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Digital events are generating revenue, great content and global connections says Vidya Alva, Percept ICE in an exclusive interview with Everything Experiential
9 October, 2020

Brands are expecting innovation, out-of-the-box creativity and bespoke experiences in the virtual space, says Vidya Alva, Executive Vice President & Business Head, Percept ICE in an exclusive interview with Everything Experiential.

With emerging opportunities, trends and technologies in the experiential marketing domain, agencies have come up with new initiatives for dealing with the current situation.

As event companies and planners scrambled to stay afloat, Percept ICE transitioned to create a new vertical that would provide customized 360-degree digital & virtual offerings to clients spanning launches, conferences, R&R and other experiential marketing offerings via a holistic hi-tech digital format.

We spoke to Vidya Alva, Executive Vice President & Business Head, Percept ICE to know about the impact of Covid on the business, their new offerings and more.

Excerpts

What has been the impact of Covid-19 on experiential marketing business?

There has been a huge impact when it comes to the experiential marketing business. The advantage and unique strength of experiential is that consumers get a chance to be on ground, attain a closer look at the brand / solution, get a touch and feel of the product, and this very USP has been hit at its very heart by the pandemic.

To add to the woes, it happened all too suddenly with no time to prepare or have alternate backup plans in place for both clients and agencies alike. Definitely, this has hit the core of our industry very hard. The business impact has been substantial and had temporarily brought our experiential business to a standstill when we first went into the lockdown in March 2020.

What are some of the new initiatives that you have come up with for dealing with the current situation?

We took some time to gauge and comprehend what was actually happening across the globe & pan India. Once the understanding of the macro and micro scenario was clear, we knew that the only way to survive and actually succeed was to accept it, innovate, break old paradigms and rise above it. We did exactly that and quickly evolved into the Digital, Virtual and Hybrid event space.

Our most significant initiative was the launch of our full-service division within Percept ICE called DIGITICE which caters to end-to-end solutions for virtual, digital and hybrid experiences, events and activations. This encompassed a wide range of services spanning Virtual Platforms, Creative Integration, Virtual Engagement & Networking, Digital Interactivity, Mixed Reality (MR), Hybrid Events, and Entertainment Content curated for Virtual or Digital platforms with a vast range of Design content options suited for the Digital, Virtual Reality (VR) & Augmented Reality (AR) platform.

We also conceptualized and executed a lot of training and employee engagement initiatives with our team to cope with the situation and also enhance everyone's skills and comfort with a new way of doing business with clients.

What have been some of your biggest learnings from the ongoing pandemic?

Our greatest learning was to stay focussed on our business skills - in this case referring to rand Marketing and Project Management as the core skill.

Keeping the above in mind, our goal was to offer the best of services in the best possible approach - which was going Virtual and Hybrid, yet ensuring that we offered a similar (if not better) impact and outcome to our clients and brands
Our focus remained on our team. Our business is all about our people - our biggest strength!
And most importantly, keep a close watch on costs.

Tell us how you adapted to virtual events?

First, by taking support from our existing Digital and Marketing divisions.
Second, by training ourselves in this new space.
And the third and most significant initiative was the launch of our full service division within Percept ICE called DIGITICE - a full service unit which caters to end to end solutions for Virtual, Digital and Hybrid experiences, events and activations.

Did you face any challenges while organising digital/virtual events?

It took us some time to adapt to this new environment. From being on ground and being hands on with all aspects, to moving behind computer screens to run one's events was mentally a huge change that we as a team had to adapt and mould ourselves into.

Today after having done many successful events in the virtual environment, we are now looking at this as a permanent offering and revenue stream from our stable.

Take us through some of your recent events.

1) We have done events in the Pharma sector which included launches, employee engagements, doctors meets, etc. These ranged from Webinars to Mixed Reality to complete Live Streams to Hybrid events.

2) Extremely fun employee engagement events for some of our clients have been another highlight. A lot of engagements, motivational speaker sessions, games and entertainment have made these events a huge favourite amongst their employees.

3) Corporate Films and CSR videos have been another variant from our stable like the 'Covid Warriors' film executed for OPPO.

4) One of our special projects has been the completely Live Virtual AGM of ZEE Entertainment, which has state-of-the-art tech integration, multi platform bridging, a seamless transition between three online platforms viz. BoD, Shareholders and 65,000 Viewers located around the globe, and all AGM compliant checkpoints successfully executed.

Owing to the current scenario, is there a change in what brands are expecting from event and experiential marketing?

Yes absolutely. Brands are expecting innovation, out-of-the-box creativity, bespoke experiences that can produce a WOW factor in the virtual space, and above all, extreme cost-consciousness.

What are some of your suggestions for smaller agencies? How do they deal with this situation?

I would say bank on human resources - our business is all about service quality and service excellence. If a smaller setup can look at cutting down frills and excess expenses, it will definitely be a great survival tool during this pandemic.

I would also advise towards investing in technology, either through direct investment or via smart tie-ups with partners and associates who have strengths in the digital domain. A merger of the experiential agency's creative prowess coupled with another agency's digital skills can make for a great marriage in these turbulent times and a win-win for agencies and clients alike. The future is definitely digital, the covid pandemic only expedited this evolution for all of us!

How will the road to recovery pan out for event/experiential agencies?

Digital, Virtual, AI, MR and Hybrid are here to stay. As we get back to doing on ground events, brands will look at keeping a balance between on ground and online events.

Going forward I foresee a blend of Live Events and Digital Events co-existing to cater to multiple audience requirements and client objectives. Digital events are already generating revenue, great content and global connections. Virtual events have great potential, but in order to succeed we need to change our mindset and skill sets.

Brands will always need to engage with their employees and customers and this is a great time for all experiential agencies to identify gap areas, invest in the right personnel and technology, and conceptualize bespoke innovative creative online solutions for clients to drive effective stakeholder engagements.