Does your experiential social pass the Opera House test?

Experiential is a tricky beast to tame in any campaign. I must admit I’ve given it a wide berth over the years as I don’t share the excitement some people have for live brand experiences and I’ve found that good experiential is a whole lot of logistics and hauling gear around the countryside and trying to run extension chords through the middle of busy shopping centres. 

Social media has fuelled the rebirth of experiential as opportunities to ‘generate buzz’ and get people advertising your product for free (apparently) and I’ve ended up on a few strategy sessions. Here are a few things to think about. 

1. The Opera House test

Here’s a selfie I took in front of the Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains. Thousands of people a year take photos at this lookout every year and post them to social media. Same goes at the Sydney Opera House, Grand Canyon and Eiffel Tower. Ask yourself - is the activation that we are doing at the level of the Opera House? Probably not so don’t expect that people are going to interact with your brand activation the same way they do with these A-list photo sites. They won’t so you're going to have to come up with a smart campaign mechanic.

2. Eyes on the prize

People often roll their eyes at the Hansel and Gretel trails I like to put down to get people to interact with a brand. You need to heavily incentivise customers and tell them exactly what you want them to do in a brand experience. I’m sorry if that’s not very cool but I’m all in favour of giving people free products, prizes, and blatant instructions on what you want them to do in an activation.  Some people think that a high level of ‘bribery’ is not a good reflection on the brand and it moves things from social into ‘advertising’. 

Do you seriously think that people standing outside a shopping centre handing out free product samples are there to be your friend of just for fun? Customers aren’t stupid. Experiential is expensive and your client has trusted and paid you to promote their products. It’s not about standing around and being cool so make sure you have a clear promotional mechanic. 

3. Real time

On Australia Day I tweeted that I was at Coogee beach in Sydney having a BBQ. Coke tweeted me back offering to bring free cokes to the BBQ if I clicked on a link and filled out a little form. The brand values of fun and summer are mixed with a generous offer and I would imagine (I didn’t take up the offer) promotional reps armed with cameras who would take photos of us enjoying the product that could be distributed to social.  Great real-time activation. 

4. Contextual

I love this social activation from AUT University in New Zealand. The simple idea of graduation photos has been taken further with a fun,  Instagram frame and clear instructions on the hashtag to use. See the Hansel and Gretel trail? “we want you to post graduation photos to Instagram and hashtag #AUTgrad” -brilliant.

I also really like this in-store photo booth at Sportsgirl in Sydney. Simple and fun idea around girls shopping and leaving the booth a bit longer hedges your bets that you'll get enough content to work with without paying huge fees for activation site rental. 

5. Integrated

If you look at adland lists of large-scale, successful social media campaigns you’ll notice that most of them have a large media buy sitting behind them promoting the social across other channels. ANZ #headbandforgood is promoted on free to air TV, has Facebook pages, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Vine, partner agencies and a whopping celebrity in tennis world number 1 Novak Djokervic. Many companies want to know how they can drum up interest and drive foot traffic to their activation on the day and the answer is an old-fashioned one…pay for it. Paid ads on Facebook with geo targeting are the direction you want to look in as well as classical paid media for an event such as local radio and print. Go back to the Opera House test. You need to have something pretty spectacular to pull crowds and get the selfies snapping. 

Let’s have another look at ANZ to see it all come together? #headbandforgood is incentivising the customer ($2 to World Vision), Hansel and Gretel crumbs (shared to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag), contextual with the Australian Open Tennis, and easy to participate with a simple headband. The campaign is then promoted across paid and organic channels. A bank is not trying to be your cool friend or a tourist landmark and everyone knows it’s a campaign and that’s great. Does ANZ pass the Opera House test? No, so they had to come up with a well thought out, executed and funded mechanic and they've done it all very well.