Opinion: How to stand-out at Advertising Week

Sarah Ramamurthy, account director at MWWPR UK, offers a guide for PR professionals navigating Advertising Week in 2017.  

Sarah Ramamurthy

Advertising Week Europe (20-24 March) sees the great and good of the advertising industry descend on Piccadilly for a week of talks, drinking and self-promotion, creating huge opportunities for brands to stand out amongst their peers.

However, in such a crowded environment it can be hard for a brand to gain share of voice.  Over four years, MWW has represented a number of clients at the show, and here are our top tips for how to win:

Celebrity for celebrity’s sake
Competition to fill the larger stages at the show has created an arms race in celebrity speakers. However, unless your star act has some relevance to your company story, you’re simply paying for their PR.  Don’t just go for the most high-profile, or the most available, figure. First decide who’s going to give the angle that will actually make the session about you.

Don’t get lost in the middle
Whilst earned attention is, of course, the key to great ROI, it usually has to be backed-up by some investment in sponsorship and activation. However, with the profusion of sponsors and partners at the show, it can be easy to get lost in the noise.  The best results lie at the extremes – a major partner will inevitably stand-out, but some of the most interesting and creative activations have come from those with a limited budget.  In the middle, it can be all too easy to be yet another logo on the board, lost in a sea of competing activations.

It’s not all about the show floor
While the activity centres around the theatres and public spaces of the Picture House, some of the best promotional activations happen elsewhere. The show itself is noisy, crowded and hectic, leaving little room for a brand to shine.

The off-site activities – whether officially Ad Week sanctioned or not – can be more relaxed and intimate, letting you tell your story to a captive (and probably relieved) audience at your own pace.

Intelligent media relations
I’m going to say it – I don’t like organising media briefings at trade shows. Many years of rushed conversations with hungover journalists, squeezed into a dark corner of a crowded hallway have led me to believe that this is not the optimal approach.

Instead, invite journalists to your drinks event or speaker session, brief them on your news story ahead of time or take them out for a recovery lunch post-show to discuss the themes.

Tell a simple story
AWE is not the place to tell the world about the broad scope of your company’s strategic vision. Like any trade show, the competition for attention means that complex messages get lost.  Instead, decide upon the specific story you want to tell and make that your focus.  Better to communicate one part of your story effectively than to shout your corporate life story into the void.

The tips above are Ad Week-specific but could equally apply to any trade show.  Recognising the opportunities and limitations of the event format are always the key to winning the war for attention.

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