Event: Dealer launch
Group size: 850
Date: 2 November 2010
Venue: ICC Birmingham
Citroen wanted to set itself apart by producing an exciting and technically advanced dealer conference to bring three new cars to the market.
With 850 dealers from across Citroen's network joining for a day of networking and experiencing the new C4, DS3 Racing and DS4 models, the car manufacturer was determined to give delegates a fresh look at the brand.
At the same time, the plan was to introduce dealers to Citroen's recently appointed management team, comprising managing director Linda Jackson, marketing director Jules Tilstone, and sales director Charles Peugeot.
The venue needed to accommodate a hi-tech launch of the new cars, as well as provide ample space for the dealers to network with their peers and get a closer look at some of Citroen's models, including the GQ Citroen concept car.
The ICC in Birmingham was selected for the dealer conference in August 2010, with a five-way competitive pitch process being launched on 6 August. Agency Smyle was appointed to run the event in September, with a six-week lead time.
A critical element of the Citroen conference was to instil confidence in the future into the dealers.
Citroen UK's national events manager Neville Staines says: "The focus of the conference was the launch of the new C4 and the unveiling of DS3 Racing and the forthcoming DS4. As such the key message was that, as a brand, we have an unparalleled range of fantastic new products to bring to market, which should fill our dealer network with confidence for the future of the brand."
As well as creating a launch event that would visually excite the dealers using innovative production, there needed to be a strong focus on delivering key business messages. Smyle's head of events, Dominic Thomas-Smith, explains: "This is the first time we have worked with Citroen and we had a very detailed brief."
The theme for the event was Positive Power, and Citroen was keen for Smyle to use complicated 3D projections, mapped onto a series of boxed structures.
It was essential that Smyle worked closely with Citroen's brand team and headquarters in France to create a unique brand experience in which to launch the new models, while also ensuring VIPs and other delegates were well looked after.
"We wanted to create a visually stunning show, using 3D video mapping, but we did not want to lose sight of the key conference messages," says Staines. "It was also important to ensure the new C4 was the star of the show, as it is the mainstream product, and to construct the car reveals on this basis. Even details such as the selection of music were meticulously planned."
Using the 3D projection technology meant that there needed to be extreme precision in the set up of the stage and projectors around the auditorium. As boxes with straight edges were being used for revealing the new Citroen models, even a fractional difference in the projection would mean the images were off kilter.
Each of the three car models needed to be revealed in a way that would reinforce its image in a memorable way.
Smyle's senior production manager, Tom Cordory, says: "We needed to get the balance right between the three car reveals and the serious business conference."
The timescale also meant Smyle had to get under the skin of the client as quickly as possible to understand exactly what was required, as well as setting up speaker sessions to ensure the new management team felt assured in the delivery of their presentations.
As delegates arrived at the ICC Birmingham on 2 November, they were greeted by airline-style 'ticket desks' manned by staff dressed in uniforms to match. A business lounge was created for VIP guests, and dealers had plenty of time to mingle with their colleagues from across the country in a themed exhibition space featuring around 15 cars.
As dealers entered the main conference hall and took their seats, a series of 12 HD projectors had been set up around the auditorium. Cordory explains: "The stage set was perfectly built to match up with the exact projector positions."
Citroen managing director Linda Jackson kicked off the conference, before the first reveal saw the DS3 Racing model raised up through the top of one of the white boxes on stage. Projections of fireworks and a spectacular volcano scene completed the first reveal.
A detailed cityscape featured in the reveal of the new C4 model, while spotlighting increased the excitement and anticipation. For the final part of the show, the DS4 model - set to be launched to the public in summer 2011 - was revealed amid projections of clouds.
"In addition to the event planning and production at the ICC Birmingham, Smyle also arranged flights and accommodation for a number of delegates attending the conference from destinations including Belfast, the Isle of Man, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee," says logistics manager Rebecca Bond.
"The AV content, the 3D video mapping in particular, allowed us to reveal the new products in a completely unique and different way," explains Staines.
"We were able to create a very specific theme and mood for each vehicle reveal. Sometimes your vision of the event is one thing and the reality is another, but not in this case.
"There were many challenges during the build-up phase, but the Smyle team remained focused and responsive. For the Citroen events team the stakes were extremely high and yet I was always confident that we'd made the correct decision in appointing Smyle."
According to Staines, the feedback from dealers and the management team has been "brilliant".
"It would not be an exaggeration to say that this was our best ever conference," he adds. "But the ultimate proof of success will be how our message of confidence translates into sales success throughout the network in 2011."
August 2010 ICC Birmingham chosen as venue
6 August Pitch process began
17 September Smyle appointed
2 November Dealer launch