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  • Jez Clarke

Has the Experiential industry become so over saturated it's put a stranglehold on the more brill


Question to the Experiential industry: With a culture of unpaid pitching, are there TOO many ideas circulating at any one time, nowadays?

We've always been very proud of our Quote to Job ( Q2J) track record:

95-97%, (when the project proceeds).

Losing a negligible % based on cost.

We're brutal in our thoroughness and detail at the quote stage. We've only ever done it this way, in order to get under the skin of the brief, and I guess it gives a high degree of confidence in our ability and suitability for any given project.

If the project is signed off, so are we.

This rate of projects 'signing off' in the industry' has therefore always been a very valuable marker for us, and something we study quarterly.

But here's the rub. In 2005, Q2J was 1 in 3. By 2018, it was 1 in 15.

I'd like to debate why? Has the industry become oversaturated with ideas?

Beautiful Wonder projects are niche. We accept this. Fantastical projects are our thing and they don't happen every day. They often require a brave end client. But every agency strives to come up with a brilliant new concept for their client, and every client wants to make the headlines and outstrip their competitors or their previous campaign. Brands need to take (calculated) risks sometimes in order to innovate. So with an ever-present demand, why such a chronic drop-off rate in ideas seeing the light of day?

What makes one idea fly and so many others not?

From the PoV of an established and valued Production Supplier, generally with clients not on account and therefore unable to charge for pitching, we learnt early on to adapt our business model in order to continue our thorough level of response, but offset strictly against clearly defined pieces of information given by the agency and client. The more hurdles passed, and more credence behind the idea, the more we put in. It's put us in good stead over time and continues to protect us from over-extending prematurely.

Turning over 5-10 new briefs a week, it is now an absolute necessity for us to monitor Resources v Results.

We see numerous excellent ideas that appear to tick every box, have cleared a number of hurdles with the client, including a clean feasibility bill of health, with regard to budget, timeframe and creative ambition. Yet still fail to proceed further.

Its an ongoing question mark. Concepts that have appeared comparable in attainability, and offered great ROI and KPIs, unpredictably lived or died. Why for example did Polar Bear on the Thames get approval by UKTV. In its day, a very high risk, high budget, weather-condition-dependent project, agreed by the client as their first ever venture in an experiential press stunt. It reaped dividends with global press, but begs the question - why would so many other lower risk ideas see out their days in the 'Close, but no cigar' drawer?

From an agency PoV, is there a belief that the complexity in conceiving a great idea is underestimated by the end client? That they're limitless in supply?

An agency being on account must, I guess, expect a more severe degree of vetting by a client until they believe they have the idea that's right for them.

But considering there is an awful lot of bog-average, complacent Experiential work produced, it's difficult to understand why some of the best concepts we see aren't recognised and grasped with both hands by the client. Just this year we've already seen 6 stunning, very original ideas fail to get lift off.

Certainly post 2008/9 recession the Experiential market felt a major blow as Brands couldn't or wouldn't justify the spend in what was still a relatively burgeoning side of the industry. This was the time the Q2J ratio took its first real backward step. The industry was established enough for there t be a demand, but it was excruciating to get a bold idea off the ground.

Now over a decade on, and Experiential well and truly established there still appears a major reluctance and lack of faith by end clients to commit to bold Experiential ideas. The SM traffic data is there to support any idea to demonstrate the right idea can offer an excellent side-platform to an ATL campaign, whilst creating its own significant press coverage with a major Experiential and SM legacy.

So is it just a case of moons aligning, the right idea pitched to the right brand, with the right Brand/Marketing Manager. All seems a bit pot luck for what is an otherwise very established industry.

We strive to get clients to commit a marginal sum for a formal feasibility study on any idea of a certain size, complexity or degree of unknowns. Invariably, this helps them to get over the line, so there is indication that a percentage is down to FAITH, BELIEF and RISK MITIGATION.

There's never felt a more palpable sense of corporate necks on the block, and so its reasonable to expect nervousness when faced with signing off a bold and audacious concept.

We try and sit on as many pitch meetings as we can, to offer support and deliver a greater level of conviction and accountability to the production process.

So again, does it come down to clients responding better to fully fleshed out concepts? It creates the ultimate Catch 22 dilemma: with so many ideas circulating it is counter-intuitive to throw even more resource at an idea. BUT, maybe fewer, fully developed, ready-to-go ideas, is just what is required to increase client buy-in and drive a return to the heady days of Quotes to Job ratios of 1 in 3!!

Answers on postcard please, and a briefcase of gold to the person with the solution.


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