Experiential marketing is worth €67bn a year and there are big Irish players in this bright spot in the advertising world

It’s been a busy couple of years for the experiential marketing industry in Ireland.

inally free from the Covid-induced lockdowns that prohibited the staging of live events, the Irish experiential marketing agencies and the brands that they work for have merrily bounced back into a market that was craving live experiences.

For the uninitiated, experiential marketing is increasingly being used by marketers as a fast and effective way to build awareness through face-to-face connections with consumers, typically at live events, product launches, pop-up stores and, increasingly, digital spaces like the Metaverse.

With the global experiential marketing industry worth an estimated €67bn, it is also one of the brightest stars in the marketing firmament with marketers and marketing agencies keen to get a slice of the action.

Just before Christmas, Verve, the largest  experiential events agency in Ireland, with a turnover of €25m, was acquired by the US company The Opus Group. Founded by Ronan Traynor in 1991, Verve’s clients in Ireland and the UK include Diageo, Coca-Cola and Google.

The deal follows the 2021 sale of  another Irish agency, Honey+Buzz, to another US company, Allied Global Marketing (AGM). Founded in 2019 by brothers Jonny and Paddy Davis, the Dublin-based agency, which has since rebranded as AGM, works with brands like Heineken Ireland, Brown Thomas and  Dyson. At group level, AGM’s clients include Hulu, DreamWorks, Paramount and ByteDance.

The growth in experiential marketing also prompted creative agency, Boys+Girls to set up its own dedicated business in 2022. Called EXP, it has gone on to launch the world’s first Lego café as well as working with the mobile phone company Three across its Live Nation sponsorship portfolio of eight UK festivals over the last 12 months.

Experiential marketing has been around for a long time. The first experiential marketing event was most likely the World Fair in Chicago in 1893. The estimated 29 million Americans who visited the fair during the year were introduced to brands like Cracker Jack popcorn, Aunt Jemima’s Pancake Mix and Wrigley’s chewing gum. According to reports at the time, William Wrigley, the founder of the eponymous firm, used the fair to test-market Juicy Fruit chewing gum.

“Experiential marketing allows a brand to make authentic connections with their target audience. We look to create a deeper, more emotional connection between consumers and brands by allowing them to actively participate in the marketing experience,” says Jonny Davis who, together with his brother Paddy, has recently been appointed as executive vice
president of AGM’s experience business.

According to Davis, one of the recent highlights for the agency in 2022 was working with Paramount to celebrate the 25th anniversary of South Park with a series of pop-up experiences in cities like London, Berlin, Tokyo and Mexico.

“When done right, the overall brand experience can provoke desired perceptual and behaviour change. Brands that aren’t – or can’t – invite their audience to immerse themselves in their brand world will fall behind. With the right strategy, idea and execution, experiential marketing can create the most powerful and memorable connection with consumers,” adds EXP’s Karleen Smyth.

Both Davis and Smyth say the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 triggered a degree of soul searching in the industry as many people shifted their social and working lives online. With many brands dipping their toes in the Metaverse and looking to harness the power of digital’s near universal grip on society in general, digital experiences look set to play an even greater role.

“The world has changed and there’s no going back to pre-2020,” says Smyth. “Yes, there’s absolutely a role for digital experiences, however, currently I see it as a complementary role rather than the leading lady,” she adds.

“Experiences should be technology enabled with intelligent ideas rooted in real human and cultural insights. This is what will turn audiences into advocates no matter the channel.”

So, experience does count after all.

Bloom joins LWA

The LWA Group, which is headed up by Colin Culliton, has acquired a majority stake in the creative agency Bloom.

Founded by David Quinn and Damian Penco in 2020, clients include  Citroen, Brady Family Ham, LloydsPharmacy, JustEat and Sunway Travel.

The LWA Group owns a number of creative services businesses including Pluto, Tap Creative, VAAS video production and Zest Product Solutions.


The campaign features comedian Aisling Bea. Photo: WireImage

Bea toasts sobriety

The Irish Distillers-owned Jameson has has rolled out a new TV campaign to encourage responsible drinking as part of the brand’s plans to tackle over-consumption and alcohol misuse. 

Called “Easy Does It”, the campaign was created by agency TBWA\Dublin and features Irish comedian Aisling Bea who finds herself in typical social drinking scenarios consumers can find themselves in when they choose to moderate or skip a drink.

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