Different Discipline, Different Approach

How to brief an experiential agency...

There’s much debate about what a good brief looks like. Some say the shorter and more ambiguous the better, encouraging true creativity and forcing agencies to really delve deep into the brand and the problem to find the solution. Others argue this risks proposals that are too left-field or inappropriate, and therefore as much detail as possible provides the best chance of a well-suited response.

But the obvious risk here is the same ideas coming back from every agency.

The truth is that different channels – and the myriad of challenges that arise within those channels – require different briefs to eke out the right result. Experiential is such a wide-ranging discipline that the briefs we receive are themselves wide-ranging in how they’re constructed. Nonetheless, there are still some fundamental aspects that should be present in every brief for an experiential campaign or event. And it’s quite surprising how often they’re not.

So here are our thoughts on how to get to the best response from an agency like us…

Tell us about your audience.

Make no mistake – we’ll do our research. But if you’re pitching to people you’ve not worked with before, it’s hard to believe they’ll know as much about your audience as you do, no matter how much insight they gain. Share that information, and go deeper than just the demographics. 

With live audiences whom you meet physically, the interaction is very different to that which your brand has across platforms like digital or TV. Live audiences come in many forms (sports fans, businesspeople, corporate guests, shoppers etc.) and then you have their personal aspirations, relationship with your brand and other factors to consider. So it won’t harm anyone to share plenty of detail, so we can respond with the most relevant ideas for that audience at that moment of interaction.

Tell us about you, your brand, your story and your dreams.

Again, the agencies you brief will do all they can to get deep down inside your brand. But experiential is the only discipline that allows your audience to touch, feel, smell and taste it. As such, bringing your brand and your products to life in such a way requires more than just a creative idea.

When Appleton Estate Jamaican Rum invited us to pitch for the first time last year, their brief was great. The brand story was there – its values, its history and their current customer. But crucially, so were their brand ambitions: the new audience they wanted to reach, the bars they wanted to form closer relationships with, and their drive to increase their social media presence.

Consequently we were able to deliver for them, serving 8,500 perfectly served Appleton Estate cocktails to their primary target audience from our Rum Bus in conjunction with some of the country’s greatest cocktail bars and generating a sixfold increase in the brand’s weekly Facebook reach.

The nitty gritty of the practicalities.

As mentioned, the physical nature of experiential marketing requires a specialist mindset. Putting together the perfect proposal with the most brilliantly creative ideas is one thing on paper, but will it actually work in the real world?

We’ll know this (and propose accordingly) with the right information. For instance, if you have a venue confirmed then tell us everything – power sources, capacity, floor plans etc. If you have somewhere in mind, tell us why you chose it. If you don’t, then what would your perfect location look and feel like?

Be available and open.

It benefits nobody to brief your agency(s) and then sit silently in anticipation of the deadline for responses.

There’s an argument to suggest that being available risks favouritism if you end up having more conversations with some agencies than others. But it’s all a means to an end, and if your brief is written well enough, these conversations won’t be giving anything extra away that you don’t need or have to. Plus there’s always the option, as many do, of making Q&As part of the process, sharing all answers with all agencies.

With experiential activity, the response to a particularly open brief can be incredibly varied. With such briefs, a tissue session becomes vitally important, offering feedback on the overall solution before the detail is designed. There’s no value in going the whole hog without consultation.

What does success look like?

Perhaps the most important part of the brief. There is no universal measurement for experiential activity. Agencies can suggest metrics and the requisite measurement processes for these, but really it’s down to you, your objectives and how you see yourselves reporting this back within your business with clarity and credibility.

The trackable nature of social media has had notable impact here. If you’re aligning your experience with your social strategy, or building a social element into the activation, consider the ability to track engagement. PR impact, sales, number of attendees, even positive sentiment towards the activation, these can all be done. Just be clear on what it is you want measured and why.

Be transparent about your budget.

We receive an amazing amount of briefs in which the budget is not disclosed. We believe that you won’t get the best response with the best solution if it’s not clear how much budget is available.

You may feel that revealing the budget restricts the creative process (an explanation we’ve heard more than once). But actually, withholding it has precisely this effect. Experiential activity has many costs involved. Venues, technology, materials, staff. All this can’t be quantified if there’s no figure to work within or towards. So you may get a decent creative idea, but great ideas for experiential activity are nothing if they can’t work in reality.


- Guy Tremlett
Creative Director, SET LIVE