to allow them to pass through – it then turned back on again once they had passed through.

We have also been pioneering in the use of gesture recognition technology. Systems like Xbox Kinect have been around for some time, but newer technology allows for more precise hand gesture control. Mix this with water screens and our HOLOX holographic solution and we have some astounding visual experiences for guests in 2015.

Print & Signage

This is a field of production in which I have seen a mini revolution recently. In the past we spent endless hours proofing, sampling, reproofing, receiving, checking, installing and finishing printed graphics. This is highly skilled work, costly, fiddly and has little last-minute flexibility. Instead we are now using video screen technologies extensively to show signage and media.

For example, at the majority of conferences and fashion shows where we may have typically used printed or fabric covered backdrop we are now building large LED video walls. Our recent purchase of a 3.75mm pixel pitch LED wall allows us to provide these services at a price point that most major clients can afford.

Digital signage is also becoming commonplace. Where we may previous have used a foamex print we are now using LCD video screens. With screen sizes from 17” up to 84” in stock these high-definition screens are a more flexible and often more cost-effective way of showing content.

Venue Options

In the early days of my career most events were held either in marquees or hotel ballrooms. In the past year I have seen clients who want to create a really memorable experience seek out and use much more interesting venues – a trend that I am sure will continue. We have recently worked in aircraft hangars, in open-cut mines, wind tunnels, dis-used warehouses and empty shop units. Such unusual spaces give a lasting visual memory which, when aligned with the brand message and experience, can be immensely engaging. Of course the traditional venue options have their place and the majority of our work still takes place in these venues.

In summary 2015 will be an exciting time to be in events and there are a lot of opportunities for brand to do some incredibly engaging campaigns.

About the author:

Johnny Palmer is the founder and Managing director of SXS Events.  The company started in 1998 as a provider of mobile discos and is now a multi-million-pound production company providing services around the globe.  Johnny is a passionate engineer, designer, inventor and general lover of all things tech and creative.