January is notoriously quiet for experiential activations, but that didn’t stop Cadbury and Warner Bros pulling out the stops and trying to capture the attention of consumers.
Cadbury announced a 24-hour live streamed event that was set to celebrate the wonderful world of Crème Eggs and Warner Bros were putting on a roller derby experience to launch their latest film, ‘Birds of Prey’. In the name of research, I picked myself up a ticket to both.
That’s right, I had to get a ticket for a specific time slot, even though they were both free to attend. However, it might not be as counterintuitive as it first appears.
For the brand, ticketing events helps track engagement before the event, control ticket numbers, monitor attendance, and provides additional touchpoints to generate buzz ahead of time. It means that brands can plan and budget more effectively ahead of time, making sure everyone has enough space and time to take everything in, as well as make sure everyone has enough goodies to take home!
It’s also a quick shortcut to create a feeling of exclusivity for the attendees. As soon as they pick up a ticket to the event, their mindset shifts from an initial engagement to that of investment…even if the ticket’s free. Time is blocked out in their calendar, follow-up emails are being sent and the sense of excitement is building.
But, all of this good stuff is caveated by increased expectations, which puts a brand’s image on the line and make PR flops inherently more possible. This risk/reward element takes confidence in your brand and in your experiential.
So, how did Cadbury and Warner Bros fare?
Cadbury – EATertainment LIVE
I arrived in Central London with high expectations, but as I entered the dimly lit purple hallway, it became clear that the experience was not what I expected. We were led into a small holding room, where we were briefly greeted, handed a waiver form to sign and told to wait to be pulled into the next room.
After 15 minutes, we were taken through to the ‘live stream room’ which featured a small wooden bench and a table with a spread of treats laid out on a table. After sitting down in front of the two cameras, each of us were invited to put on props and our ‘director’ gave us roles to play.
One at a time, we were invited to select one of the Cadbury’s Crème Egg inspired dishes in front of us and loosely asked what we thought, whilst also being told to act as our characters.
By this point, we were all a little baffled as to what was happening and what was expected of us. It felt as if they were trying to force funny content out of us for the live stream and as a result, they got the opposite. No sooner than we’d sat down, we were told to get back up to make room for the next group. And then we left with little more than a “thank you” and a sense of bewilderment.
Cadbury’s reputation and exciting description of the event meant my expectations were sky high. However, the experience left me with anything but a sweet taste in the mouth. There was a lack of structure, a lack of communication and, crucially, a lack of experience.
In this instance, ticketing such a disappointing event, left Cadbury’s with Crème Egg on their face.
Warner Bros – Harley Quinn’s Roller Disco
In stark contrast, when I visited Warner Bros’ ‘Birds of Prey’ pop-up roller disco. The whole venue had been colourfully kitted out with neon signs and rainbow lighting. No detail went unmissed, with posters, memorabilia and scattered quotes transforming the space into a DC wonderland.
On arrival, we were each given a colourful card with a map of the space and a check list entitling you to 3 drinks and a customised tote bag. It was already streaks ahead of the Cadbury event; it felt been no expense spared with iridescent Harley Quinn themed cocktails, an Urban Decay glam station, candy floss, sweet station and screen-printing station. There were even free Harley Quinn Papa John’s pizzas! And, best of all, there was space for us to enjoy all of this without huge queues – thank you, Eventbrite.
The roller disco itself was held on the main dance floor where attendees collected quirky skates and swept around vibrant neon signs, through a light tunnel and danced to music inspired by the film’s soundtrack. There were professional skaters on hand to help any newbies and teach tricks to the more confident skaters. Plus, there were ample Instagram opportunities, and a photobooth that caught you in action.
As attendees, we felt valued and appreciated. We only wished we could have stayed longer.
So, where does this leave us? One event exceeded expectations and the other fell short.
The juxtaposition between the two also highlighted the importance in investing in hiring and training knowledgeable individuals that embody brand ethos and the spirit of the activation to bring the event to life. The level of influence these individuals can have on the success of an activation is integral should always be considered when putting on an event, especially if it’s being ticketed. The staff alone can make the ‘purchase’ feel worth it.
Regardless of how established and reputable the brand is, picking up a ticket immediately sets a precedent, even if it is free. So, it’s critical that brands understand the expectations that they’re setting and that they meet them.
Written by Danielle Hearn
February 23, 2020