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Häagen-Dazs, Samsung, Stella Artois and more: how to build award-winning experiences

By Eleanor Lim, Event Producer

September 15, 2021 | 12 min read

The Drum Awards for Experience honor the best and most innovative experiential marketing, and 2020 was a year that demanded more from the people that create it.

The Haagen Dazs and Secret Cinema experience

Häagen-Dazs and Secret Cinema joined forces to bring a luxury experience to audiences in lockdown

Until the pandemic, experiences were splashy and luxe, possibly bigger than ever before. And, of course, as different countries went into lockdown, the minds behind in-person events had to start from scratch in unprecedented conditions.

As part of The Drum’s Experiential Marketing Deep Dive, take a look back at some of last year’s award winners. From pivot initiatives that took digital events to a whole new level to immersive experiences that will surely inspire bigger and better in the post-pandemic landscape, these top-tier campaigns represent opportunity in 2021 and beyond.

Grand Prix, Culinary Experience of the Year and Best At-Home Experience

Agency: Space, Takumi, Secret Cinema and General Mills

Client: Häagen-Dazs

Campaign: Secret Sofa by Häagen-Dazs

As in-person activations were stalled by the pandemic, some brands saw an opportunity to innovate. At the height of lockdown, Secret Cinema linked up with Häagen-Dazs to provide audiences at home with a collective escape through a completely reimagined shared experience.

On eight Fridays between April and June, an immersive virtual film club created moments of magic when audiences needed them most. Households across the country took part, transforming into a Parisian boudoir or a top-secret MI6 HQ – all from the comfort of their sofas.

The Secret Sofa campaign achieved unprecedented positive sentiment and sales uplift for the two brands. The partnership brought a moment of luxury to audiences at a time of gloomy forecasts and bad news, and the judges considered its success a testament to the creativity and agility of the teams involved.

Grand Prix, Pivot Initiative of the Year and Sports or E-Sports Experience of the Year

Agency: Wunderman Thompson UK

Client: BT

Campaign: Red Lioness

BT enlisted the help of Wunderman Thompson to address an inequality: while men’s football is reliably shown in pubs across the country, women’s football rarely is, despite the Lionesses’ recent success.

At the heart of the experience lay The Red Lioness, a pub in Moorgate that the team transformed for the duration of the campaign (since ‘The Red Lion’ is famously the most common pub name in the country, it was an especially good fit).

In November 2019, not one pub in the UK had committed to screening and promoting televised women’s football. BT’s Red Lioness Pledge encouraged drinking establishments to create a more inclusive environment and celebrate the journeys of the women’s teams. In the course of the campaign, they signed up over a thousand pubs, far outstripping an initial target of 150.

With a peak of 11.7 million people watching, the BBC’s coverage of the Women’s World Cup semi-final between England and the United States became the most-watched women’s football fixture ever shown on British television. BT’s campaign helped drive a cultural change in the way the nation watches football.

For the judges, creating a conversation around change and taking on a deeply-rooted challenge was admirable. They loved that the work furthered conversation around women in sports and creating safe spaces, and did so without fear.

They said: “Behavior and cultural change brought about through a highly apt partnership and executed in an extremely creative and authentic way. The creative was excellent, with high attention to detail that drove measurable results.“

B2B Experience of the Year

Agency: Smyle

Client: Samsung

Campaign: Samsung Life Unstoppable 2020

Seemingly unperturbed by the pandemic, creative agency Smyle built the Life Unstoppable experience for its long-term partner Samsung. It made use of gaming platform Unreal Engine to push the boundaries of virtual events, hosting a fully immersive, live digital media experience for over 5,000 retail partners and members of the press.

Smyle not only created a carefully constructed 3D virtual world for Samsung Life Unstoppable, but applied the very latest gaming techniques, together with 8D audio, AR integration, ray tracing and pixel streaming, to deliver powerful emotional resonance never before seen in a virtual event.

Guests of the Life Unstoppable experience went on a virtual, dynamic journey of Samsung’s newest technology. Presenters and special guests appeared to showcase human-centered innovations that open doors in the face of lockdowns, travel restrictions and remote working. In many ways, the medium was the message: a virtual event to inspire and facilitate face-to-face encounters in an increasingly, by necessity, digital world.

Chair’s Award and Product Launch/Relaunch Experience of the Year

Agency: The Mill

Client: Amazon

Campaign: Hunters Grindhouse and Immersive 70s Experience

Amazon Hunters 1970 Grindhouse Experience | The Mill x Campfire from The Mill on Vimeo.

Amazon Prime’s series Hunters is told in the style of 1970s exploitation films. To promote it, The Mill’s Campfire team developed an immersive 1970s experience, leaning heavily on the film’s setting to create an unforgettable experience for guests.

The activation transformed an entire Los Angeles block into 1977 New York City, featuring improv actors playing everything from street troubadours to three-card monte hustlers. 70s-era cars were parked along the street, and 16 participating stores played 70s music, with employees in period clothes selling Hunters-related specials.

The large-scale immersive experience was anchored by a recreated grindhouse cinema on one side and a party at a Hunters bowling alley on the other, creating a truly spectacular launchpad for the series.

The 2020 jury was chaired by Katherine Tooley, senior vice-president of experiential at Vice Media Group. She selected this entry as her favorite for the Chair’s Award, calling it “experiential in the truest sense”.

She also noted that The Mill had created several noteworthy entries, including work for The Tate and for Spotify that “made music and art come to life right off the page”.

Brand Activation as Part of an Integrated Marketing Campaign of the Year

Agency: The Bait Shoppe

Client: Stella Artois/Anheuser-Busch

Campaign: East River Riviera

Taking inspiration from an earlier Stella Artois concept – ‘Le Village’ – The Bait Shoppe created a new way for New Yorkers to savor their journey home. The East River Riviera transformed one of pre-pandemic life’s chores – the daily commute.

The experience centered on two Riviera-styled Port De Stella installations along New York‘s East River – one in Dumbo, Brooklyn, and another in Brookfield Place, New York. These branded environments were eye-catching, transformative sampling stops, a literal launching point for unsuspecting customers.

For the week-long campaign, a fleet of sophisticated wooden Riva boats, made in the 1940s, offered free transport between the two ‘Port De Stella’ docks. The awards jury felt this was an ‘unmistakably Stella’ concept, playing a meaningful role that went beyond sales figures.

The East River Riviera became a national story thanks to the remarkable number of media impressions it attracted. For the first time in brand history, Stella dominated the competitive share of voice during the peak summer months, far surpassing the brand’s closest import competitors.

B2C Experience of the Year

Agency: Flying Object

Client: Twitter UK

Campaign: Dating Twitter Advice Bureau

Dating Twitter

Valentine’s Day often brings out the worst in marketing, inspiring shallow, commercial depictions of hearts-and-flowers love. This timely campaign from Twitter provided the perfect antidote to the calendar’s most saccharine day.

Since Twitter is driven by the people on the platform and the conversations among them, Flying Object created an in-person experience that captured the chaotic, often hilarious spirit of the platform: The Dating Twitter Advice Bureau.

The Bureau was a pop-up pick’n’mix of tips and installations inspired by the funniest, and most relatable, Tweets. The experiential campaign was fully integrated with OOH, print, a video and an @TwitterUK takeover.

7,000 people visited the Bureau over four days, while press coverage reached a total audience of 1.1 billion and the team recorded a significant lift in brand favorability. By turning intangible assets into an experiential event, Twitter was able to reach beyond its online base and showcase its service to a new audience.

Feeling inspired? The Drum Awards for Experience are open again for entry for 2021. See more past winners and find out how to enter on the website.

From festivals to retail installations to unmissable activations, we examine the avenues open to marketers to reach consumers enjoying their newfound freedom in The Drum’s Experiential Deep Dive.

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