At the start of this new year, I think we find ourselves right in the midst of a coming-of-age era for our industry.
If you look back to the 1960’s, it’s a period that is now synonymous with Mad Men, Don Draper and Madison Avenue. This was a significant time and represents, for me, the era of the creation of the advertising industry. Fast forward toward the 70’s and 80’s, and it was people like Bob Leaf who did the same for the PR industry in the streets of Covent Garden in London. Of course, people were doing PR long before then, but it was the ‘industry’ that was forged in that period.
Then in the 90’s, and edging toward the millennium, it was the digital revolution and the turn of social and digital media. Today, what I think we’ll look back on, between 2010 and 2020, is the forging of the events industry. Again, that’s not to say it wasn’t in existence beforehand, because events have been taking place for hundreds of years. But I believe it is this period of time that we’re in the midst of now, that is critical for us in really establishing our industry.
The one contributing factor in all of these examples, is the emergence and sophistication of event management agencies and professionals. And one of the things we’re seeing now is amazing strength of event agencies who are selling us better, communicating about us better, and being involved in events right across the board. It’s these agencies that we’ll look back on as the Don Draper’s, the Madison Avenue’s, the PR’s of Covent Garden, and the social media teams of Shoreditch. We’re seeing our giants, our GPJ’s and Jack Mortons, doing the same great work. But we’re also seeing lots of little dynamic agencies, like Seen and The Urban Nerds Collective, growing quickly and adding further impetus to our industry.
Overall, the biggest certainty we face in 2017, is instability. Everything from Brexit and fluctuating currencies to the Trump Presidency shrouds corporate business in uncertainty. But I don’t believe that uncertainty always leads to negativity. Something I’m really passionate about in the events industry is how definite it is. I think the best brands and businesses will be the ones that understand this market, and will be investing in their event agencies. Because in an unstable environment, it will be the company that is definite, dynamic and agile that grasps the nettle and will succeed.
There will be some businesses that are going to hesitate and some businesses that are going to dive right in, and I think if the event industry can be a conduit for action in a hesitating world, then that is one of our greatest opportunities.
The other thing I’d say about 2017, is that every time there’s an economic downturn, it seems to be our industry that suffers. We get our corporate events cancelled and we get people thinking events are a luxury. However, it’s those agencies that have been selling hard the virtues and values of what we do, that have actually put us into a much more stable position.
I’m personally really interested to see whether we can better the economic climate, that could challenge us in 2017. We’re quickly garnering more respect as an integral part of the marketing mix and the next step is to better represent who we are at a corporate and industry level. We need to be the people who say ‘Yes, we can make that happen.’ ‘Yes, we can invest here.’ ‘If I think there’s a great idea I’ll put my money where my mouth is.’ So perhaps a New Year’s Resolution for the events industry in 2017 should be to talk ourselves upwards more.
Alistair Turner is Managing Director of EIGHT PR & Marketing, a specialist creative agency servicing the events industry. Alistair has over 20 years experience in the PR and events industries, working closely with the key trade associations as well as the UK government. He is currently President Elect of the International Live Event Society (ILEA UK Chapter) and a special advisor to the National Outdoor Events Association.