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In their first ever virtual gala, Event Marketer premiered their 18th annual Ex Awards, which is their recognition program for the experiential marketing industry. The awards look at the most innovative and strategic brand experiences around America. We have picked some of our favourites from the different categories, find our summary of each below.

2020 Grand Ex Winner

Taking home the major award, The 2020 Grand Ex Award, was Edelman and United Entertainment Group with their campaign for Taco Bell, The Bell: A Taco Bell Hotel and Resort. The experience saw a Palm Springs hotel transformed into The Bell where 70 fully branded rooms could be booked by consumers. The “Tacoasis” was available for just five days and took only 2 minutes to fully sell out. The five-day activation saw 400 fans and 61 journalists that had travelled from 21 states. The initial drive for the campaign started with an email teasing the hotel, where over 80,000 consumers said they would like to be alerted when bookings become available. The initial strategy that took all of 3 minutes and 55 seconds saw the campaign transform into The Bell driven by fans. Whilst the campaign featured zero paid media dollars, The Bell earned 6 billion media impressions and generated over 1.2 million social impressions. The campaign was also awarded as the Ex Winner in the Best Consumer Environment category.

Photographs: Courtesy Stephanie Breijo

Best B-To-B Conference or Event Environment

The B-To-B conference or Event Environment category saw Touch Worldwide titled the Ex Winner for their Starbucks 2019 Leadership Experience. The event saw 12,000 store, district and regional managers across US and Canada immersed within the company’s mission and values. The venue was transformed to replicate key locations that contribute to the brand identity such as the visitors centre in Costa Rica and the original Starbucks store in Seattle. A combination of interactive media and real experiences allowed the attendees to view the key environments of the company. The aim was to connect Starbucks leaders mentally and emotionally to the core values.

Photographs: Courtesy Connor Surdi and Joshua Trujillo

Best Sampling Campaign

Live Nation were awarded the Ex Winner for Best Sampling Campaign. Ultra Rollerama for Revlon, was a campaign featured at Lollapalooza. The campaign featured a high-gloss, retro roller-skating rink. Consumers were able to skate around whilst a DJ played inside the Ultra Rollerama, where outside the rink attendees had the opportunity to sample Revlon’s latest Ultra HD Vinyl Lip Polish. On offer were free full-size samples, where thousands were distributed each day.

Photographs: Courtesy Raven

Best Pop Up Environment

The Ex Award Winner for the Best Pop Up Environment went to ANTHEMIC Agency for their Levi’s Haus Miami campaign. The campaign was a sustainability-focused pop-up that utilised a vacant and undeveloped property to create a trendy village aiming to inspire consumers from Gen Z, to Millennials and Miami’s influencers with various interests. The one-acre site saw a fashion customisation studio, convert venue, retail space and art house. Offering workshops with appearances from Shepard Fairey, ASAP Ferg and A-Trak to showcase Levi’s customisation technology, connecting music and art. Khalid also made an appearance to launch Levi’s XX Chino during the Super Bowl Week. The campaign ran for 152 days with continuous art, music and fashion activities, generating 498 million media impressions, 33 million social media impressions and $7.8 million in ad value.

Photographs: Courtesy Levi’s Hause Miami

Best Trade Show Activation

‘The Pitch’ Corner Office Edition for Cisco, produced by George P. Johnson, was awarded as the Ex Winner for the Best Trade Show Activation. The show targeted sellers and featured workshops and activations for the sales force from over 100 countries, encouraging them to engage in the training and networking opportunities to help them meet their personal sales goals. ‘The Pitch’ was an immersive game that challenged attendees to apply their learnings from the event, to pitch to a fictional CEO and win. The experience was very hands-on and digitally creative for the 18,000 sellers that attended.

Photographs: Courtesy Event Marketer and George P. Johnson

Best Permanent or Pop-up Retail Activation

Momentum Worldwide and McCann New York were titled the Ex Winner for the Best Permanent or Popup Retail Activation with their Chick-Fil-A Time Shop campaign. The concept was created around presenting the company as more than a chicken restaurant, and gifting consumers time during the holiday season. With multiple time zones, each area of the activation focused on different ways to spend time with loved ones, with the ultimate gift of time. To further give to consumers, the activation featured on-site photographers to limit the amount of time consumers would spend trying to get the perfect Instagram shot, instead giving them more time to enjoy the experience. Attendees spent an average of 50 minutes inside, doubling expectations from the start of the program. 92% of attendees advised they would recommend the experience and gifted more than 81,000 hours of time to others beyond the activation.

Photographs: Courtesy Chick-fil-A

Best Use of Events for Content

Celebrating 20 Years of Design for All, a campaign for Target, In-house were awarded the Ex Winner for the Best Use of Events for Content. They amplified the campaign by bringing it to virtual, to reach a further 13.5 million consumers via a Twitter live stream, in addition to the 1,500 attendees that visited the pop up. The activation was held during New York Fashion Week, with exclusive access to products before their official launch into national Target stores. The activation featured influencer partnerships and a walk-through timeline of fashion trends from the last 20 years to create excitement and awareness for consumers aged 18-49.

Photographs: Courtesy Benjamin Lozovsky/BFA.com

Best Multi-Market Event (Consumer)

Making their presence known at New York Fashion Week, The Glenlivet Drop Shop for Pernod Ricard saw agency 160over90 as the Ex Winner for the Best Multi-Market Event (Consumer). Launching their new 14-Year-Old expression, The Glenlivet Drop Shop experience saw tastings, the product show room and a customisation station. Looking to engage with consumers outside of the typically older gentleman market, that is often assumed with scotch, the brand focused on multicultural Millennials in seven key U.S markets. Attendees could personalise tees, flasks and toes with The Glenlivet’s partnership with Prabal Gurung. Post pop-up, the campaign continued with a Drop Shop experience focusing on the 7 key markets with multiple designer collaborations and partnerships. The campaign saw 84,000 social media conversations, 78% growth in placement goals and raised over $100,000 for the Purple Heart Foundation.

Photographs: Courtesy Alexa Merico/Hypebeast

Best Use of Technology and Social Media

Known for their previous standout campaigns, Christmas Miracle: To Give or Receive produced by In-house for WestJet took home the Ex Award for Best Use of Technology and Social Media. Partnering with the Ronald McDonald House Charities Canada, consumers were given the opportunity to like or love WestJet’s videos featuring WestJet prizes on multiple social media platforms and in turn, the equivalent dollar value of the prize was donated to families in need. The key characters in the videos were Blue Santa and Ebeniza Scrooge, who were featured across the whole campaign. After wrapping up the social media element of the campaign, consumers were then invited to a winter wonderland pop-up. Inside the pop-up, consumers were greeted by Santa and Scrooge holograms, who interacted in real-time with their visitors. During their interactions, consumers received various prizes like flights, holiday packages and shopping vouchers. Consumers had the option to keep it or donate the gift to Ronald McDonald House families by placing the gift in an onsite mailbox. Some consumers had the opportunity to meet the families that were receiving the gift they chose to donate. The campaign saw a 1,400% increase in engagement compared to their 2018 activation and generated $3.5 million in direct sales.

Photographs: Courtesy WestJet Photo and WESTJET, an Alberta Partnership