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May 15, 2006
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Reaching out




Next time you travel by any form of public transport, look around you and count the number of people with iPods, 3G or Smart Phones, Sony PSP machines or PDAs. Then you'll realise how handheld and portable technology is ubiquitous in our daily lives. You may not instantly assume this has anything to do with events, but you'd be wrong. All these machines are capable of playing and viewing material downloaded from the internet: this doesn't just have to be music or computer games, it can include keynote speeches from conferences or video footage of a product launch or company presentation.

Technology is having a massive effect on the reach and impact of events. "Broadcasts over the internet (or webcasts) can now be viewed on demand, which means people not able to attend an event can catch it at a convenient time," says Martin Mackenzie of APS Creative & Technical Management. "This on-demand media can be packaged, branded, introduced and properly edited to produce a very professional product."

Mackenzie and APS were involved with Umbro's launch of the new England football kit in March 2005. He explains how webcast technology gave them the opportunity to extend Umbro's marketing impact.

"The event consisted of a mix of virtual and live events," he says. "The live event featured players like David Beckham, Michael Owen and David James plus ladies players, and was attended by the world's press, including ITV, BBC and Sky.

"The live audience was minimal, around 120 people, but the event was also broadcast on Sky, plus it was broadcast over the internet (webcast) to thousands of people through the Umbro website. This massively increased the reach of what was a relatively small one-off event. Combine this with the fact that the Umbro event was part of FA Week and coincided with England's World Cup qualifier with Northern Ireland, and Umbro had a great opportunity to maximise its marketing."

More recently, the Army's ascent of Everest's west ridge demonstrated almost the full armoury of technology available to the modern live marketer. To boost its recruitment drive among young people, the Army joined forces with experiential communications agency PCI Fitch, which created a website - www.armyoneverest.mod.uk - that used some of the most advanced technology available to chart the Army teams' progress. "We've got regular webcasts from the teams on Everest and we're distributing regular Podcasts," says Tiki Graves, PCI Fitch's lead multimedia developer. "Plus the site also uses mobile phone alerts, weblogs [online diaries], tie-ins to the incredibly impressive Google Earth and multimedia games with are linked to the national curriculum to reach and engage its target audience."

But don't be mistaken into thinking this sort of technology is only for young people and for massive expeditions such as this. It can be applied to any website, any event.

"Modern web technology can really extend the life of any event," explains Graves. "It can be used to build up interest beforehand, as a source of information and details of the event itself. During the event, webcasts and podcasts can be used to broadcast content to disparate audiences around the world who are unable to attend. And, post-event, you can use your site as resource bank, providing archives of branded and packaged on-demand material. You could even add a discussion forum for people to air their views on the event itself."

Graves also adds that all this has a measurable impact. "Using information about your website hits [the number of people viewing information on your site] can give you an accurate assessment of which areas of your site are working and you can then tailor content to meet this demand."

While this technology is certainly redefining the impact an event can have as well as how many people it can reach, we should not be thinking of the internet as a substitute for live events. Current marketing trends appear to be proving that people will always need face-to-face interaction. This is just a different approach, and one that can enhance any event, adding value and longevity. And that's got to be good news for everyone in the industry.

Next week we'll take a more indepth look at some of the technology available and cut through the jargon.
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