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Reset 2021: behind the scenes of Brandfuel's virtual conference for the Advertising Agency

Brandfuel won ‘Conference/Exhibition of the Year’ at The Drum Awards for Experience with its project for the Advertising Association. Called ‘Reset 2021’ this fully interactive virtual conference and exhibition was designed to replace its annual summit and the ISBA’s annual conference. Here, the team behind this winning entry explains the strategy behind it.

What does Covid-19 mean for the UK advertising industry? That was the question that brought the three big advertising industry organizations together for the first time in their history to stage the Reset 2021 conference.

The Advertising Association, the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), and the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA) wanted to give their members the opportunity to network with senior and influential figures from brands, agencies, media owners, tech platforms and the government, and to hear their ideas at the start of a critical year for British advertising.

Our objectives

Brandfuel’s mission was to create a fully interactive virtual conference and exhibition on January 28, 2021 that would attract, inform and educate delegates, and encourage high-level networking.

Reset 2021 was designed to replace the Advertising Association’s summit, LEAD, and ISBA’s annual conference, both of which attracted more than 400 high-level attendees last year. Issues to be covered included how to build public trust in advertising, how far digital advertising could boost Britain’s creative economy, and how the government’s proposed 2022 ban on advertising food with high fat, salt and sugar content would have far-reaching and unintended consequences for the industry.

With an attendee list consisting of the combined members and wider networks of the three organizations, Reset provided an unrivalled opportunity to meet senior representatives across the entire advertising landscape. As an agency committed to supporting the future of UK advertising, Brandfuel partnered with the three organizations to deliver the event at a reduced cost and we also had our own partner exhibition stand.

Our challenges

This was the first time that Brandfuel had created a platform such as this, and our goal was to create an engaging space that would encourage delegates to linger and explore. Another challenge was that we wanted to provide a chat function that allowed attendees to find a delegate individually or by their company name and to be able to video call them. Finally, we needed to create nine different interactive partner stands for the exhibition space for nine very different clients.

Clear strategy

From the start, we took the decision to design, develop and build our own solution as the larger event platforms did not address the needs of smaller, bespoke events. This allowed us to create a platform that was carefully tailored to Reset’s needs.

An effective solution

Alongside a stimulating agenda, the event – which ran from 9am to 1.30pm – premiered a bespoke 3D networking lounge in which attendees could interact easily with fellow delegates and explore the partners’ interactive exhibition stands. The event partners were IAB’s Gold Standard, Pinterest, Unruly, Integral Ad Science, STRAT7, Comscon, Sky and News UK.

Brandfuel’s full service event platform included a live virtual exhibition, live chat capabilities for delegates (including direct and group video calling) and a livestream. There were 12 sessions over the course of the morning with a mix of pre-recorded and live sessions, all scheduled, queued and implemented by our production team.

Speakers included Oliver Dowden, the Secretary of State at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, the presidents of the three host organizations – Keith Weed, Peter Duffy and Nigel Vaz – plus senior industry figures such as Karen Blackett OBE, Steve Hatch, Ben McOwen Wilson and many more.

Brandfuel’s Reset platform was slick and easy to navigate, offering attendees a superior viewing and networking experience. There was one core livestream showing the morning’s content, with the opportunity for a live Q&A session and polling.

The Networking Lounge at Reset was the social hub of the event. From here attendees could see who else was attending and chat with fellow delegates. There were three networking segments during the morning in which attendees had the opportunity to visit the lounge and explore the partners’ 3D exhibition stands. These were created specially for Reset and contained interactive features including messaging, video walls and downloadable content.

And, unlike live events that end once you’ve left the building, the Reset 2021 platform was also available for attendees to access for a month after the event had taken place.

Tangible results

There were over 800 registrations for Reset 2021 with over 600 livestream viewers. Understandably, the hosts were concerned about keeping the audience engaged for the whole event, a considerably more challenging exercise in an online format. The fact that 93 per cent of attendees viewed the livestream for the first two hours and approximately 90 per cent of attendees viewed the livestream for more than half the event was a great success.

There were more than 3,300 views of the microsite page on the event day, with over 1,100 unique users. In addition, Twitter impressions were 129% higher than for either of the physical events held in 2020.

Happy clients…

The advertising organization hosts were delighted with the results.

Stephen Woodford, the CEO of the Advertising Association, said: “Reset was our first major virtual summit and we needed a production partner we could trust and rely on. Having previously worked with Brandfuel on a number of very successful smaller projects in 2020, we felt confident they would deliver for us, but they absolutely exceeded our expectations in every aspect.

“Our members and attendees were blown away by the quality of the event and we have received fantastic feedback. We have already booked Brandfuel to work on another large event and look forward to continuing our co-operation.”

Suzanne Costello, the Advertising Association’s head of events, said: “From start to finish, we felt in incredibly safe hands with Brandfuel. Our event – a conference with bespoke virtual exhibition – was complex with multiple integrations, but each process was communicated incredibly clearly and the brilliant team (big shout-outs to Jack, Katy, Vickie and Hayley) always made sure that we were happy every step of the way and nothing was ever too much trouble.

“The team frequently went above and beyond to ensure that our briefings, recordings and edits were to our satisfaction, and they consistently impressed both us and our speakers with their attention to detail and being able to anticipate our needs. The design, branding and functionality of the microsite was to the highest specs and looked amazing on the day. Our partners were all delighted with their virtual stands and really appreciated the huge amount of work that went into building these.

“The event ran seamlessly without a single glitch and the feedback has been outstanding, and rightly so. We have been working with Brandfuel for several months now and they continue to exceed our expectations and consistently go the extra mile to deliver impeccable service. They are an absolute pleasure to work with and it’s a huge privilege and a pleasure to have them as our production partner.”

...and happy delegates

“Congratulations on a great Reset. I sat through every minute and thought it was outstanding, with some terrific highlights.” Mark Howe, Google

This campaign was a winner at The Drum Awards for Experience. To find out more, including which competitions are currently open for entry, visit The Drum Awards website.

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