A fifth (20%) of agencies have or plan to open an overseas office this year, with the US being the most popular destination, according to our survey for the Brand Experience Report 2017. We spoke to some of those agencies to find out where they heading to in 2017 and why.
Sense is one example of a brand experience agency that has recently opened an office across the Atlantic. While the move was client-led, the region has a great deal to offer, as Nick Adams, managing director of Sense, points out: "Our decision to set up Sense NYC at the end of last year was very much driven by a key client. Beyond this we saw a positive longer-term business opportunity as a number of other existing clients also have a significant presence in the US. New York is where our founding client is based and also home to many other multi-national organisations, so it was the obvious choice.
"Beyond our specific circumstances, generally speaking, we believe more and more brands are moving towards consistent strategies and creative execution across major markets. Secondly, US audiences are particularly receptive to experiential marketing, the impact and direct nature of our specialism being of real relevance in such a large market where cut through is the biggest challenge."
The US also has a mature market for B2B brand experiences, according to Chris Cavanaugh, chief marketing officer at Freeman. "Brand experiences in North America are a primary marketing channel for B2B communications – most B2B companies spend the majority of their marketing budget on live experiences. The technology sector, for example, has a large number of user conferences that are growing in importance. There is a trend towards the festivalisation of events in the B2B space where entertainment and technology are infused along with traditional rich content from keynote speakers and product demos, which create more of a festival environment."
For agency Brand Brewery, Dubai will be a key focus this year. Oliver Adams, business services director at Brand Brewery, says: "Experiential and the event industry as a whole is maturing in Dubai. Ten years ago it might have been about who can do the biggest event or who has the biggest budgets, but what we are seeing now is increased thought, strategy and creative standards. This has probably come about due to the talent that is being attracted to the region, both on client and agency side. It should also be said that Dubai is a place where you can make things happen. There is still an element of the ‘World’s First’ but the sense that you can bring any idea to life in Dubai rings true and that makes it an exciting place to practice the art of true experiential."
Japan promises to be a significant market in the coming years, too. Speaking about global plans, Garry Dods, managing director at WeAreFearless, reveals: "We will be focused around priority markets that host big global sponsorships – FIFA World Cup, Rugby World Cup etc – as well as markets where our clients need our help the most. These would typically be the main five to six European markets with extra focus on Japan due to the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and the Olympics in 2020."
Thailand is a fertile ground for participation, making it an attractive opportunity for activating and creating brand experiences, according to Graham van der Westhuizen, managing director of Iris Bangkok. The agency expanded into Thailand in May, which is its seventh office in the Asia-Pacific region. Van der Westhuizen explains: "Consumers in developing markets are more interested in participating with brands compared to those in developed markets. They’re more curious about how brands can entertain, educate and connect them, compared to more marketing-mature markets. As a result, they’re more inclined to recommend them to others."
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