In the warm glow of Olympic glory it is all too easy to assume that 2012 will be a vintage year for the experiential industry.
However, in a year packed with major events such as the Diamond Jubilee, summer music festivals and Euro 2012, event owners have been faced with this competitive climate to achieve cut-through, saliency and attendances, as well as contending with the bad weather earlier this summer.
Despite this, a third of the agencies in this year's Marketing experiential marketing league table have increased their turnover by more than a quarter in the past year, with Jack Morton Worldwide taking first place. iD Experiential moved up from eleventh to fourth place, doubling its turnover, having made some key appointments in the last year. Chief executive Paul Ephremsen says that there is no doubt that the experiential sector is on the up, with more brands entering the sector. The agency says it is forecasting growth for 2012.
Demand for experiential campaigns increased in the first half of 2012, as Britons' interest in sport and physical activity has appeared to surge. This trend has given brands the chance to bring campaigns to life in a compelling way that extends beyond the time frame of a given event.
'Using sports and leisure events as a platform to create experiential with a competitive angle has been an obvious area to play in, but the challenge is creating something unique and also accessible enough for as many people as possible to compete in,' says Marcus Sandwith, managing director at agency Haygarth.
It recently produced experiential work for Gillette that taps into men's competitive instincts, with features including physical and gaming challenges.
While experiential agencies and brands have exploited this year's sporting agenda and Jubilee celebrations, the issues of measurement of activity and quantifying return on investment remain highly topical. This, says Paul Saville, client services director at agency Ignite, can often be down to the cost per engagement related to experiential.
'The best way to overcome challenges to cost per engagement is to fuse live face-to-face activity with social media, through content creation or otherwise,' he says.
'If done correctly, this can lead to an exponential amplification of a brand's on-site activity, giving it the best of both worlds - quality of experiential engagement and exposure to much bigger numbers of people through social media.'
Wendy Cooper, managing director of Carbon Marketing, argues that brands need to measure shifts in consumers' understanding, emotional engagement, attitudes and purchase patterns.
A lot of measurement has been based, for example, on the number of samples given out, rather than how many of the recipients go on to purchase a given product. Other quantitative measurements that can be applied include coupon redemptions and numbers of consumers engaged, but the feeling in the industry is that more needs to be done if experiential is to gain the recognition of other disciplines, such as digital.
'What is needed is a more standardised method of ROI measurement,' says Chris Wareham, director and head at Initials Experience. 'A few specialist companies are trying to persuade clients to measure their campaigns in detail and then pool the information on a no-name basis among all contributors.'
This, he contends, would enable marketers to access more robust research, which would make it easier to convince senior management of the efficacy of experiential marketing.
Jon Spary, new business director at agency Sense, says that isolating the impact of experiential activities is key.
'Detailed evaluation studies should include a control group of people exposed to other brand activity, apart from experiential,' he says. 'Comparing results from research undertaken before, during and post-event with consumers not exposed to the experience will isolate the true impact of the activity.'
Research isn't just important during the live phase of the campaign, as iD's Ephremsen notes. Where possible, creative should be tested before going live.
'This is not only an important part of giving a brand confidence that they have the right campaign, but useful in setting KPIs too,' he says.
Collecting robust results has also been difficult in the past. At agency Closer, hand-held technology is used to collect and gather real-time data, so results can be gathered in hours rather than weeks, giving clients increased visibility of their campaigns.
Techniques used to measure experiential success also vary from client to client, and even from one campaign to another.
'The most crucial starting point is a reflection of a campaign's objectives, to understand the metrics necessary to judge it by,' says Justin Isles, client services director at Event Marketing Solutions (EMS). 'Subsequent reporting must be robust, but with the flexibility to integrate anecdotal feedback. The ability to talk to customers directly is one of the greatest opportunities experiential marketing presents, so any evaluation process must provide a platform for this.'
Another approach involves the use of geo-demographic techniques. Haygarth used a geo-targeted Facebook promotion to encourage men to book shaving sessions on the Gillette Fusion ProGlide Challenge Tour. These men received VIP treatment - up to one hour of brand engagement - and then became advocates of the products on Facebook.
They told other men how the product performed and recommended trial and purchase, with the aim of generating word of mouth and credibility for the latest Gillette line.
Technology was also deployed for a British Heart Foundation roadshow, which it has been running for the past few years, in conjunction with agency EMS.
The events provided a good way for the charity to capture data about people with, and at risk of, heart disease, with EMS incorporating a touch-screen questionnaire facility at the show, which all visitors were asked to complete.
While a standardised measurement model remains a long way off, the need for flexibility is one criterion upon which the industry seems to agree. According Nico Tuppen, managing director at Iris Culture, experiential activity should be designed in 'multi-dimensions', and involve content, conversations, communities and experiences. As such, brands should be prepared to use several measurement techniques across the activity and data should be evaluated throughout the campaign, so that changes can be made as the campaign progresses to ensure maximum effectiveness.
CASE STUDY: PEUGEOT DRIVES RESPONSE
Peugeot decided experiential marketing was the most interactive way to kick-start the crucial launch of its ergonomically designed 208 model in June.
The Peugeot 'Let your body drive' campaign comprised experiential, digital and promotional activity, kicking off with an online push. Seeded on YouTube, the clip featured dubstep dancer Marquese Scott, aka Nonstop of the dance crew RemoteKontrol, dancing to the Rudimental track Feel the Love.
This was followed by a national roadshow in seven of the UK's biggest shopping centres during April and May, to showcase the car to consumers. Street dancers including Super Malcolm, also performing to the Rudimental track, brought the 208 stand to life, reinforcing the 'Let your body drive' strapline.
All elements of the activity, created by agency Initials, directed consumers to the campaign YouTube page, where they could view the Scott video in full and upload their own 'Bodydrive' video to be in with a chance of winning a VIP trip to Ibiza with friends in time for the resort's closing parties of summer.
As of mid-July, the video had been viewed almost 4m times, with the campaign site recording almost 5m visits. More than 890 test drives were booked as a result of the roadshow.
Facebook interactions topped the 55,000 mark, with more than 20,000 'likes'.
How do you measure ROI from your experiential campaigns?
NICK CROSSLEY, Manager, brand advertising, partnerships and sponsorship marketing, Peugeot Motor Company
'We've started to use control, intercept and follow-up research techniques to measure the behaviour-changing effects of our brand experience campaigns.
'The results are valuable because they give us both immediate and longer-term data, which, after analysis, means that the experiential activity we plan becomes an integral part of future marketing programmes.'
JUDY O'SULLIVAN, Head of department, British Heart Foundation
'We have worked with (agency) EMS on our Heart Health roadshow for several years. Understanding what influenced people to have a chat about their lifestyle was important. EMS carried out extensive results analysis; the three main factors that influenced attendance were site position, relevance and weather conditions.
'This influenced where the tour (stops were) located, ensuring targets were met. We also measured the project in terms of subscriptions to our Heart Matters magazine as well as from visitor feedback and comments.'