Executives from event-marketing companies including Jack Morton Worldwide, George P. Johnson Co. and Edelman Worldwide will meet next week in New York to discuss the formation of a new event-industry trade group, called the Event and Experience Marketing Council, and a system to rate the return on investment of event marketing.
"Event marketing is absorbing a bigger piece of the advertising pie each year, but it doesn't get the respect it deserves because until now there has been no widely accepted, standardized method of measuring its results," said David Adler, president of New York-based BizBash.com, one of the organizers of the meeting.
The movement to establish universal metrics for event marketing comes as agencies and advertisers struggle to define and measure a growing number of non-traditional media forms that are steadily gaining share in the media mix. Examples include mobile marketing tours, interactive games, concerts, fairs and festivals sponsored by advertisers, as well as publicity stunts and "brand ambassadors" planted in bars and on street corners to promote and demonstrate products.
The nascent event-marketing group hopes to empower the multi-billion dollar event-marketing industry with new measurement tools and technology.
Examples of proposed event-measurement systems include adopting universally accepted methods of measuring attendance, total number of consumer contacts and the level of consumer immersion in an event.
But some industry heavy-hitters are skeptical of the likelihood of finding a single standard for measuring events, which vary widely in scope.
"Each event has different objectives and uses different communication channels, so it's very hard to envision a system that would apply to all events," said Gary M. Reynolds, president of GMR Marketing, New Berlin, Wis. GMR Marketing is the lead event marketing agency involved in the $90 million rollout of Axe, Unilever's new men's fragrance, and is conducting events nationwide to help introduce the product.
Despite the challenge of pinning down event-marketing numbers, experts in mobile and mall marketing agree that advertisers are demanding more data from events. Most companies have concocted proprietary schemes for measuring event results.
"Although we know in our gut that events work, it would be great if we could provide tangible evidence to people who are concerned with CPM's," said Kevin Lynch, senior VP of Sunset magazine, which sells millions of dollars' worth of sponsorships annually to advertisers for a number of one-to-one marketing events.
"Each event-marketing company has devised its own methods of proving to advertisers that one-on-one marketing works, and we're all moving toward a combination of qualitative and quantitative data that shows very clearly that events move products," said Brad Carsten, a senior partner with Javelin, a St. Louis-based event-marketing company with clients including AOL Time Warner, Kraft Foods and Viacom.
In New York alone, the event-marketing industry is estimated to represent at least $4 billion, according to Mr. Adler.
"Event marketing is growing rapidly and we still have no idea how large the industry is nationwide, or how advertisers can reliably measure their return on investment, and we want to give them an answer," he said.