EuBEA Exclusive: Colja Dams explains how Live-marketing events are evolving

EuBEA Exclusive: Colja Dams explains how Live-marketing events are evolving

coljadams.jpgSalvatore Sagone, President of ADC Group, has interviewed Colja M. Dams (image), CEO Vok Dams Agency for Events and Live-Marketing, to talk about his agency and the world of events.

Can you describe the main markets where you are operating, from Germany
onwards, in terms of attitude of the clients towards the events, investment, etc.?

In the European and the US markets events are a communication tool and events
have long since become a vital part of the marketing-mix, it is especially the Asian
market that has grown enormously over the last years. It is fair to say that this market
has a great potential for the event industry, the more so as the economic peak has
still not been reached here. To be successful in the market a good understanding of
the Chinese culture is an absolute must. You need to know the right venues and the
local partners, you also need to have access to the Chinese authorities. With more
than 10 years successful experience in the Chinese Market and two local offices in
Beijing and Shanghai VOK DAMS knows the marketing challenges and needs in
China. The teams are a mixture of local Chinese event planners and international
colleagues, so we ensure that clients from other countries have both the national and
international expertise at their disposal. It is this local know-how combined with the
capacity of an international network of event professionals that gives us the
opportunity to create events that are precisely to the point for our clients. No matter
what the clients cultural or communicative background is.

According to your experience with your clients are live events considered as a
strategic ‘medium’ to communicate with the different targets? Do the clients distract
investments from other media (if yes which ones and why)?

Event marketing can definitely be called “strategic” as regards the direct
communication with the respective target groups. While other media forms – such as
television, print or out-of-home – have a very high media penetration, events have a
certain depth. Indeed, certain communication goals can be achieved far easier via
events than with forms of media. The target group is addressed directly, individually
and personally, which makes them deeply internalize the respective message. As
event marketing has become a major part in the marketing mix over the last
decades, it needs to be implemented both strategically and in sensibly. With a
separate Consulting unit VOK DAMS focuses on event communication from a holistic
and strategic point of view. Generally, one could say that event marketing is gaining
more and more media budgets. This is not only due to the fact, that this
communication form has become increasingly professionalized in the past decade,
but also because events are increasingly combined with other communication tools
to maximize their communication potential – such as, e.g. in conjunction with social

You have developed a special expertise in combining events and social media.
How do you think this ‘link’ will evolve?

Still, social media is a growing part of our everyday life. Nowadays, more than 900
million people use facebook and this is just the biggest of all the networks. The
potential of social media is enormous. The combination of the digital and the real
world is just the next, logical step. You can find many indicators for that: Smartphone
and tablets allow us access to the mobile internet, which connects everybody to the
digital sphere all the time, wherever they are. Also, the borders between the digital
and the real world are increasingly blurred. Coming generations will expect digital
elements to be integrated in every event they attend.

Creativity and technology (audio, video,etc.). How relationship has this evolved?

Technology and creativity have become an inseparable unit. So, we called it Hybrid
Event. Hybrid Event is the combination of live and virtual parts in one event. When
drafting an event concept during the creative part you have to ask yourself what
technology is to be used, to achieve the communication goal. At VOK DAMS we
have sorted the new technologies into three categories: MObile applications, SOcial
media and LOcation based services. Or in short: MoSoLo. These technologies – such
as augmented reality tools or services like foursquare – can also be taken into
account during the event design. Due to the new technologies how they have
changed our everyday communication, what has changed enormously is that, events
become more user-generated than brand-generated. So creativity always has to
focus on the target group and their respective needs – not only on the brand.

Which are the most common ‘mistakes’ that clients do in approaching and
producing events?

A successful event has two fundamental conditions. First you have to define the
communication objectives against the background of your target group. Second you
have to assemble internal and external partners which work together in one team.
Of course an event has several planning stages, which all need their time to be
executed properly.

Do you happen to organize events on an European basis? Do you think this
could be a trend?

As one of the leading international agencies, VOK DAMS is of course operating in all

European countries. The globalization and our multinational clients make it vital for
us to be able to plan and realize events also on a European basis. Nowadays, dealer
events or press launches do not only address national dealers and journalists but
have become international events across continents and requiring an international
know-how. In Europe, VOK DAMS is based not only in Germany but also in France,
the UK and the Czech Republic to ensure that our clients benefit both from local and
international know how for their events.

How do you think will evolve the competitive arena regarding the agencies in
Europe. How do you think the big networks will impact on the independent agencies
like yours?

Of course, the big network agencies come up with their own event units and are
competing with us in several areas. But what should be never forgotten is that we are
still the specialists in the field of event marketing. The experience we have gained in
the past can simply not be replaced by a big agency name and our clients know that.
Although the big agency networks have their offices all over the world, their event
unit is often concentrated only in one local office. That means they can’t offer local
know how in, for example, the Chinese market. Predominantly their business is
classical ad communication and our clients know that. So, overall we are not afraid of
their event subsidiary.

You have a particular experience in the automotive market. How is it evolving,
what this industry is demanding today?

The needs of the automotive branch are the same as the needs of other branches.
These days, the differentiation of products is getting more and more difficult for the
single manufacturers, which means that they have to strengthen their brand. Brand
communication and positioning is vital for the success. And it does not matter
whether we are talking about b2b or b2c communication here, the need for a strong
and unique brand is as strong as never before.

Sustainability is a real issue for the clients? How do you answer to this request?

We have recognized this trend already in 2005. At this time we started to think about
sustainable event solutions for our clients. Today, you can clearly see that
sustainability and the companies’ Co2 footprint are of massive relevance to our
clients. If the client asks us, we are able to conceive a Co2 neutral event by reducing
the pollution of the environment created by the event to a minimum and by working
out counter-measures that fit to the respective CSR strategy of our client. VOK
DAMS Consulting is actively working on that topic and has been supporting clients in
this endeavor over several years already.

Finally let’s talk about effectiveness and ROI. How do you approach this matter?

The evaluation of events is a very exciting topic. Generally the question is how the
success of an event can be measured. We believe that this is possible by setting
several concrete goals before an event. It is vital to define exactly what the result of
an event should be, to be able to talk about the success after the event.

Vok Dams Consulting is offering proven ROI system services – tracking the
success of event communication.