For years, experiential marketing agencies have employed photo and video activation services from vendors to help enhance and preserve experiences for consumers and event attendees. In most cases, these services are rented or leased depending on the length of the brand campaign. To reduce costs, some of these agencies have brought photo activation capabilities in-house…including green screen booths, photo kiosks, and other photo marketing products that can be deployed at brand and sponsor activations. While this works for some agencies, many do not have the personnel infrastructure to support all that goes along with becoming your own vendor. Before any experiential marketing agency attempts to bring event technology in-house and activate events alone without the assistance of a vendor, here are some things to consider:
1. MANUFACTURER’S WARRANTIES. When an agency purchases hardware, they are at the mercy of a manufacturer’s warranty on the components. In the event of a problem or malfunction, it could take several days to get a response for support or replacement. If that equipment is leased from a vendor, it is the vendor’s responsibility to ship new equipment in time for the next event.
2. BACKUP EQUIPMENT. In the event of technical problems or a mechanical failure, having sufficient backup equipment is critical. If the agency is handling their own activations, backup equipment means additional cost, whereas any credible vendor who is employed to activate on behalf of the agency would be providing that backup at no additional charge.
3. TRAINING OF BRAND AMBASSADORS. When an agency purchases their own equipment, it’s incumbent upon them to provide training to brand ambassadors many of whom are college students. In the case of photo activation hardware, this training extends from how to pack or unpack a case to ensuring that one or more printers are ready to go, installing paper and ink spools, setting up lighting, and troubleshooting any and all technical issues that may arise. In a lease situation, the vendor is responsible for 24/7 training and brand ambassador support with a real, live person via phone, text, email, etc.
4. ARCHIVING. When an agency self-activates, it becomes their responsibility to properly archive data and imagery captured at the activation and then store equipment safely and securely until there’s another need for it. When event technology is leased from a third party, the equipment is shipped back and the archiving and data reporting is all handled by the vendor.
5. SHIPPING ISSUES. Using photo activation hardware in the field means heavy duty shipping cases will be needed…and unless the event is local to the city where the agency’s office is located, the shipping cases used will need to be approved for air cargo or other common carrier shipping methods. With certain equipment, like printers, the manufacturer may not warranty the product unless special cases with custom foam inserts are used. This can add hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to the cost of executing a brand activation. When this equipment is leased from a vendor, all of that responsibility is taken off the agency’s plate.
6. GRAPHICS. Photo activations, especially ones that involve green screen, will involve custom graphics. If an agency sets up and staffs their own green screen photo booth, it is their responsibility to create, install and maintain the graphics for each event. If the agency does not have an in-house graphics department, this could become an inconvenience especially when it comes time to cleaning out event folders and archiving old graphics. In a lease scenario, all of those worries go right out the window. The vendor assumes the responsibility for creation, installation and library maintenance of event graphics, and any agency that uses photo activation as an engagement technique for sponsorship activations should make sure that a photo marketing vendor can do these things.
7. INTERNET CONNECTIVITY ISSUES. When technical problems arise at an event photo activation, internet connectivity can often prove to be a literal (and not-so-funny) photo bomber. If a brand ambassador doesn’t set up network connections properly or if there are connectivity issues of some kind at the event location, someone will need to be on call to help troubleshoot the situation. If the agency is conducting the engagement, they become responsible for this…and if they haven’t ensured that there are multiple forms of redundancy in place (hot spots, etc.) when issues develop, they could be dead in the water. With a vendor, all of that troubleshooting guidance and preparedness is understood and included to help bail you out, even if you find yourself deep in a netherworld location with no cell tower nearby.
8. STOCKING CONSUMABLES. If an agency plans on printing photos at an activation, it is their responsibility to maintain a stock of consumables which need to be inventoried and then stored in an area that meets the manufacturer’s guidelines for media storage (temperature, humidity, etc.) or damage won’t be covered by warranty. When a services provider leases consumables as part of the activation, that vendor becomes responsible for providing enough paper for the entire event or marketing tour. If a mobile marketing vehicle catches fire, the vendor is responsible for replacing the paper. If a van sits in the sun and paper gets overexposed, the vendor is responsible for replacing the paper. If a bus gets picked up by a tornado and transported to OZ, the vendor might not be able to replace the bus, but they can certainly replace the paper.
9. CUSTOMER SERVICE. When an agency chooses to activate events on behalf of their brand clients, customer service is something they need to be prepared for. It becomes the agency’s responsibility to have someone available to answer questions and deal with requests like:
• “We took a photo at your event in New Orleans during Mardi Gras in 2004…can we get another copy of that? Yes, we know that it was several years ago…”
• “I must have dropped my photo in the mosh pit at Lollapalooza. Can you reprint it and send it to me? It was my only souvenir from the show.”
• “Can you please remove my photo from your website? The person in the photo with me is not my wife and I need it removed immediately.”
• “I can’t find my photo in the gallery from the Justin Bieber book signing event in New York. I’m white, have blonde hair and was wearing a Justin Bieber shirt. Can you help?.”
Having someone who can deal with these questions and requests is critical, especially when conducting face to face brand marketing experiences. No agency would want a consumer going to a brand client’s social media page and complaining about a missing photo, or even worse, the actual brand. When equipment is leased from an experiential marketing services provider, a dedicated team of people is in place to handle all aspects of customer service throughout the event lifecycle (before, during, and after the event or tour) both for the client and for consumers. A credible vendor stores photos from past events, facilitates reprinting for consumers whose photos met their end in a mosh pit, and can quickly react when a consumer realizes that a troubling photo has made it to the internet.
Before any agency decides to take photo activation and other event technology execution responsibilities in-house, it needs to consider the ramifications (financial and otherwise) created by training, support, warranty claims, shipping and receiving, inventory and storage, and customer service.
Is it really worth the hassle?