If you’re struggling for a Halloween film recommendation this year, I can thoroughly recommend Seven. It’s the story of two homicide cops hunting down a psychopathic killer who murders people that break the seven deadly sins (greed… lust… we all know them). But Cardinal Sins aren’t just reserved for Hollywood films. In our world of experiential production, we have sins of our own that if committed, can kill an activation dead. If you’re an agency considering experiential activity, here are some pitfalls to avoid for a less scary production experience.
1. Bad Budgets
Number one on the list for a reason. Probably the most important factor when considering the production of an event is how much it’s going to cost. In the majority of cases clients have an allocated budget for their vision, but in most scenarios initial budgets need revising upwards rather than downwards. The rule of thumb here is, “it’s usually going to cost more than you think”. This is frequently because of those boring ‘fixed costs’ for the stuff nobody sees. Project management time, logistics, crew, technicians, H&S protocols… So be prepared for your initial cost estimates to exceed earmarked budgets.
2. Scary Creative
Developing an outstanding event concept is all part of the creative process, and is entirely valid and valuable. If ideas were not big or adventurous enough, the world of experiential marketing would be less exciting for it. However, the primordial blue sky ideas must then evolve to match the reality of budgets. As the phrase goes, “If you only have beer money, don’t buy champagne”. Creative and budget must align. Otherwise you’ll feel like a trick or treat kid being offered a handful of muesli.
3. Tunnel Vision
Clients will often have a vision of what the end experience looks like. Whether big & bold or meagre & modest, in almost all circumstances the thought process is fixed on what the “front of house” areas will do and look like, based on limited knowledge of the “back of house” event production solutions that exist. Can you really build that in a single day? Can you really make a projector do that? Does this installation need to be running for a week or would two days deliver the same result? Having an end goal vision is essential - but usually needs to be tempered by knowledge of the practical components required to bring the vision to life.
4. Time is Ticking
Hashing out creative ideas is a fundamental process to be enjoyed and is how the best campaigns come together. However, avoid the tendency to let time slip away during the creative evolution. Each project amend, each analysis of the knock-on effects and every associated budgetary re-work all require time from somewhere, and naturally that must be re-allocated from slick event production and execution time.
5. Communication and Collaboration
Carrying off an experiential campaign requires teamwork between agencies, and full collaboration by all parties. When one element goes rogue it puts everyone else out of step. When a high profile sports influencer is booked to attend a public activation, consult the event production company first, who will advise on security implications. If an agency is keen on an exquisitely PR-able location, open it to the wider group. The event agency will flag any location-specific production implications that may impact experience or budget. Although we don’t advocate being cc’d into every last email, the key is to ensure that everyone, from the end client to production company, knows exactly what output they’re delivering or receiving, and when.