Ex­pe­ri­ence mat­ters ac­cord­ing to its com­mu­ni­ca­tion

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Pro­mot­ing brands nowa­days is more con­sumer-ori­ented and so­cial in na­ture, and we believe our main duty is to pro­vide an en­gag­ing cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence in order to cre­ate re­la­tion­ships,” says Wad­dah Sadek, chief ex­ec­u­tive of its. Com­mu­ni­ca­tions. “[A] tra­di­tional mix and events aren’t enough any­more. This is the time for ac­ti­va­tions, stunts, flash mobs, road­shows. These are the es­sen­tial ingredients of truly in­te­grated cam­paigns.”

Sadek is dis­cussing the rea­son­ing be­hind the launch of its. Events, the Beirut-based agency’s lat­est ini­tia­tive. Fo­cussed on the ex­pe­ri­en­tial side of the mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions busi­ness, the new unit al­ready has seven full-time em­ploy­ees and a team of up to 25 free­lancers, all of whom work un­der the lead­er­ship of man­ag­ing part­ner Ez­zat Kraytem.

The de­ci­sion to open the de­part­ment was taken as part of its. Com­mu­ni­ca­tions’ strat­egy of rolling out sev­eral spe­cialised de­part­ments

Beirut-based its. Com­mu­ni­ca­tions has launched into the ex­pe­ri­en­tial mar­ket with its. Events. Chief ex­ec­u­tive Wad­dah Sadek talks in­te­gra­tion and spe­cial­i­sa­tion

– an ini­tia­tive that be­gan a cou­ple of years ago with the suc­cess­ful launch of tbsp., a unit spe­cialised in the hos­pi­tal­ity busi­ness.

So far busi­ness has been good for the new unit. The agency or­gan­ised two con­sec­u­tive events for Beirut Cul­tural Fes­ti­vals, re­vived Down­town Beirut for an un­for­get­table New Year’s Eve party, was be­hind re­cent events in Ne­jmeh Square, and has or­gan­ised nu­mer­ous cor­po­rate events for its var­i­ous part­ners.

And yet the launch of new units goes against the grain of cur­rent industry trends, with most agen­cies choos­ing to in­te­grate all dis­ci­plines back into one sin­gle agency.

“Def­i­nitely, the trend today is to in­te­grate every­thing into one agency, and this is ex­actly what we did in one op­er­a­tion when we in­te­grated the cre­ative, dig­i­tal, PR and pro­duc­tion and client ser­vic­ing de­part­ments into one sin­gle kitchen,” says Sadek. “But we believe spe­cialised de­part­ments to be a must, and this is shown with the feed­back of the mar­ket on hav­ing ex­pert peo­ple run­ning these spe­cialised de­part­ments.”

With a to­tal of 65 em­ploy­ees, its. Com­mu­ni­ca­tions has come a long way since it was first launched in Jan­uary 2015 by Sadek and Daniel Ge­orr, a for­mer chief cre­ative of­fi­cer at FP7 and a part­ner in restau­rant chain Shawar­manji.

“Since its in­cep­tion, its. Com­mu­ni­ca­tions was cre­ated and built based on a dif­fer­ent ap­proach and con­cept of com­mu­ni­ca­tion,” says Sadek. “Among this dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion were ex­per­i­men­tal events.”

Ex­pe­ri­en­tial, how­ever, re­mains a tricky sell. As with else­where in the re­gion, there is an over re­liance on one-off events and lit­tle re­gard for sus­tain­able brand ex­pe­ri­ences. What’s more, ex­pe­ri­en­tial is hardly ever viewed as a cen­tral com­po­nent of any given cam­paign.

“Ex­pe­ri­en­tial is still in its be­gin­ning but it’s de­vel­op­ing in an ex­po­nen­tial way,” be­lieves Sadek. “Mar­ket­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing are aim­ing more on cre­at­ing re­la­tion­ships with brands than any­thing else, hence the de­vel­op­ment of ex­pe­ri­en­tial mar­ket­ing and events. The mar­ket is not and will never be sat­u­rated since it is based on cre­ativ­ity. The more cre­ative we are, the more events we will have.”

Most of those events, how­ever, are still clas­si­cal in na­ture, al­though Sadek be­lieves they are evolv­ing with the help of dig­i­tal and so­cial media.

There are other fac­tors at play, too, not least the fact that “some clients don’t like to take risks and pre­fer tra­di­tional ac­tiv­i­ties”, says Sadek, while there are also bud­get lim­i­ta­tions and a lack of ex­pe­ri­enced tal­ent in the coun­try. Le­banon’s volatil­ity must also be added to the equa­tion, with ups and downs a fre­quent trait of the mar­ket.

“We have to al­low for some mis­takes to be made to get bet­ter, but we’re get­ting there,” be­lieves Sadek. “Events can be­come mem­o­rable, but we are al­ways faced with eco­nomic tur­moil and bud­get cuts, which makes this cat­e­gory dif­fi­cult to sus­tain.”

The com­pany is seek­ing to over­come these chal­lenges by hir­ing the best peo­ple pos­si­ble, in­creas­ing the learn­ing curve of its team, ac­quir­ing help from for­eign re­sources, and “cre­at­ing great op­por­tu­ni­ties that clients can’t refuse”.

“Ex­pe­ri­en­tial mar­ket­ing, es­pe­cially in the events cat­e­gory, is be­com­ing an in­te­gral part of the brand build­ing process in de­vel­oped coun­tries,” says Sadek. “It is not a lux­ury. It’s ob­vi­ous that it will de­velop more and more in our re­gion, which is some­thing we would like to see hap­pen­ing in a faster way.

“We believe that ev­ery brand/ cus­tomer meet­ing should al­ways be a pos­i­tive one, be­cause build­ing a life­time re­la­tion­ship with brands is the ul­ti­mate aim for both us and our clients.”.

Ex­pe­ri­en­tial mar­ket­ing, es­pe­cially in the events cat­e­gory, is be­com­ing an in­te­gral part of the brand build­ing process in de­vel­oped coun­tries. It is not a lux­ury. It’s ob­vi­ous that it will de­velop more and more in our re­gion, which is some­thing we would like to see hap­pen­ing in a faster way.

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