Sector insight: Media brands and their use of experiential

FriendsFest tickets were hot property last September
FriendsFest tickets were hot property last September

Excited by its ability to connect with audiences, brands in the media sector are exploring experiential's enormous potential.

Big names in the media world are branching out from their traditional mediums in order to connect with readers, viewers, listeners and users through experiential.

From traditional newspaper titles such as The Times and The Economist to Sky Movies and the BBC, media brands are realising the potential that experiential offers in building connections with consumers and are investing more in this area of marketing.

Mike Thorne, editor at marketing insight company Pearlfinders, points out that while the existence of large in-house content creation and digital teams at media brands may make agencies think twice about media brands as prospects, their event and experiential budgets continue to rise.

"In fact, nine per cent of all opportunities we identified with media brands in 2015 were for experiential specialists, compared with just four per cent in 2014," he says.

Richard Dodgson, founder and creative director at Timebased Events, agrees there is an increase in the number of media brands adopting experiential marketing tactics to reach out to consumers. "This is because the experiential sphere offers publishers and media brands an opportunity to create unforgettable experiences, and therefore emotional attachment,"he says.

"They gain a tangible presence in readers’ or viewers’ lives, leading to a boost in brand perception, and ultimately sales." 

Creativity in action

Timebased has worked on events for a number of media brands, from Grazia Live to the Vogue Festival. "For Grazia Live we relocated the entire, fully operational Grazia office to Westfield London, where for one week the magazine was laid bare to tens of thousands of passing shoppers," explains Dodgson. "Two areas were rigged with microphones so the general public could hear advice live and hear office activity as it happened, bringing energy and creativity to the whole launch event." 

Dodgson adds that with the Vogue Festival, the entire premise is to give fans of the brand the opportunity to step inside the world of Vogue – something it will be building on in 2016, the brand’s centenary year.

It’s certainly not a once-size-fits-all approach when it comes to media brand activations. Agency Premier, for example, has been experiencing success with its touring stunts and experiences. "For T. Rex Autopsy (National Geographic) we toured a model of a dead T.Rex on a flat-bed truck around London, while most recently we created two glass trucks that housed the Aston Martin DB10 from James Bond’s Spectre, along with props and costumes, which toured the length of the UK," explains creative director Leigh Debbage.

"The huge advantage of this type of stunt is that the exhibits can be photographed in front of any location that we can access, from Buckingham Palace to Westminster. The national press love these landmark shots, while the stunts give the public a sense of incredible excitement when they are lucky enough to witness something on the move. We have had people literally pursuing us in cars, taxis and bikes to get close to our creations," Debbage adds. 

He feels the use of experiential marketing is in a real period of growth within the media sector: "We recently created FriendsFest on Brick Lane for the 21st anniversary of Friends and tickets sold out within
minutes, followed by incredible buzz across all media channels.

"We are being asked by a lot of clients to create similar types of events that bring the public closer to their favourite shows and films. These are undeniably led by social media and we always ensure there are lots of shareable photo opportunities."

Agency The Promotions Factory (Tpf) has also noticed that more and more of its media brand clients are approaching them with regard to live brand experience concepts and how they can engage with consumers outside the traditional media plan. Tpf specialises in promotions, publicity and digital marketing in the areas of TV, sport and entertainment.

According to director Dan Meiland, while traditional advertising often only offers an instant for people to interact with a brand, "with live experiences dwell-time is usually longer, meaning consumers truly engage and will often depart with an item of branded merchandise; alternatively, they will leave their details, enabling future direct communications".

"We’re also noticing social engagement within the experience is becoming more popular. It gives the experience a chance to live well beyond the physical activation and reach out to participants’ social networks, to expand the activity’s reach," he adds. 

Getting the word out

A big challenge for media brands is trying to bring to life a new product or programme that people naturally haven’t heard of before. "You need to get the message across quickly in an entertaining and eye-catching way and leave them knowing what to expect from the new product or offering," says Meiland.

So what other challenges face media brands when it comes to bringing their publication, radio or TV channel to life? For Dodgson it’s about "making it authentic". "Media brands, specifically print, have an established look, feel and tone of voice, and delivering this vision in an event that transforms an unfamiliar venue is difficult. There needs to be a focus on consistency and end-to-end quality control," he says.

For Debbage, however, it’s about assets. "Filmstudios or TV production companies are not always able to share the assets we require to create faithful builds, particularly if we are promoting a home entertainment release and the film-makers have long finished working on the title," he explains.

"Sometimes – as with the Jurassic World mosasaurus we built – we are creating a physical structure from something that was predominantly CGI in the film. However, the more we experience success with stunts like this, the more co-operation we get from the studios, which often leads to those invaluable 3D vector files." 

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