Last week I attended BEA World Festival – the international festival of events and live communication – in Porto. It was my first time attending the event in either its previous incarnation, as the EuBEA Awards, or with its new geographically-enhanced identity. I was attending on the recommendation of a friend who participated as an award nominee last year and highlighted the value of the awards process. It was with this endorsement reverberating in my mind that I decided to attend.
The first day focused on the award nominations and was the highlight for me. To have the opportunity to peer through the window into other sectors and different event types, and view entries from agencies across the globe, was a fantastic learning journey. BEA use a unique format to present the awards. Each entrant had nine minutes to present their case study – three minutes via video, then three minutes presentation (without slides) followed by three minutes Q&A from the jury and the floor. Sitting through these concisely-timed pitches I was exposed to a wide range of very well-constructed and executed live communications, both in their presentations and the event content they were showcasing. The over-arching takeaway was that creativity had been the driver and differentiator of what, in some cases, were very traditional business challenges and projects. Creativity had pushed the boundaries and expectations of the audiences, and the clients, to create unique experiences that delivered against commercial objectives. Some of my favourites included:
Brand Show @ Audi Summit 2017: Automotive excellence on a grand scale, moving Audi away from the traditional automotive channels to position them as the premium digital car company.
Covestro Innovation Celebration: The key messages of a company rebrand were delivered simply but effectively using a style of execution to challenge the perceptions and expectations of the audience.
Smart Electric Symphony: Something quite beautiful. As a lover of electronic music and technology this synchronised the two in spectacular fashion. Stunning.
Gouden Giraffe Event Awards 2016: A very creative submission, which really demonstrated to the events world how to deliver an awards ceremony for the live communications industry.
The Mystery In Atea City: Intrigue was created around the live event by commissioning a whole Norwegian town in which to execute a digital strategy via a series of activities throughout the event.
The jury had a tough task, but equally, so did the nominees. Moderation was precise with no margin for error on the timings. The jury delved deep into the value of each project, its effectiveness, reach and, all-importantly, the hard metrics around ROI, a subject which was in continuous discussion during the festival. All of the award winners should be highly congratulated in what was a fiercely competitive and highly creative environment.
The second day was a little more traditional in format, with a series of short presentations and workshops. David Mattin’s session on consumer trends was particularly insightful. It explored the changes happening in communications that are being driven by the exponential growth of messaging apps (up 348% from 2016) and how this is resulting in a personal style of communication with brands that will lead to an upsurge of virtual companions fuelled by artificial intelligence.
Mattin then covered the subject of reconciliation brands and highlighted that as our trust in governments and media outlets reaches an all-time low, we are increasingly looking to businesses to demonstrate values in which we are willing to place our trust and provide social cohesion. In a world where our social media footprint displays our personal brand, we are (sub)consciously seeking out brands which mirror our values. This provides marketing, and in particular live communications, with real opportunities. Events have a unique capability to bring people together to connect both physically and emotionally with brands and their values, creatively developing moments in time and shared experiences that audiences remember, like, share and comment on.
I choose to connect with Timo Kiuru for my final workshop of the event and discuss the future of experience marketing. Kiuru asked the audience to consider the use of words such as brand and strategy, outing brand as a dirty word, which should be replaced by the word promise. Equally suggestive was the notion we should scrap strategy and our obsession with looking forward. Kiuru believes we should focus our energy on looking back, as well as forward. Taking more time to reflect on how well we have performed against our values. Did we represent our values in the way we behave (directly responding to Mattin’s point) and if not, what do we need to change to ensure we lead by our values moving forward?
Overall, it was a hugely productive trip to a wonderful city and an event rich in character, content and creativity. Throughout the event it was clear that creativity and strategy need to operate in harmony and not be seen as mutually exclusive. Creativity is not just the realm of creative directors or marketing executives. To succeed, we have to be creative in how we do business, adapting our business models to meet the needs of brands, customers and industry. In order to successfully communicate a brand’s personality and core values through our live event communications, we need to create a harmonious collision of creativity and strategy.