Experiential Essays: Blackjack - A seat at the top table

Experiential's stature has been enhanced by the core content it offers campaigns.

The current state

Experiential is again showing growth, according to 2012 figures. Digital continues to lead the way, while others decline, and more projects are coming along but with very tight budgets and deadlines. We also often find that the media agencies tag an experiential brief onto a campaign plan with little belief in the need for it - last in, first out scenario.

What is helping is that experiential works well as part of an integrated campaign, either creating core content or providing amplification at key times or locations. Festivals, shopping centres and travel hubs can give good demographics to target specific audiences, but now that they have become so popular you need to create stand-out. Experiential offers this when combining great creative, planning and delivery.

How is it developing?

European reach for campaigns is growing. More of our campaigns are spread across the European market, so language and culture has to be considered, along with the associated logistics and regulations. This gives great opportunities to partner with other agencies, and share learnings and clients across the various territories. This is an area that is very exciting for us, with live campaigns already in place for 2012.

What would we change and how hard is it to persuade brands?

Clients and media agencies in particular still need more understanding of what experiential is and how it should be included in campaigns. They struggle to see the ROI or reach of experiential campaigns. If experiential agencies can convince them that the content can be used to generate free media content, then the value is seen from their perspective. The quality of interaction is also different, often generating a mass of social chatter - 10,000 experiential interactions can be worth 200,000 footfalls past an out-of-home poster site.

Our stand-out from competitors

Another benefit, as mentioned by Betfair, is how experiential creates advocates for brands - experiential is in a unique position to create this within their campaigns. To back this up we still believe that the key to delivering a great campaign is all about its hosts. Through our bespoke staffing database, we skill-match staff, generate profiles for our client and provide great training through our academy scheme. Our client will be part of the training to ensure that we consistently deliver the brand message and experience to the highest level. This final piece of the campaign delivery is our key stand-out: they are our own staff, who we have handpicked and trained all the way.

Our best moments

Just as experiential is becoming more about campaign integration, Blackjack has delivered a more diverse range of campaigns than ever before, alongside opening new offices, recruiting staff and adding £2m to our turnover. Work we have been involved in includes the TinTin movie launch through costume drop-ins at Heathrow, launching Fisher Price's first pop-up retail outlet and Mini re-entering the World Rally Championship.

Government and business

I think the Olympics will demonstrate how important experiential has become. When the case studies are available it will show how key it is to delivering the brand message and experience in a highly creative and memorable way. It needs a platform such as this to make people think about what has just happened. Often people don't realise that the campaign they have just witnessed is actually an experiential campaign. This can then be highlighted to government and industry, backed up by category spend and job creation through the various governing bodies that we belong to.

Ian Priestman is project director of Blackjack