This week, Business Manager Emma Stephenson sat down with experiential leader, Louisa O'Connor to talk through experiential at SEEN, the trends forecast for this year as well as some crucial elements to soaring success in the events space. As Managing Director of experiential agency, SEEN Presents, Louisa and her team work to execute incredible campaigns for today's class of luxury, entertainment brands and digital giants.
Can you share a bit about yourself and what you do?
I am the Managing Director of Seen Presents – a London-based experiential events agency driven by understanding human emotion and culture. I lead a team of carefully curated experts born out of a love for the creative industry and experiential events. We are motivated by creating authentic relationships with our brand partners driven by trust, honesty and commitment.
Seen Presents heritage lies in executing flawless campaigns for luxury lifestyle brands and our growth has been driven by our team’s experience in creating global experiential events for iconic tech and entertainment brands.
We create engaging events for some of the world's biggest brands focused on B2B and B2C experiential.
Talk us through a day as MD of award-winning experiential agency, SEEN Presents. What does it look like?
I usually start quite early and read through LinkedIn and industry press updates, collate emails and get my to-do list done as my days can often be meeting-heavy so I like to be prepared! Early morning industry reading can often spark ideas and helps me start the day motivated to do great work!
Some of my days is then focused on the day-to-day running of the business which can be anything from interviewing new team members, looking ahead to forecast upcoming projects and what resourcing we may need, to thinking about marketing opportunities.
At other times I may be focused on new business and growth, writing prospective strategy decks for new clients, meeting new brands to talk through possible opportunities or working alongside the creative team on pitches.
I’m still quite hands-on with some of our larger tent pole events ensuring the up-front strategy is aligned with the client and brand and we are developing and advancing year after year – I love to be on site too and think that is so important to show clients and the team that our work ethic and hands-on approach is across the board no matter our role - I also can’t stare at spreadsheets all day! Where’s the fun in that?
From Cannes Lions to Upfronts, your team has travelled the globe designing and producing tent pole activations that offer unforgettable experiences. What is instrumental to making events such as these successful?
Our strategic approach is how we measure success based on understanding a brand and understanding its audience. Emotion and Culture are our North Stars – driving an emotional response is what makes an event memorable and doing that by understanding the cultural drivers around the brand and our guests is what makes it truly authentic. We always ask the question… do you remember your first gig? Most people do and the reason you remember it is because of how it made you feel - happy, elated, excited, and special….
To make our brand partners' events unforgettable we start by tapping into what emotional response we want to create. Once we know that we look at what cultural drivers we want to tap into the make that happen – nostalgia, inclusivity, possible tech advancements, sustainability even. The two work hand in hand to create the perfect bespoke balance for our clients.
Successful events then come down to two major factors for us outside of the obvious of creative and hitting budget – flawless delivery and showing value.
This year especially, with budgets under more scrutiny, it’s our job as a creative agency to show the reasoning and rationale behind our ideas. Why will it work? Who will it engage? What brand narrative will it drive? What KPIs will it hit and how? You can no longer just on pretty pictures and creative ideas – you have to prove the why, what and how. Once you have that bit nailed it all comes down to standing by your promise – do what you said you were going to do and do it with humility. Some of our success is down to the fact we are known as a safe pair of hands. We work tirelessly to deliver flawless events that make our clients look good and help take away some of their pressures.
In all the key messaging behind your agency, the synergy between culture and emotion seems to be a central part of your work. Can you tell us more about why these two areas are particularly important and how they contribute to the creation and mastery of events production?
If you are not making people feel something at your events then what are you doing? The power of emotion is relevant to all brands – although the desired emotional response will differ significantly from brand to brand - the benefits of our approach are universal and proven to positively impact and emotionally engage any audience whether the experience is online or offline. If we can stimulate an emotional response people are more likely to remember the event, and if they are more likely to remember the event they are more likely to remember your brand.
Cultural zeitgeist informs our strategic and creative thinking and is the bedrock for our creative approach. Understanding the topics and beliefs that are most relevant to the people attending our events allows us to create personalised and memorable stories. Culture and events are intrinsically intertwined – one informs the other. Working with brands such as TikTok effect culture daily it’s our job to stay on the pulse of culture to ensure our events are relevant and include references to cultural topics that are important to our audience – this could be anything from environmental awareness, DEI strategies, tech advancements and fads through to embracing nostalgia or even key calendar moments.
Lastly, we would love to know what you see as key trends for the future of experiential. What's on the SEEN Presents radar right now?
Well, obviously we should talk about AI. We are monitoring how it is affecting how we ideate and design in the first instance and how we can incorporate it into live events. AI is fuelling imagination and pushing us to think further and braver when it comes to event ideation.
Authentic partnerships will also be a big focus this year – whether that is through influencer, creator or brand partnerships. This trend is about linking in with an authentic voice and connecting a brand with a relatable authority in that space. We will see events being centred around specific creators or event pop-up events being driven by collaborations.
Hybrid and even purely in real life will be taking over from digital. Hybrid events give you the best of both worlds but it’s not enough anymore just to live stream. Agencies will be pushed more on more on how to innovate to make the digital experience as rich as the real life experience. The metaverse advancements will help with this but participation should be at the forefront of any creative strategy here.
Joy will still be a major trend – stimulating joy, playfulness and escapism were a trend last year and will continue to drive creative. If we look at some of the standout immersive activations planned for this year they are all tapping into fond memories, nostalgia, and the inner child and are creating spaces to stimulate joy.
Finally, I think one to think about is value addition. As I said events are under a harsher spotlight this year to prove ROI. As we all know this can be hard to prove in events. So we are seeing more brands creating events linked to provable deliverables such as e-commerce, streaming and content creation. Linking an event to a pop-up shop or online e-commerce can help prove engagement especially for brands with a retail link. Whereas brands in the tech and entrainment arena can show ROI through streaming views and specific content creation and sharing goals.
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