What does the second lockdown mean for the experiences sector?

New national restrictions coming into place on 5 November will put in-person brand experiences on hold.

Experiences: Twitter produced an outdoor activation for Halloween
Experiences: Twitter produced an outdoor activation for Halloween

New restrictions coming into place across England on 5 November will result in the closure of non-essential retail, leisure facilities, hospitality and entertainment venues.

The measures put in-person brand experiences on hold at a time when it was just beginning to feel like a wave of events were returning.

Joe Wicks has already announced he will be delivering lockdown workouts digitally and consumers who have embraced online events are poised for what's on offer.

Additionally, it was confirmed by culture secretary Oliver Dowden that arts venues will be able to stream performances, as they are places of work. So, while audiences are not permitted to attend in person, it does provide further hope of engaging, immersive, online live experiences.

With a level of uncertainty around when consumers and brands can meet again in the flesh, Campaign has asked the industry: what does the impending national lockdown mean for experiences?

Dom Robertson

Managing director, RPM

The re-introduction of near-full lockdown is incredibly challenging for our industry, which is already suffering deeply. We stand amongst fantastic venues, agencies, partners and action groups like #WeCreateExperiences in championing the need for support.

Looking to the next few weeks, we are more prepared and therefore see a heightened opportunity to really engage consumers with blended and at-home experiences, using the technology that has enabled experiences to happen in various guises since March. We've seen some wonderful work across the industry that has brought people together in new ways and I have no doubt this innovation will continue.

Liz Richardson

Managing partner, HeyHuman

Digital activation was the obvious response to the first lockdown and there'll be more of that, despite the fatigue. But we'd like to see much more focus on in-home experiences. As we enter a long winter, it's the job of brands to create engaging, entertaining activations in people's homes to keep experiential on the map.

When restrictions ease again, live experiences will make a comeback, but it'll be community-led and local, initially. Just before this latest lockdown, we surveyed more than 1,000 UK shoppers, and 82% of them wanted to actively connect with brands on the high street - 57% of them wanted to do so locally. People clearly crave interactions you just can't get on Zoom, so a focus on community and rebuilding customer confidence is essential for experiential's future.

Peter Law

Head of experiential and executive producer, Flying Object

People love many kinds of experience. Our Halloween collaboration with Twitter last week – a "walk past" experience – worked under the previous rules. Other types of experience will fit new guidelines.

We were lucky with timings, and another lockdown is going to make planning hard for everyone. We're also fortunate that we're structured to think flexibly about what an experience "is". While deep financial stress is being distributed (unevenly) across the sector, we're grateful to clients but, naturally, worry about where things are heading.

For now, I think agencies like us have to be prepared to move fast, try to help and look towards spring.

Charlotte Mair

Founder and managing director, The Fitting Room

As people have taken time to reflect during lockdown, I think values have begun to shift. People will want more meaning in their experiences and more opportunity to capture them. This is where I think we will see the growth in technology – just look at the "Hologram from heaven" Kanye West recently gave as a gift to Kim Kardashian. We’re going to see more aligned experiences that pair tech innovation and emotion-driven human behaviour.

The hybrid approach to live experiences will continue to evolve with the IRL part becoming the incredible moments that could never be created virtually.

Will Mould

Co-founder and managing director, XYZ

The consequences of the enforced shutdown of the UK's live experience for Q2 and Q3 this year have been dramatic for businesses, employees and brands, with many jobs lost and businesses having to shut down. Lockdown two doesn't have to be this way; those who managed to survive by pivoting and re-inventing themselves across the past eight months will be the ones who can limit the damage from more restrictions.

This is why we have created Connector at XYZ, a tech platform that allows the IRL feel, offering a physical, live location that can be experienced virtually. The democratisation of access that virtual experiences affords is something that is not going to vanish the moment we can return to live entertainment en masse. Our clients are aware of this and Connector has been used very successfully with clients such as Levi's, who know that those walls have now come down.

Consumers expect a certain ease of access when it comes to virtual experiences, and brands that opened the doors to all during lockdown will need to consider hybrid options for 2021 and beyond.