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Demystifying Virtual Engagements: How Hibrid Studio Is Reinventing Experiential Marketing With Technology

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Abiodun Richard Oshinibosi, Project Marshal, Abelinis Ltd (centre); Gbenga Oketade, Project General/COO, Abelinis Ltd (L) and Adedeji Orunkoyi, Prpject General, iPanache Communications Ltd.

By Jeremiah Agada

Necessity, The Mother Of Inventions

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To say that the Coronavirus pandemic has forever changed the landscape for experiential marketing is an understatement. It may be a very long time before brands can engage with mass sampling in public spaces or engagement strategies at events. However, it doesn’t spell the end for experiential marketing. Far from it, in fact, as brands and marketers find new ways to connect with COVID and post-COVID society, experts are certain that experiential marketing will be re-imagined, becoming more relevant, meaningful and effective – marking a golden age.

Before the imagined golden age however, the fact is that social distancing and restrictions in public gatherings has negatively affected this year’s marketing landscape. In this market, many annual events that have held without ceasing in previous years are on recess this year. For creative advertising, the Loeries and the Cannes Film Festival have been postponed and even the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo has been rescheduled for June 2021.

But then, we humans will always seek interaction, and following a period of enforced isolation, people will be craving those real-world experiences more than ever. After seemingly endless weeks of Zoom meetings, avoiding contact with other people, and homeschooling for children, getting outside and physically connecting with the world and people around us will be a welcome relief.

COVID-19 may have forced some rapid evolutions in how we think about experiential, but this was always an industry that pushed the boundaries. Experiential has always been uniquely positioned to create meaningful real-life engagement between brands and consumers. Even before the current situation, savvy marketers have known that the true power of experiential lies beyond the here and now. Brands were already finding ways to amplify beyond the immediate physical interaction, broadening the reach of experiences through media, digital components and content creation by consumers and influencers.

While the pandemic may have resulted in a major upheaval of many of the traditional tenets of experiential, the essence of experiential marketing has remained unchanged: to create meaningful connections with consumers. By using non-traditional channels with a focus on more personalized encounters, and finding creative ways to amplify those real-world interactions, experiential will still remain the most effective way to meaningfully engage audiences. Forward thinking agencies in this space are always looking for these ways to achieve and the COVID-19 pandemic at this point has made it necessarily so.  This gives rise to what the ancient Greek philosopher, Plato in his dialogue Republic had described as necessity being the mother of invention. In his way, he meant that when the need for something becomes imperative, you are forced to find ways of getting or achieving it.

Birth of a Hibrid Studio

As brands and marketers are challenged to be more creative, the emergence of a wealth of innovation leading to exciting new channels that blend the magic of experiential marketing with the power of technology was born. This innovation has blurred the boundaries between digital and physical engagement. This innovation is the child of the collaboration between Abelinis Ltd., one of Nigeria’s leading experiential marketing agency renowned for its precision, expertise, discipline in to achieve desired, and one of Nigeria’s fastest rising tech savvy and dynamic agencies, iPanache Communications Ltd, to berth Nigeria’s first Hibrid Studio. While Abelinis, also known for generating maximum top of the mind awareness and getting credible returns on investment for its many clientsis led by Abiodun Richard Oshinibosi in the capacity of Project Marshal, iPanache Communication is captained by the young and dynamic Orunkoyi Adedeji Bankole as a Project General.

Hibrid Studios is a fully integrated facility that features a state-of-the-art digital recording studio alongside effect lights and stage with world class studio equipment. Hibrid Studios provides a variety of products and services to clients across the creative spectrum. From video and photography to mixing and mastering, if you can dream it, then we can help bring it to life.

Hibrid Studios is a new multimedia production facility, built to serve creative minds throughout the events and entertainment industry. We aim to support the artistic endeavours of production teams by providing outstanding customer service as they bring their ideas to life. The studio provides for where a number of speakers or facilitators can “take the stage” together with multiple large LED screens, effects lights and stipulated live attendees. Events here can also be streamed to unlimited number of viewers on the client’s collaboration platform of choice.

This hibrid event format is delivered in a COVID-19 compliant studio, outfitted with up to date global health safety measures for all staff. This way, clients can be assured that events that take place in the Hybrid Studio are safe and do not expose people to COVID-19. All cameras and technical production can run autonomously or by technicians working remotely.

Revealing the reason behind the innovation, the Project Marshal of Abelinis, Abiodun Oshinibosi explained that everything the agency has set out to do revolves around the need to constantly add value to clients’ businesses.“Everything boils down to value. At this point in time when the normal is not feasible, what do you need to do to help deliver and exceed results for your clients? It was only imperative for us to profitably innovate and bridge the gaps for smooth transition from old to new normal.

“Clients are always looking for ways to excite their customers per time and this period is no exception; private individuals are looking for initiatives to explore within the ambit of NCDC preventive measures; hence the hybrid direction. With this, we can do things virtually and still have an in-house live feel, all within the laws of the NDDC, basically. We have been seeing great results with the few clients we have worked with so far. For instance, we had plans to organize a trade conference for one of our clients but everything was put on hold because of the pandemic. However, with the Hibrid initiative, we were able to hold a very remarkable and successful sales and trade conference eventually.”

Corroborating, Adedeji added that the need to survive the times and help brands to navigate the times also motivated the berthing of the studio in Nigeria. “I am sure that if the pandemic had not surfaced, we would still be going about our normal business. Survival is key in this market. For agencies and brands, adapting quickly is a sure panacea to dying. So, it’s a survival instinct that brought about the Hybrid Studio which will keep us relevant in our industry,” he explained.

The Hibrid Studio, mobility and functionality

Oketade Gbenga Michael, a very versatile professional in the industry with many years of experience who is the Project General and Chief Operating Officer of Abelinis Limited explained that among other features, the Hibrid Studio is highly mobile as it can be set up anywhere. He also added this: “let’s look at it this way: it’s like saying you do not need the services of a photographer because you have a phone with camera. That is likened to downloading zoom and thinking it will be sufficient to meet all your virtual event needs. There are details that require degrees of expertise to make things happen seamlessly. Imagine having noise pollution in between your meeting or scammers hacking into the meeting and becoming privy to vital company information or business secrets escaping through that channel. These are things that we have taken care of, providing security when we are running your meeting for you.  Our clients can always be sure of excellent audio, visual and picture quality and at the same time, have no buffering. We also have dedicated cyberspace that ensures seamless connectivity and ease for our virtual events. We activate suitable application as deemed based on the scope of the brief.”

Oshinibosi lends his voice to buttress Gbenga’s point: “An Omolanke can move you from one point to the other, just like any other vehicle. But the experience that you will have riding in a luxurious car does not just differ, its lasting and memorable. In our space, what we want to offer are memorable experiences. The Hibrid Studio delivers heightened experiential values profitably.”

Comparative to live physical events too, the studio has its many advantages. One of it is that it is very cost effective. “Using the Hibrid Studio is a cost friendly way of reaching out. At this point we are all reducing costs, overhead and others, businesses are looking for most cost-effective ways of doing business, while ensuring value for money, this is the way forward in terms of reach, connection, experience, etc. This is ticking off all check boxes effectively and profitably. Additionally, with the Hibrid Studio, quality is not being sacrificed as the altar of parsimony. For instance, we organized a wedding for a client. Pre COVID-19, if he were to execute the wedding normally, he would have spent nothing less than 30million naira but with the Hibrid Studio, he used a very small fraction of that budget and still had fun and excitement as desired with people joining from all over the globe at no travel cost.”

Deji added, “If you look at the value we are selling and what we are getting in return, compared to people who do similar things for us outside this country, we are quite affordable. With the testimonials we have received thus far, we are sure that subsequent engagements with the studio will yield so much more.”

How Brands And Agencies Can Leverage The Hibrid Studio

 “Right now, if you want to stay in business, you need to find innovative ways to reach your target audience

“Let’s take a product launch for instance, many brands have shelved their plans to launch new products on account of the pandemic. However, we are saying that regardless of the status quo, with this initiative, we can still bring to life all those exciting marketing and sales initiatives

Gbenga added that the agency is open to collaboration with other agencies within the IMC spectrum. He further said Abelinis will make available this technology to any agency that wishes to use it for its clients’ brands or events. “The birth of the Hibrid Studios itself is a collaboration effort between Abelinis and iPanache – two independent outfits. Resources from both companies were pulled together to birth this unique offering of value. After the last EXMAN AGM event held recently, we had four requests for quotes from other agencies who feel their clients can benefit from this innovation as well. That is collaboration,” he emphasized.

“We take your event to the worldand bring the world to your event”

Quite aptly, the pay off line for the Hibrid Studio is captured in these words: “We take your event to the world.” So far, some projects have been executed for clients who were initially skeptical about excepted delivery of the hybrid Solution but our remarkable results had changed their disposition to the innovation.

A good case in point is a brief it executed for PZ Cussons to organize a virtual event for an outgoing CEO of PZ CUSSONS in the midst of the COVID 19 Pandemic. “We needed to come up with an event that will deliver a creative and memorable experience for the CEO and members of Staff.. It was a tripartite setup as we connected the companies guest house, a mobile studio and our base studio while about 300 guests connected from around the world. That connection with people all around the world may not have happened if it was just a physical meeting,” Oshinibosi and Gbenga explained.

Using the Hibrid Studios too, the agency organized a Commercial Awards virtual event for PZ Wilmar where close to 400 guests joined online with about 12 studio audience, the three-hour long event lived up to expectations.

Our scope of delivery spans beyond corporate clients as we have delivered events needs for individuals as well. Other organizations and associations, which include the Experiential Marketing Agencies of Nigeria (EXMAN) and Rotary International, In-house, several socially worthy projects were executed via the platform.

Gbenga provided an insight: “We had what you can call a small concert with an initiative we call ‘Culturation X.’ Culturation X. It is our own concept at Abelinis, designed deliberately to celebrate the youth: the generation X amidst this pandemic. “We did it on the World Cultural Diversity Day. The idea was generated by the quest to see Gen Z unite regardless of race and colour. On the events day, we had DJ Neptune in our studio live and we had D-one, the Big Brother ex-housemate and compere, host the show. We had all registered participants connected to the page and it was a fun-filled event that lasted hours. We had Karaoke in-between, we had a dance competition where people logged in and showcase d their dance steps for rewards.”

In addition, Oshinibosi added that the whole idea behind Culturation X was to celebrate culture beyond ‘us’. Irrespective of what is happening in your space, we can still come together as one and fight this cause to victory. The concept availed two other DJs out from Italy and Uk to join as performance moved from Nigeria, to Italy and UK. We got sounds, lyrics, music from different climes and It was fun-filled. Though we have a few doing this now, we can lay claim to pioneering it.”

Adedeji added that asides Culturation X, the studio also hosted a children’s virtual party that could easily be termed the biggest in Nigeria, but for want of data. “We had a Children’s party on the 27th of May, being a World’s Children’s Day. If you look at the most treasured members in the family, they are usually the kids. But due to the lockdown, they have always been at home, they cannot go to school, neither can they attend friends’ birthday parties during the weekends. They are perpetually indoors. We protect them so much; we don’t allow them to go out which has made them to get tired of watching the TV.

“We realized there was a need to reach out to these children, hence the virtual party. We were actually planning for Nigeria children only, but to our pleasant surprise, it became a global affair as we had people from the UK, the US and other parts of Europe, virtually, continents were represented. It was a very successful event where we had over 200 families-parents and a minimum of two children. We had excellent feedback from the children who didn’t want the party to end – in fact, we had to extend it due to popular demand- and their parents. We are hosting another one soon, which will be bigger and much better.”

Gbenga explained that efforts were made to make the Children’s Day event memorable for the children: “You know kids love gifts? So, another innovative idea we added to this was to buy gift vouchers for them and get a logistic company to distribute to all their addresses of these kids here in Nigeria. For those abroad, we bought Walmart vouchers, etc. The feedback has been amazing so far. After the Children’s Day event, we have executed more parties in the same vein.”

A Studio For All Times

Perhaps, a vaccine will be discovered that will make the COVID-19 pandemic a bad memory that highlights what 2020 was to humanity globally. However, experts have said that the way people interact and do business will change considerably. Adedeji shares this point as he opined that Post COVID-19, the Hibrid Studio will be more enhanced and better.

“Post COVID-19, the Hibrid Studio will remain relevant as people have found out more ways to meet and do business together without necessarily being in the same space, many thanks to technology. For us, if you give us a brief for a Burna Boy concert now or beyond the pandemic, we are going to host it, we are going to have people there, they are going to be safe and we are going to connect to the world. Originally, if such a concert were to hold, we will have people get the details via social media. But now, they can be part of it across the world while it is ongoing. Something people miss out on is the technicalities connecting across the globe. It is way stronger. Even us, we have to partner with people outside the country to get international events done.

Amidst concerns that the Hibrid Studio will take the place of event management agencies and other experiential functions, Oshinibosi explained: “Humans are social animals. You can’t take that out, no matter the technology you bring into this world. Post COVID, people will resume interaction without social distancing. What we have created is a solution to clients’ problem while a vaccine is still being developed for the COVID-19 pandemic. What we have done is create a lifeline for brands before a vaccine comes. The good thing about this again is that the Hibrid studio will be a plus even after COVID as clients can get their brands and events beyond borders.”

Abelinis is a project management company with special interest in events, activations and production. Going back memory lane, although Abelinis was incorporated on the 13th day of September 2007, the agency did not start full operations until January 2011. Since the agency commenced operation concerted efforts have been made to deliver on the vision to be the foremost provider of project management solutions in Nigeria’s Integrated Marketing Communications industry.

The name Abelinis is a curious sounding one which is bound to arouse the interest of people who may be coming into contact with the company for the first time. Interestingly, Abelinis stands for Absolute Excellence Lineage of Influence. The plural brings in the‘s’ and that means as a team, we exceed expectations profitably.

From its humble beginning, Abelinis has grown in leaps and bounds. Over the year, the agency has become a sough-after experiential marketing expert company with lots of accolades coming its way as a result of creative innovations it has deployed in promoting brands across the length and breadth of the country.

Abelinis proffers and implements cutting edge strategies, capable of profitably achieving clients’ marketing needs without compromising on quality and best practice. Principally, Abelinis specializes in activation for brands including product activation, awareness campaign and merchandising, events; corporate and social and production; radio and television.

The agency remains a unique one among others, basically due to the pedigree of its team that comprises people who have been fortified with skills that are indispensable for successful project management. The agency is also known for its ingenuity and resourcefulness in facilitating the delivery of clients’ brief by paying attention to details.

The agency leverages on excellent environment knowledge and understanding to ensure nationwide presence of clients’ brands just as it never fails to utilize the extensive relationships that it has established with appropriate regulatory authorities. Abelinis also possesses speed and prompt execution of all the projects in its care.

The agency attaches importance to constant improvement of the standard of available manpower. The company also has programmes in place to motivate members of staff so that they can willingly give their best at every point in time. It will be recalled that the agency acquired plots land form Adron Homes & Properties Limited for members of staff that started with the company from the beginning as a gift from the Staff Housing Scheme initiated over some years ago by the management of the agency.

Oshinibosi, who is fondly referred to as Project Marshal by friends and members of staff, says “We have been able to package staff welfare in a way that members of staff are keenly aware that the kind of comfort that they enjoy here will be difficult to get anywhere else. All members of staff have acquired landed properties and we also gave out brand new cars to our top members of staff.

“This is because we recognize the fact people have aspirations and want to be successful. If we don’t help them to grow, they wouldn’t churn out their best and so on. I have been in that system before. I was the GM of an organization before I started this company and I know what it is like to be very ambitious and to want to grow. For us to get the best out of the team, we also sow into their lives.”

In the same vein, this young agency has redefined Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) – an otherwise unpopular phenomenon in the business of experiential marketing and brand activation. Abelinis Limited has been very functional with its CSR initiatives since it set sail with the payment of school fees for some undergraduates, donation of Apple laptops to some identified creative youth, visits to Modupe Cole and Ijamido Orphanage Home to support the under-privileged and also the presentation of SM/7G-450VA/watt incubator to a General Hospital in Lagos State to help reduce Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) in the hospital and its environs, amongst others. They took the lead at the early stage of Covid 19 with the Rural Cluster Hype King initiative to advocate and enlighten citizens in all the 20 LGs and 37 LCDAs about the necessary safety measures as directed by NCDC.

The ability of the agency to take every project and use unique approach that it deserves remains one of its biggest competitive edge in the industry. According to the project marshal, “We take every project uniquely and treat them uniquely as well. Our brand of services is all about creativity. We are very innovative and we are made up of young guys who are very energetic and want to make their mark. Having the backing of project intelligence coupled with these attributes makes us different.”

Through dedication and hard work, the agency has been executing one project or the others for multinationals like MTN, British American Tobacco (BAT), Haeir Thermocool, Sapp, TCP and PZ Cussons and host of others. At Abelinis, excellence, dedication and professionalism are the watchwords as the agency continues in the business of experiential marketing.

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