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Experiential spend rises 4.9% in Q1 2017, says Bellwether report

Event marketing budgets, which includes experiential and brand experience activity, have grown for the 13th successive quarter, according to the latest Institute of Practitioners in Advertising’s (IPA)  Bellwether report for January to March 2017.

Spend on live marketing was up 4.9% on the fourth quarter of 2016, showing that brands are continuing to invest in engaging with consumers in the real world. Although the figure is down from the 12.3% budget growth, it continues a positive trends that began back in 2014.

Looking forward, the signs for 2017 and 2018 are good, with the Bellwether reports stating that the industry should expect upward revisions for budgets throughout the coming financial year, with final data showing that a net balance of +10.6% is predicted for 2017 and 2018.

Total spend across marketing disciplines was up 11.8% overall. The strongest increases were in internet and main media advertising, with the former recording its highest growth in just under four years at 16.9%, and the latter jumping up to 10.7% from +5.1% in the final quarter of 2016.

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Why youth marketing isn’t that complex

Unfortunately marketing to the youth demographic of our society is seen by some in our industry as an otherworldly skill that only a special few have mastered. With 90% of briefs that agencies receive targeted at this market, we need to have a much better understanding of this audience.

We are all guilty of being a bit too focused on the end goal, our KPI’s, meaning we are constantly looking for that magical ingredient – be that a social media platform, an influencer or a media partnership that will make all the young people instantly share your content online making it go viral, and making you look cool in front of your peers and clients because you ‘get’ the ‘yoof’ of today.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there isn’t an ingredient or hack or a preferred social media platform that you need to be on to make them interested in your product. What they want is for you to be is real.

How can you as a brand do this? Well here are my five key takeaways from yesterday’s YMS 2017 talks that will help you become a real brand and have a more meaningful relationship with your audience.

1. Master the art of conversation: Become a storyteller

Put simply, young people want brands to talk to them more. Don’t just attend a fresher’s fare or send them a voucher and then just forget about them, keep them engaged and keep talking to them.

This doesn’t mean you should start churning out content for the sake of it across every single channel. You need to ensure that your message and tone are right, and land at the right time, on the right channel for the right people.

A recent survey from Bam UK found that 24% of students weren’t familiar with at least two of the major high street brands, but over half would go on to engage with them later. The first three months are key, as this is where their loyalty builds and sticks.

2. Don’t be a fraud – authenticity is key

Once you’re talking more to your audience, you need to ensure what you are saying is adding value to the conversation and to their lives.

Just as you would in real life, stop and think before you speak. Does your brand have the authority to speak about this topic? If yes then do it; if not, well don’t – it’s that simple.

3. Provide the experience

Part of becoming an authentic, real brand means connecting with your audience in the real world. This is a great way to get your brand message out, but also provide people with a really unique experience that they can connect with.

This doesn’t mean simply visiting a festival and that’s it. Ensuring there is a socially shareable element to the experience is vital. This generation has a FOMO (fear of missing out) and they want their network to see all the unique experiences they have had. So ensuring this has social currency is key to extending your reach organically.

4. Don’t jump ship

According to the latest data in an industry report x number of 16 to 24-year-olds use x social media platform.” Cue all agencies and brands running onto said platform to engage with their audience.

There are so many channels out there and targeting an audience that is digitally native means you need to carefully consider what you’re doing. Any content (ads included) need to feel native to the platform, with the correct messaging. Don’t create a new social account because all the cool kids are there. Think about whether it’s a relevant platform for your brand and your message, and will this be an always-on strategy or only viable for a one-off campaign.

5. Relax

Brands need to relax the control over their content. Giving it the space to grow and evolve online by co-creation is vital to help ensure it lives longer, is relevant and resonates with the right audience.

Cancer Research understood this with its Stand Up to Cancer campaign and discovered that content created by a third party (creator/ influencer) that they ‘hero-ed’ outperformed their own content. This was because the content created had an added layer of authenticity to it.

Although we keep talking about young people as some kind of an alien market, they aren’t. Yes, they are more digitally savvy than other demographics and more on trend. They are, however, still people who want and actively seek genuine and meaningful connections. Our responsibility is to ensure we do this not just for them but for all our consumers.

Ally Biring was reporting from the recent Youth Marketing Strategy 2017 in London.

This article first appeared in Digital Marketing Magazine.

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Which gender equality campaigns are getting it right?

According to some florists in the UK, winning or being the lucky recipient of a bouquet of flowers was the best way to mark this month’s International Women’s Day. This is clearly missing the point and an example of brands simply cashing in on an initiative designed to highlight the many issues facing women across the globe.

So what can brands to do align themselves with the cause in a believable and ethical way that will help to amplify and support the initiative, while adding kudos and authenticity to their image? Here are some great examples where brands have not just vocalised their support for women’s issues but expressed it where it matters and resonates most – in the real world.

Leading your field

She Means Business – Facebook

This is a subdomain on Facebook’s main social platform, hosting articles, insights and resources to help women grow and promote their own businesses. Facebook is able to talk on this subject with authority due to its paid advertising products. It has added further credibility to this by collaborating with Enterprise Nation ( – an organisation that will help you start and grow your business, whose founder is Emma Jones MBE. Facebook has also collaborated with another organisations, such as the, which covers financial and business advice for SMEs.

The key feature of this site is how it invites you to explore inspiring stories, from NGOs, etc, that will be broadcast through FB Live. Facebook also wants you to get involved by hosting your own live session. The content hosted here will be evergreen and as long as Facebook keeps adding to it, this will become a very valuable resource and business-focused social platform.

Equality for All

Equalizing Music – Smirnoff, Spotify, The Black Madonna, Live Nation, Fabric and more.

Smirnoff has launched a three-year gender equality campaign to mark International Women’s Day. Equalising Music is aimed at establishing gender parity across the music industry. Its particular focus is on electronic music, as only 17% of headliners at electronic festivals were women, according to the figures published by Smirnoff. Further stats showed that only 5% of music producers are women.

Equalising Music’s goal is to double the number of female headliners at major festivals. This campaign is extremely well suited to Smirnoff, which has a long history of positioning its brand alongside the music industry.

#WeSeeEqual – P&G 

P&G has launched its video #WeSeeEqual to advocate gender equality. The video features men and women who are out there in the real world actively defying stereotypes. There is also footage from the FMCG giant’s previous campaigns such as #LikeAGirl (Always) and Raise, which was focused on equal pay for women.

Gender equality isn’t a new topic for P&G, this highlighted in its annual 2016 report its aspiration to build “a world free from gender bias”. Last year, it stole the show at the Cannes Lions Festival launching #unstereotype to draw attention to the plethora of female stereotyping in advertising, backed by global research that showed that this approach meant that brands were actually alienating women rather than attracting and engaging with them. P&G has since implemented #unstereotype and a generally purpose-driven stance across its brand portfolio, registering and uplift in engagement as a result.

Become Whatever You Want

Pretty Curious: EDF

In partnership with Sense, EDF Energy launched its campaign pretty curious to get more girls to study science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects at school five years ago, hosting a series of workshops at schools across the country. It is targeting girls who are between 12 and 15 years old to encourage them to continue their education in these subjects at A-level and beyond. The aim is to address the huge gender imbalance that exists in these areas to create more career opportunities for women and also ensure that is enough talent available for these growing sectors.

If you are brand and looking to get coverage by leveraging the buzz and interest in a conversation that is taking place, you must consider whether your business has a genuine authority to be involved by adding real value to it. The worst thing you can do is trivialising the conversation by commercialising it for your own marketing needs. The purpose bandwagon is here. But don’t simply jump on it. Put together a relevant, authentic strategy and bring it to life in the real world.

Ally Biring is Social and Digital Director at Sense.

This article first appeared in Cream Global.

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Is experiential an industry for life?

Recent research by Event magazine suggested that many people currently working in experiential agencies don’t view the job as a long-term option. Almost two-thirds (64%) of brand experience professionals surveyed said they did not see themselves remaining in the industry. On the plus side, 63% feel positive about their career progression and 69% say they have a good work-life balance. Meanwhile, there were signs that the industry is performing well, as 61% of agencies expect their workforce to grow in 2017.

So what does the fact that two-thirds of agency staff don’t see themselves staying in experiential actually mean?

Lou Garrod, Sense Deputy Managing Director, told Event that she believed the statistic was more about the changing nature of the industry, saying: “I do not think people ‘burn out’ and walk away from the industry. I think the stats are a result of the lines blurring between event/experiential/real world and ultimately advertising.

“We’re already seeing the type of brief that requires a discipline neutral response so I can see why people may not think their future lies in ‘events’. It’s up to agency employers to move with the times and not lose their best people in the process. Training, engagement, opportunity exposure are all key.”

Click here to read the complete article in Event.

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Sense New York appoints Ian Priestman as Operations Director

Following its recent launch, Sense New York has bolstered its senior leadership team with the appointment of Ian Priestman as Operations Director.

Priestman boasts an impressive track record in experiential marketing, most recently at Blackjack Promotions, where he spent 10 years – five as Project Director and five as Head of Experiential. He will be joining his partner, Sense New York President Sarah Priestman, in running the newly formed agency.

“The opportunity to join Sense New York was simply too difficult to resist,” said Priestman. “I’ve always admired the way Sense operates and the great work it delivers. Plus it’s always been my ambition to live and work abroad, and New York is the ultimate destination for me.”

Priestman will begin his new role on 1 April 2017, which will be split across three key areas: business operations, client project management, and new business support.

“The short-term goal is to grow the business in New York, with the long-term aim of opening more offices in North America and beyond,” he added.

Commenting on the appointment, Sense Managing Director Nick Adams said: “We’re delighted that Ian decided to join the founding team of Sense New York. He has an outstanding background in the operational aspects of experiential marketing, which is going to be a critical skill set for the work we will be kicking off from the east to the west coast of the US from April. Plans for the business are gathering pace since we officially opened our doors last week, and Ian is already in the thick of helping us achieve our ambitions.”


Whether it be Festivals, Trade Shows, PR Stunts, Installations or Pop Ups to name a few, we believe brand experiences are one of the most powerful forms of marketing to impact consumer perception and attitude towards a brand. They can create real behaviour change when born out of a deep consumer insight allied to a compelling idea. And it’s these fundamentals we look to get right whatever the live, virtual or hybrid task in hand.


Sampling is all too often perceived as an unsophisticated, somewhat ‘blunt’ marketing tool. Over the last 16 years Sense has pioneered a set of strategic principles which underpin our unique approach to sampling and which are highly measurable from both an ROI and consumer behaviour change perspective. We will happily guide brands through the myriad of sampling channels and products available so whether it’s mass face to face sampling, in offices, digitally, at home or just a strategic framework that you are after, we can provide a blend of tactics to fulfil both brand and sales objectives.


With many clients now focused on activating in channels more closely associated with a sale, our heavyweight retail experience closes the loop on a typical shopper journey by encompassing the moment of truth in store. Be it prize promotions, shopper toolkits, key visual creation, path-to-purchase communications, category strategy, B2B campaigns or Amazon optimisation, our goal is to create forward-thinking retail experiences that deliver demonstrable brand value. We aim to make ‘retail fail’ a thing of the past for ambitious brands looking to thrive is an ever-competitive landscape and believe our streamlined team is perfectly placed to do this.


Knowing what will keep a brand bright, exciting, and vital means we need to keep one step ahead of the curve. Our thought leadership hub, The Futures Lab, helps us to understand the marketing trends of tomorrow. It’s also the origin of strategies and methodologies which have created over 65 award-winning campaigns. 


Creativity is nothing without results. And we know that commissioning bold concepts, capable of changing minds, requires reassurance that it’s the right thing to do. 

Data, insights, and research precedes every campaign we do, and our proprietary measurement tool, EMR, gives us a decade of campaign performance metrics. Which is why we’re proud to have been recognised as industry-leading by brands like The Economist, Coca-Cola, and Molson Coors. 


We believe brand experience is inherently more varied than other forms of marketing. No formula, no template, no cookie-cutter approach – and often no precedent. 

That’s why, Sense places trust at the heart of its business – grounded in teamwork between our people and yours. Our processes are efficient, our senior team stay involved and our partnership mentality had helped us sustain powerful client relationships, some lasting over 10 years.