Media: Double Standards - How should brands approach music festivals?

Sledge's Ian Irving and Cake's Mike Mathieson talk about village fetes, beer amnesties and brands having their own festivals.

IAN IRVING - FOUNDING MEMBER AND MARKETING DIRECTOR, SLEDGE

- What brands will you be bringing to festivals this summer?

The Innocent village fete has many brands for us to work with; Cadbury is another, and Metro.

- Decribe some of the most innovative or creative activities at music events you've done for clients

In the past 12 months, Sledge created the Red Bull arena at Glastonbury, the Innocent village fete and the O2 Wireless Festival in Hyde Park. These branded activities reached tens of thousands of festival-goers through varying experiential elements.

- Which brands work best with festival-goers, and why?

The presence of brands at music festivals should enhance and support the festival-goer's experience, not detract or distract from it in any way. While brand experiences and festivals are a natural fit, this was exploited to death at last summer's festivals. Don't get me wrong - for the right brands, the music festival environment really works, but I've been subjected to far too many "me too" experiences to be tolerant of this any longer.

- How do you best engage the audience - after all, they're there for the music?

Brands need to cut through the clutter when fighting for attention with an audience that is being besieged by brand names. Effective brand experiences could be as simple as a mobile phone charging station or a free plastic cape for when the inevitable festival showers begin, and at the other end, it could be a money-can't-buy experience. Whatever it is, it needs to be relevant, immersive and engaging.

- What is the key to successful involvement in a festival for a brand?

Why settle for being one of many when you can be master of one? O2 created Wireless while its competitors vied to be noticed on the festival circuit. And Innocent successfully created Fruitstock and then evolved it into its village fete. Around 60,000 people spent their day immersed in the Innocent brand, thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it and then told their friends and family.

- With budgets tightening in the current climate, are advertisers now going more for smaller-scale involvement?

In my opinion, brands are not necessarily cutting spend, but being more bullish in demanding control and doing events that provide a great consumer experience. This is why we are going to see more brands cutting out promoters and owning their own events.

- How do you measure the impact of a brand at a festival?

Marketers are realising that not only is evaluating brand experiences often quite straightforward, but that in themselves they offer fantastic opportunities for learning more about consumers. Live experiences that work well see consumers actively engaged with a brand, and this shouldn't be passed up as an opportunity to better understand consumers.

- What's your favourite live act?

Led Zep at the O2 and Foo Fighters anywhere.

MIKE MATHIESON - CHIEF EXECUTIVE, CAKE

- What brands will you be bringing to festivals this summer?

Carling, Channel 4, Sol, Pro Plus and producing festivals for Ben & Jerry's and a telco in Europe. With our reverse hat, the media relations, marketing and broadcast management of the V Festival, for the 11th year in a row.

- Decribe some of the most innovative or creative activities at music events you've done for clients

Introducing the "cold beer amnesty" for Carling, where any festival-goer could exchange their own-brand lager for ice-cold Carling and have a place to relax too; producing a music event in the Arctic Circle for 300 Lynx prize-winners; producing 5,000 branded tents to give away during the spring on Xfm, which appeared in swathes across hillsides in the summer at Radio One-sponsored festivals.

- Which brands work best with festival-goers, and why?

Brands that have empathy and relevance, i.e. "don't sell me insurance and don't get in my face, but that nice cup of tea, seat, newspaper and free internet access while my phone is charging is very nice, thanks".

- How do you best engage the audience - after all, they're there for the music?

Make it fun or useful - enhance the experience, add something new, create somewhere to go, assist getting people to and from the event or in touch with their mates. At the very least, give them some branded bog paper. Find a gap in the market. The Rizla Cafe was about two basic needs: in the daytime somewhere to sit down, shelter from the rain and have a decent coffee, and at nighttime somewhere to dance in more intimate surroundings.

- What is the key to successful involvement in a festival for a brand?

To take part, but not take over. Create a destination, one that creates festival buzz. "Cold beer amnesty" created word-of-mouth like wildfire wherever it went. Create an angle, one that will give the brand standout around its involvement - the Orange "text me home dome" appeared in five national newspapers, style mags, several news channels, online and, bizarrely, New Scientist.

- With budgets tightening in the current climate, are advertisers now going more for smaller-scale involvement?

The UK festival scene in 2007 reached record numbers in attendance and record levels of brand involvement, despite the free-fall in the recording industry. The live sector continues to grow, especially with the creation of more boutique festivals. Brands, therefore, already have a great deal of choice when it comes to levels of involvement and investment. At times of belt-tightening, an effective brand presence at a major music festival can reach a hugely important, influential and often elusive demographic very easily.

- How do you measure the impact of a brand at a festival?

We have a model that blends ROI, exit interviews, media reach, on-going tracking, footfall, viewing figures and other factors ...

- What's your favourite live act?

You mean apart from AC/DC circa 1982? Undoubtedly, Foo Fighters for sheer adrenalin, attitude and a fine set of anthemic festival tunes.

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