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March 11, 2009

Keith Austin:Government goes on the road

The managing director of roadshow specialists Event Marketing Solutions explains why the public sector is embracing the marketing potential of touring events, despite the downturn.

Despite the gloomy outlook of the latest Chartered Institute of Marketing Trends Survey, in which 29% of marketers predict that their business will get worse in 2009, niche services in the live events industry are enjoying continuing success.

The growing demand from public sector clients for ‘social marketing’ – campaigns that deliver a positive change in attitudes and behaviours – is a significant factor.

Driving growth
Within my own company, which specialises in vehicle-based marketing roadshows, an increase in public sector business has helped to drive revenues up by 26% year on year.

For clients such as national government departments and NHS Trusts, the ability to reach specific audiences in a highly targeted and personal way is an extremely attractive proposition.

Increasingly, these bodies are being required to engage with hard-to-reach groups, such as young people, ethnic minorities and deprived communities. A marketing roadshow provides the perfect vehicle to deliver impactful communication – and, more importantly, strong and measurable results.

Aiming higher
An inspiring example of what can be achieved is our £3 million Aimhigher roadshow campaign for the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS).

This new, three-year campaign to highlight the benefits of higher education is expected to reach more than 500 young people across the UK each day, five days a week.

By taking our fleet of five roadshow vehicles directly to where young people are (schools and colleges), we are reaching huge numbers of the target audience on their own territory with impressive results.

Under the influence
In its first phase (2001-2007), the Aimhigher roadshow reached more than 700,000 13 to 19-year-olds in communities with traditionally low levels of participation in higher education.

Research shows that the campaign delivered a marked change in students’ attitudes. After experiencing the roadshow, 98% of students said they would consider higher education and just 2% said they would not, compared to 84% in favour and 16% against before.

The results of other campaigns are equally impressive, and demonstrate the power of events-based marketing to respond effectively to the growing social marketing agenda.

Further proof
For example, in a recent breast cancer awareness campaign for City & Hackney Primary Care Trust, we reached 2,122 women in just nine days, delivering vital information and advice right where they were (shopping centres and community hubs).

A pilot campaign for the British Heart Foundation in the North East created massive demand for free heart health checks from at-risk communities, delivering 735 checks during the six-week trial.

We were also able to demonstrate longer-term benefits from the campaign, with 43% of visitors surveyed pledging to eat more healthily as a result of attending the roadshow and 22% saying they would share information learned with family and friends.

If the face-to-face marketing industry can continue to demonstrate such measurable return on investment, it will surely reap the rewards of increasing spend from the public sector – and the reassurance that will bring in turbulent times.

Keith Austin is the managing director of Event Marketing Solutions

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