51% of marketing professionals expect virtual events to stick around, survey finds

Dive Brief:

  • Twenty-five percent of marketing professionals miss “simple human contact with others on the team” and another 25% miss networking beyond their immediate circle while working from home, according to a new survey of media and advertising executives by The 614 Group and shared exclusively with Marketing Dive.
  • The report, “The Future of the ‘In-Person’ Business Economy,” reveals that 21% of workers miss the short unscheduled conversations that help them accomplish tasks and 20% miss cultivating relationships among colleagues. Only 10% of people miss in-person access to bosses.
  • Twenty-seven percent of marketing professionals expect attendance at in-person events won’t go back to pre-pandemic levels once the health crisis subsides, while 19% expect attendance to return to prior levels. Additionally, 51% of respondents said live gatherings will likely continue to have a virtual element post-pandemic.

Dive Insight:

The 614 Group’s new report provides a glimpse of what conducting business will look like in the marketing industry as coronavirus-related lockdowns begin to ease. While interactions with colleagues are among the things that marketing professionals miss the most, the findings suggest that in-person events could see a lasting impact as many expect attendance will not return to pre-pandemic levels. The report is a based on an online survey of 343 executives from advertising agencies, marketers, publishers, ad tech and other related disciplines that was conducted April 16-May 13, 2020.

Even as major cities like New York are beginning to reopen, many ad agencies are still maintaining their work-from-home culture in hopes of keeping employees safe from second waves of the pandemic, per a report by Digiday. This could impact the marketing and advertising business that is often reliant on personal relationships and in-person contact to generate creativity and innovation. If these relations weaken over time, business performance could be affected.

However, companies may be able to augment these issues by focusing more on virtual socialization and networking events to keep the social ties strong. The report found that 64% of people think virtual events are a “way to meet new business prospects and generate leads.” Additionally, 56% of those surveyed said that live events were an opportunity to “spend quality time with current clients” and 44% said it was an opportunity to spend “social time with peers.”

Virtual events could help keep up morale and maintain the social ties needed to boost creativity this year. One of the industry’s biggest events, Cannes Lions, for instance, will host its Festival of Creativity, June 22-26 online for free. The “Lions Live” event will feature masterclasses and hangouts with experts and creative veterans.

As marketing professionals gain a better understanding of what can be accomplished with virtual events, this could result in enduring changes to what business events look like.

Respondents were asked about the types of events they expect to see in the future, with 62% predicting to see global virtual events with live video feeds from headlining speakers; 59% think virtual events tailored to defined groups of experts and specialists will emerge; 51% expect global virtual gatherings of national and regional experts to foster those communities; and 47% think member-only virtual networking events designed to connect businesses with prospects will emerge.

Mixed reality experiences are expected to arrive in the near future by nearly a quarter of respondents, with the tech being used to create remote events where attendees can demonstrate and try new products or services, per the report.

“Smart, well-curated virtual events can help bring the ecosystem together at this crucial time, allowing us to move forward, while navigating unpredictable terrain,” John Montgomery, EVP of global brand safety at GroupM, said in a statement. “I’ve already been a part of a handful of standout virtual gatherings and look forward to participating in more.”

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