Contactless Experiences and Virtual Events  – The New Era of Communications by Havas’ Dana Tahir

by Dana Tahir, GM, Havas PR Middle East.

In a post-COVID 19 world, we have undoubtedly seen a massive shift in consumer behavior and brand engagement. Now more than ever, brands are expected to be agile and adjust to new consumer trends in order to stay relevant amongst their stakeholders. According to Havas’ 2019 Meaningful Brands Survey, 90% of consumers expect brands to provide content, and this can be in the form of experiences, entertainment, stories, events and solutions.

Our responsibility as a leading PR agency is to understand and adapt to the unprecedented challenges. This means our client solutions in the PR space must be innovative and showcase our strategic thinking and implementation of out of the box ideas to effectively engage with media, influencers, and customers within the context of “the new normal”. Today, Havas Middle East is adapting to this evolution and working with brands such as La Roche Posay, MDLBeast, and others to launch contactless, digital experiences to engage consumers and stakeholders through immersive and engaging events and activations.

Dubbed the first large-scale event in the region since the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic, La Roche Posay and Havas PR conducted a contactless movie experience under the stars to celebrate the brand’s newly launched skincare serums with top tier media and influencers. Over 60 media and influencers attended “Skinema”, hosted at the Reel Cinema Drive-In theatre at The Dubai Mall. Eager guests arrived and were guided by branded signages leading to the rooftop where various branding of the serums were installed across the venue in a creative approach to match the theme of the drive-in cinema experience. We wanted to make sure that guests felt the excitement of a pre-COVID 19 event but wanted to make sure everyone’s health and safety were priority. We had guests drive down a red carpet to the entrance, which was surrounded by spotlights on the ground and once the guests reached the entrance, the Reel Cinema staff checked in their attendance, while the security staff measured temperatures to ensure optimal safety. Then guests of Skinema were guided to a branded greeting counter where the Reel Cinema staff handed out Skinema parking tokens, customized snack packs and an entertainment bag, and after driving into the parking lot where the movie is screened, additional branded elements were included: parking pillars, tailored stage, welcome Skinema visual projection, large flags, and additional infographics across the venue. Needless to say, the first-ever event in the region post COVID 19 was a great success and generated a total AVE of USD $ 1,685,000 from the 461 coverage clippings to date as media and influencers shared their praise with friends and on their platforms.

Another tremendous example of how brands can pivot successfully due to rapidly changing market trends and be more agile to create value for consumers during times of crisis is MDLBeast Freqways. With most international borders closed for the foreseeable future and travel plans put on hold, Havas PR worked with MDLBeast to announce MDLBeast Freqways, a 12-hour digital music festival inspired by travel and airlines, where viewers were invited to board their virtual flights to discover pre-recorded DJ sets that are shot in some of the most iconic locations of underground music cities of the world. The specially curated program which brought music, culture and people together also partnered up with the WHO foundation for viewers to participate and donate for the health of future generations. To mark the celebration of World Music Day, MDLBeast hosted the border-breaking immersive musical adventure and virtual travel experience that took over half a million ‘flyers’ on a high-class virtual journey across the world to bring people together for a good cause through the universal language of music. Headliners included Steve Aoki, Maceo Plex, Claptone, Danny Tenaglia, and Benny Benassi, as well as regional acts from the GCC to the Levant, including the likes of Baloo, Cosmicat, and Jade X Tala. MDLBeast Freqways was such a global success and regionally generated an AVE of USD $ 295,150 across 95 coverage clippings thus far.

As consumers continue to settle into their new digital-centric lifestyle, the innovative solutions launched by brands around the ‘new norm” and how successful they are at navigating an evolved society has become an important part of how people determine whether a brand is meaningful to them and essentially, if they will want to interact with them in the future. In this new communications era and looking into the future, PR agencies must continue to collaborate with brands to unlock creative ways to resonate with their stakeholders through virtual and contactless activations and events.