IPA Bellwether: Agencies must expand digital reach to compete

Event planners must increase 'depth of engagement' through social and digital infrastructure as budget growth slows, according to agencies.

Agencies must expand digital reach to compete (©iStockphoto.com)
Agencies must expand digital reach to compete (©iStockphoto.com)

The latest IPA Bellwether report showed that growth in event budgets has slowed over the past three years, with a net balance of +0.6% of all companies revising their events budgets up in the final quarter of 2015, compared to +2.6% in Q3.

Creating a brand's story

Paul Simonet, creative strategy director at Imagination, said budgets are likely to carry on growing slowly, but event planners need to ‘work harder’ to deliver what clients need, and increase engagement surrounding events.

"Events need to have the right social content infrastructure surrounding them – this is where event planners should be focusing their efforts," he explained. "It’s about connecting experiences with a brand’s story. There needs to be greater focus on broadcast, social media, live streaming and creating the right ‘reach’ following."

He added that event agencies need to focus on the brands they work with long-term, rather than putting so much emphasis on special events, such as the Olymplcs or European Championships. 

Managing social reach

Fay Sharpe, managing director of Zibrant, said that agencies need to work with clients to manage budgets and offer more throughout the creative process.

"We’ve got one client that couldn’t get everyone to an event due to budget constraints, so we needed to ensure we have other ways of reaching out to the rest of the audience, for example social and live-streaming," she said.

And while Sharpe said the next year would be 'tough’, she added that agencies had to move with the market to compete. "I think slow and steady growth, the kind indicated in the report, is better for business long-term. If budgets grow slowly, there's less likely to be that 'boom and bust' that we saw in 2008." 

Retaining specialisms

Randle Stonier, founder and CEO of AddingValue, said the financial outlook for 2016 was precarious, particularly with the US election pending. Competiton for existing business, as well as the introduction of 'robots' to do jobs, would lead to a tough trading climate. However, he pointed out that ‘upping skills’ in digital expertise would be useful for agencies, provided they retain their specialism.

"It’s difficult for event agencies to compete against large digital companies, so they shouldn’t be trying to take on a broad communications remit. However, improving digital competence in the specialist area of events can only lead to growth." 

More:

Event budgets grow 5.7%, says Bellwether report

Event budgets on the rise, says IPA Bellwether Report

UK meetings industry 'worth £21.6bn'

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