We see beyond the experiential marketing space – GDM boss

Victor Gbenga Afolabi is the founder of the GDM Group,  a leading experiential marketing agency. In this interview with MARKETING EDGE, Afolabi takes a look at the practice and challenges of the experiential marketing business in the age of the new normal and the future. Excerpts

How do you see the experiential marketing sector of the advertising industry in Nigeria, especially in this age of a COVID-19-induced New Normal; and a recessionary Nigerian economy?

In my view, I think there’s always an opportunity for the experiential industry; how be it, there’s reason to engage the market in a new way. This is because along the way, some competitive advantages are going to wane and new ones will evolve.

Today, we have a recession, that is a fallout of a global pandemic as seen in COVID-19; which has a direct impact on the kind of industry which we have, which is more about creating connectivity, engagements and one on one contact with people; creating and involving people’s senses through what I call ‘senspiration’ engagements. That is what the pandemic really has come to limit. The non-clinical interventions; we find that it creates absolute disruption for the industry.

However, there are opportunities which speak to the core of our activities. It takes a future casting in looking at how to pivot. Two things that will definitely exist; Brands and her customers. Brands will definitely want to continue to engage with their consumers. And we need to begin to find creative ways for that to happen.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted on experiential marketing ecosystem in Nigeria?

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on experimental marketing is a given, as it has significantly affected everything in its wake. We can attribute this to the nature of what we do which involves bringing people together and engaging their five senses. These five senses of smell, touch, taste and of sight that we engage in experiential marketing are the non-clinical intervention recommended to stop the pandemic.

Definitely, the impact of Covid-19 is significant on the entire ecosystem including the practitioners and brand owners. With the brand owners, this has created a lot of complication around how they can get measurable and instant conversions from their activities. Other activities they undertake are more around

brand building activities, but when dealing with experimental marketing, it’s more instantaneous, as the impact can easily be measured, felt and can still be quantified. Results of activities are more instantaneous.

So, yes, (and this applies to the brands owners) we are in a dilemma of trying to find out how best we can engage to get same result. And how best we can get the same kind of impact?

No doubt, the pandemic has affected the marketing ecosystem. But as mentioned earlier, there is opportunity to pivot, to create deeper engagement and experiences. And that is where I see experiential marketing going.

What, in your view, are the key factors that will undergird experiential marketing post COVID-19; and post-recession in Nigeria?

The key factor is creativity. We ourselves need to be creative and employ technology. We also need to understand and create deeper engagement with our consumers in new ways. I believe this is the best way.

Clearly, there were the times of plenty. And I believe it’s how we have been able  to introduce a great deal of efficiency and operational effectiveness into our systems. How we have improved our economies of our scope and scale. Those are the factors that has allowed agencies to survive,  thrive and to be able to weather the storm successfully, like a few of us have done.

I would say that the post-recession is for us to retool and initiate developments of new and fresh competencies that can help us create deeper engagements, open new markets and build future markets for the brands we represent.

How would you define the experiential marketing agency of the future?

The experiential agency of the future, is an agency which will still be able to create that deep engagement using the five senses. However, they must understand how technology is shaping the new narrative, the new world and the new normal. I do not see how an experiential agency that does not understand the power of data and that does not employ the power of technology in its engagements, measurements and assessments aims to survive in the post-COVID world.

How is GDM positioned for that future?

GDM has a lot of reserve capacity built into her structures. We have over the decade created a team that is quite formidable.

And we have been able to build a lot of resilience into our operations. Therefore, we are able to weather the storm successfully and conveniently without having billings for several months. We were able to have a smooth sailing 2020 and we have come into 2021 stronger. We begin to approach post COVID era in our operations.

We were in the process of developing a few skill sets that were relevant during the pandemic and are going to be relevant in the future. We have developed competence in marketing technology, data computing and data analytics. We see these skill sets opening new markets for us. These are the unique offerings (and lots more to come) we intend to leverage as we

create new markets and cultivate future markets for our clients and brands. As we leverage our economies of scope to bring other product offerings into the market space for the consumers, the brands we represent and for everyone who seems to get to the last mile, we will be able to bring new or more cost-effective ways for this to be done.

We hope to be back at the end of this year to where we were pre- COVID, and that’s where we forecast we should be able to land; hopefully we don’t get the third wave. We think we are already set for that particular opportunity. And we look forward to being able to ramp up the engine of performance to get there.

Ultimately, I believe GDM is an organization that is poised to bring the height of creativity and  future  thinking to the heart of marketing. And that’s who we are. We are convinced that we are

just not a contemporary BTL agency. We have evolved from being a traditional experiential agency to a full-fledged marketing firm where we offer end to end marketing activities from research to digital, creativity, strategy and cloud computing.

These are all underpinned within this huge technological platform  that  drives our operations and engagement while also assisting in the measurement of what we do. This brings a lot of optimization to our process.

As an agency, GDM regards herself as the biggest agency in the industry and the leader in the ecosystem as of today (in the experiential space), but we see beyond  the experiential space. We want to be the foremost marketing firm in the country.

And we believe that we can achieve that by bringing superior creativity, innovations and executions to our clients’ briefs and the values we offer them.



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