Experiential has gone through a re-birth due to Covid-19 – Sola Antwi

By Kasim Bakare

Seasoned experiential amazon and Chief Operating Officer at Divergent Marketing Services(DivergentMS), Sola Antwi has expressed her views on how the Covid-19-imposed new normal affected agencies and  the experiential marketing ecosystem.

In an exclusive interview with MARKETING EDGE, Antwi, who was elected the Financial Secretary of the Experiential Marketers Association of Nigeria(EXMAN) during the recently held AGM of the association, noted that experiential marketing was badly hit by Covid-19 due to the enforcement of government protocols on physical and social distancing.

Similarly, the DivergentMS boss also reiterated that the experiential marketing industry, which had been one of the most active sub-sectors of the Integrated marketing Communications(IMC) prior to the outbreak of Covid-19, survived because of the innovation and resilience of the stakeholders in the industry.

Hear her: “Of all the sub-sectors in the integrated marketing communications(IMC) industry, experiential marketing was the worst hit. It was in the sense that it’s always a one-on-one engagement to carry out an experiential activity so that the brand gets closer to the consumer. But because of covid-19 government imposed physical and social distancing, that was impossible to a very large extent throughout last year.  A lot of experiential agencies were really not busy at that point. Clients couldn’t also spend because why would they spend when there was nobody out there for them to spend the money”.

Providing further insights on how the new normal affected the operation and service delivery of experiential agencies in the industry, she had this to say:” Businesses suffered a huge blow because of the new normal and experiential also went through a re-birth. A re-birth in the sense that new ideas of doing things were born. New ways of managing activation were born. New creative ways of reaching the consumer also gave rise. We all had to go out looking for new ways to embrace the new normal. I think to a very large extent, we have been very successful at that because agencies all engaged and embraced the online; virtual engagement, virtual summit, virtual activation for so many brands which to a large extent was very successful. Initially, Nigerians were very slow to change, slow to accept because the numbers weren’t there but eventually, it worked. I can say for a fact now that for every brand not online; social media space, the brand is missing out and if there is any activation or campaign that you are not doing in the social media space, the brand is also missing out. So, that is where the new normal is and I think that is one benefit that Covid-19 has brought to the industry”.

On how her agency, DivergentMS is navigating the new normal, she stressed that innovation and diversification of its business helped the fast growing agency.

“For a fact, 2020 was a year everybody wished never happened. But thank God for the resilient spirit in us as Africans and as especially as Nigerians. We just never give in or give up. Divergent Marketing Services also went through that phase and we didn’t give up or give in. The resilient spirit in us kept telling us that we were going get over this; it was going to get better and we were going to come back better and stronger. Every member of our staff embraced that. What we did was of course like every other person; Join the online and virtual experiential campaign which we did for some of our clients. We also came up with innovative ideas on how we can plan businesses for our clients which we are still doing that. Also, we had to diversify into other areas of business and logistics was one area we looked at and we are working in that space right now. We have diversified into logistics management and haulage service delivery. We had to do that to keep the business running.  We are still working for our clients that we were working for except some few that the budget was cut and they are waiting for a new financial year to begin”.

She added:”We still have those experiential activation where we still have those interactions, where we engage with people one-on-one. Yes, it’s limited in scope but we are still doing it because we embrace all the Covid-19 protocols that the Federal Government has put in place and it has helped us to stay out of danger. But we are still working and virtual experiential is the way to go and we are greatly playing in that space”.

Commenting on what role technology played in its operations and service delivery, Antwi disclosed that activations, campaigns, meetings which were hitherto done physically before Covid-19 have now gone virtual. She equally stated that the agency developed an app to manage its operations and interaction with clients.

“We have deployed technology in our service offerings. In managing relationships with our clients, we do a lot of virtual meetings. We hardly do physical meetings anymore. Because of that, it’s easy to call a meeting at a very short notice and address issues that are pertinent to any project. Then of course, we have an app that eases our operations, in the sense that If you are working on the field, your reporting is on the app. So we have a back-end and we have data analysts that look at the back end history and we can as well come up with informative resources that the clients can use to build their own brands as well. So we use the app to work on all our operations. The app is configured to work on any operation that we undertake. So reporting of activation progress is done via information received from the back end of the app; that is one innovation we are grateful for because in terms of not being able to reach someone when you need to reach them, once you can log in to our app and go to the back end, we see the result that we want we are able to report to the clients in real time”.

Responding to a question on the competitive edge of the agency, she stated among others, the ability to operate in difficult terrains including volatile areas like Northern Nigeria.

“One of our major strengths is that we can work in any part of the country, especially in the North. Our footprint is in the North. If there is any activation or experiential campaign that any brand wants to carry out in the country and it needs someone with excellent knowledge of the North, Divergent is the place to go. One of the clients we worked for has heavy presence in the North and we managed the Northern branches of their project. Because of that, we have mastered the roads; the ins and outs of the Northern markets and neighbourhoods in almost all the states of the North”.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


    No comments found.