Even big tickets events like IPL might have to be held without spectators for the first 15 days, which could affect the...
- With events across the globe getting postponed indefinitely or even cancelled in some cases, the experiential marketing industry is expecting the next few quarters to be very challenging.
- We spoke to a few industry leaders to get a sense of how they feel this pandemic will affect the industry in the coming months, and for everybody the answer is the same, ‘How do you prepare for the unknown?’
While the hospitality and the entire service sector is expected to be impacted hard, the events and
With events across the globe getting postponed indefinitely or even cancelled in some cases, the experiential industry is expecting the next few quarters to be very challenging. While India has still not been affected as adversely as a few other countries, corporates are taking precautions and limiting their events.
If media reports are to be believed, even big tickets events like IPL might have to be held without spectators for the first 15 days, which could affect the industry to a huge extent.
AdClub’s Goafest 2020, which is a gathering of all advertising and media stalwarts and is looked forward to every year, is also postponed as several international speakers who were participating in the event have cancelled their trip to India. Facebook’s Global Marketing Summit, which was scheduled on March 9 in San Francisco is cancelled.
In such a scenario, the experiential industry, which is all about creating experiences for people in huge gatherings, is obvious to face the brunt of this everyday-unfolding situation.
We spoke to a few industry leaders to get a sense of how they feel this pandemic will affect the industry in the coming months, and for everybody the answer is the same, ‘How do you prepare for the unknown?’
Postponement and cancellation of many events
With the government suspending travel visas and the general panic growing with each passing day, brands are refraining from organising events, which will hurt the experiential industry the most.
Speaking about how the spread of the virus is already having an effect on the industry, Sabbas Joseph, Co-founder & Director, Wizcraft International said, “The outbreak of the Coronavirus has caught the world of experiential marketing by shock. Multiple global events have been hit -- postponed or simply cancelled: IIFA2020, the Geneva Motor show, ITB-Berlin, the India Today Conclave, the META Awards, IMEX-Frankfurt, the Barcelona Mobile Congress…the list is endless. Additionally, product launches, promotions and activations, business conferences, business travel, MICE, exhibitions, trade shows have been simply put off or cancelled.”
Adding to the list of cancelled and postponed events, Deepak Pawar, Managing Director, Midas Next added, “We had a few large events and activations for Colors, Mumbai Indians and IPL, but all of them have been canceled for now. We also had a couple of large exhibitions and conferences planned for the pharma industry and those have been postponed indefinitely. We were organizing an activation for Cadbury catering to tourists across the Himalyan belt. Since tourists are not allowed in India right now, we had to cancel that too. Similarly there was an activation planned for Lifebuoy about hygiene to avoid Coronavirus. Now since schools are also shut down, where will we do those activations?”
Anticipating a few dismal quarters
While India has yet not been as badly impacted as a few other countries, there are still new cases being detected everyday, with the current count being 62. As a step to contain the future spread of the virus, the government has suspended all existing visas, except diplomatic, official, UN/international organisations, employment, project visas until April 15.
With it, many foreign nationals or companies that were supposed to come to the country for various events are having to cancel their travel plans. Moreover, the industry was already grappling with the effects of the economic slowdown, which was followed by riots in Delhi.
Speaking about how all these factors combined will have a massive impact on the industry, Sanjoy Roy, Managing Director, Teamwork Arts and President, EEMA said, “Since February, we have postponed our festival India by the Bay in Hong Kong, India by the Bosphorus in Turkey, and another event in Morocco. In India, we have just postponed the Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards (META). And everything else we have in the pipeline is getting pushed back. There’s that unknown factor as to what is this going to result in. While there's enough information out there, the fact that the world has reacted in a particular way means that there is more to it than meets the eye. And anyway, the economic slowdown was already impacting the industry. The biggest effect was the Auto Expo. We saw around 50% of Auto Expo disappear and many of the major players did not come, and that's a big thing for most of the event companies. If I were to talk about how the industry will perform, the quarter figures are not out yet and we won't have a sense of it right now. But I am sure both the industry as well as the quarter figures will be dismal.”
Agreeing with Roy,
Tackling the crisis by going virtual
The experiential business is all about direct-to-consumer engagement. The business thrives on human contact and the assembly of people is an important part of the entire offering. However, whenever a crisis hits, the only way of bouncing back is by thinking out of the box and doing things a little differently.
On how brands have been reacting to the entire situation and how that might lead to an overhaul in the way the experiential industry works, Joseph said, “Brands are resetting their plans, expectations, markets, delivery systems, marketing focus and logistics. This will force the experiential industry to change its method of working, composition of team structure, use of technology, data, global resources, innovation and physical space. Collaboration and Innovation are going to be the new drivers of the experiential economy.”
Dalveer Singh, Head Experiential Marketing - APAC, GroupM has come up with a plan B for this predicament. His team is trying to figure out if the experience can be digitised through some virtual or augmented reality experience. He says agencies equipped with digital skills can manage to survive else, this unfortunate situation will push them to think how to take experiential beyond mass-gatherings.
“One solution can be how much of the experience that we create by being physically there, can be converted into ideas that are virtual or digital. Now that's something which we as a team are planning to do and that is our plan B. Brands wanted to have physical events because virtual does not give the same amount of joy. However, today, in these circumstances, brands will be more open to doing these events digitally because that gives them reach. So marketers will be more receptive to doing things virtually. However, in this whole environment, how many experiential marketing companies are today equipped to shift from physical to digital to virtual? There are a few companies that have those skills. This means it's also an opportunity for companies to get those new skills in,” said Singh.
Singh also suggested helping each other in this dismal times, especially the smaller parties and freelancers.
“For putting together an experiential marketing piece, we work with a lot of freelancers across different companies. And in this whole game, I think the small agencies and freelancers are the ones who might be affected by the heat because you are the resources for them. So, we need to figure out how to protect these small agencies and freelancers who do not have deep profits and holding capacity when the times are tough,” added Singh.
While things don’t look very bright right now, the industry is still hopeful that the festive season will bring about some respite.