Events are back, and so is experiential marketing. But after taking an initial hit during the pandemic, the discipline looks different as it reemerges.
Momentum, part of Interpublic Group, is adapting to the shift. Over the last year, the experiential agency has hired 22 new creatives, culminating with the appointment of Patrick Bennett as executive creative director of the New York office on Tuesday.
Bennett comes from iCrossing, where he was executive creative director, and prior to that Ogilvy, Digitas and R/GA. His background in media and digital was appealing for Momentum, which is seeking to hire outside of the confines of experiential marketing as the discipline adapts.
“We've always talked about the merging of physical and digital and social, but the pandemic lit a fire underneath that,” said James Robinson, chief creative officer at Momentum Worldwide. “How do we take the skills we've learned in this period and build on them? It means bringing in new talent like Patrick who straddle the world of experiential, digital, media and social to bring all of that together.”
Despite event marketing declining 15% in 2020, according to media research firm PQ Media, Momentum managed to execute successful virtual events, including Verizon’s 5G Fortnite stadium for Super Bowl LV and an interactive content experience for GM at CES 2021.
The agency is currently working with Verizon on a hybrid experience for the NFL season kick off in the fall, as well as with American Express around the US Open.
The rise of hybrid experiences has required Momentum to hire talent with backgrounds in different areas such as film, UX/UI, social media and creative technology to execute on client demands. “Being able to flex across multiple solutions is what we need,” Robinson said.
As they head back into the market, brands want to continue benefiting from the scale of virtual events, but they are “chomping at the bit” to get back to IRL, he added.
For hybrid events to be successful, however, virtual audiences have to be incorporated into the experience in a meaningful way. “It’s that ability to interplay between those worlds that makes it so interesting,” Robinson said.
Given the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, clients are planning experiential campaigns with a hint of caution, and want the ability to pivot to fully virtual or in-person based on the circumstances.
“We're trying to be very conscious that the situation is fluid and can continue to shift,” Robinson said.