Home News The Big Interview: The Experience is Everything

The Big Interview: The Experience is Everything

With the festival season in Ireland well underway and investment in experiential marketing increasing in 2024, Jonny Davis of Allied Global Marketing talks to John McGee about the growth of the business, trends within the sector and the impact of technology. 

With the Covid-induced lockdowns of recent years now firmly in the rearview mirror, the live events industry has well and truly bounced back to life with gusto.

Covid also presented brothers Jonny and Paddy Davis with another opportunity when the multinational agency Allied Global Marketing (AGM) proposed an acquisition of Honey+Buzz. This culminated in a deal to sell their business to AGM which was formally announced in May 2021. With the acquisition bedded down a year later, both brothers were appointed as Executive Vice Presidents of the Brand Experience division of Allied Global Marketing (AGM) with Jonny based primarily in Dublin while Paddy is in New York, with both leading the global expansion of the team.

For many brands operating in the experiential marketing space, the post-Covid era has been particularly busy with many brands, operating across a wide range of consumer and B2B sectors, cranking up their investment.

Shifting Consumer Landscape

For Jonny Davis, this is good news.  Together with Paddy, he has been a key player in the Irish experiential marketing industry for the last 20 years, starting out even before experiential was a thing in the marketing lexicon.

“From 2019 we settled on what we wanted to do and how we wanted to achieve it,” says Davis.

“For us, it was not just about live experiences, which we had been doing for a long time. We started to ask ourselves who we are, what are we doing, how the market was changing and what we needed to do to respond. So, that’s how our business came about,” he says.

According to Davis, one of the key drivers behind the growth of experiential marketing in recent years has to do with the shifting consumer landscape and their mindsets. Millennials and Gen Z’ers, in particular, tend to value experiences over material possessions. Experiential marketing resonates deeply with these demographics by offering unique and shareable experiences that align with their values and aspirations.

“The experiences we create have to be authentic to the audience,” says Davis.

In addition, in an increasingly fragmented media landscape, which is dominated by social media, experiential activations have the potential to amplify brand reach exponentially, as consumers share their experiences online, thereby extending the brand’s reach far beyond a physical event.

“The one main thing I would say about experiential marketing is it’s a lot more sophisticated and integrated now than it was, say, ten years ago,” he says.

“It’s not like you run an isolated event to launch a new product or it’s just a bolt-on for a campaign at the end. Now it’s all about the brand experience in its entirety and all the different touch points along the way. The important thing is that the experience sits at the heart of everything we do or, as we like to say, the experience is everything.”

Creating Experiences

“The brand experience could start with somebody buying a ticket for an event a year before it is even held. Then it’s about bringing that person on a journey from the time they bought the ticket through to the event itself, and then to sharing it on social media. Along the way, we  could include personalised content and social engagement. So, it’s the entire journey and it’s about keeping people engaged right up until the event itself and often after it too,” he says.

“We create experiences that drive user-generated content and talkability, but layer in amplification tactics like influencer, content, and media partnerships to reach a broader audience,” says Davis.

More importantly, these were services that were in demand by clients, especially those who understood the value that experiential marketing brings to the marketing table.  Some of these clients included the likes of Heineken Ireland, White Claw, Dropbox, Renault, HubSpot and Dyson. The team were delivering commercial results for their clients and making an impact globally with several events and creative award wins.

Apart from competing with other agencies to win business, the Davis brothers found themselves sitting around the table with other agencies when it came to working on various client briefs.  This can often create an interesting dynamic.

“Everyone sitting around the table is there to get the best result for the client but ultimately you have to believe in your own work and stand up for it. The best-case scenario is when there is a really clear brief from the client and there is a strong lead agency. In the past, the lead agency tended to be a creative or a media agency but now we find ourselves working across several brands where we are the lead agency. It makes sense if it’s experience-based as opposed to something that is media-driven. But also, like many other things, it’s about having a good relationship with the client and earning their trust,” says Davis.

One such client was Birra Moretti, the Heineken-owned premium Italian beer which has enjoyed considerable success in both the on-trade and off-trade market in recent years.

“During Covid and the various lockdowns, the Birra Moretti brand took off as many people treated themselves by trading up to more premium beers when they were at home.

“We have a strong relationship with Heineken that is built on a trust that we will deliver a creative response that will deliver commercial success. We were initially briefed to create an event but after great agency-client collaboration, we all agreed that the answer in this instance wasn’t a live event. Instead, we suggested a smaller and much more intimate experience, involving food and a couple of drinks and around 20 people in a room with special guests and a host. The proposal that we came back with was focused much more around media than an actual live event and from a content perspective, we were also able to turn this into a mini TV series by partnering with Virgin Media Television,” he says.

The end product – called The Shared Table – was developed by the full Birra Moretti agency team and was broadcast on the Virgin Media Player. The three-part series revolved around an interview-based show about sharing untold stories around a shared table. Hosted by Eoghan Doherty, guests included  Gino D’Acampo, Denise Chaila and Late Late Show host Patrick Kielty.

“The scope of this work shows the strategic, creative and production capabilities of what we offer to our clients. We are always challenging ourselves and our clients to push on creating work that genuinely moves the needle and pushes the boundaries of what is possible,” Davis says.

Big Clients

The agency’s strong base of Irish clients has been augmented with award-winning global work for clients including Netflix, Apple, UFC, WWE and recently with Paramount for South Park. The team in Dublin developed a global pop-up tour to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the iconic show with stops in London, Berlin, Mexico City, Lucca and Tokyo. “I’m incredibly proud of both local and global work that our team in Dublin has created and produced in the last few years. The quality of this work has been shown as we are currently producing a second world tour with South Park that goes live in March 2024. We genuinely have world-class talent here in Dublin and it shows with the quality of work that we are producing for our local and global clients. We intend to continue this growth and fast track it with our continued investment in new technologies that can deliver even better work for our clients” says Davis.


Indeed the deployment of technology has become a big part of the experiential landscape Davis says.

“There’s a lot more to experiential than a ticket for an event or a like on Instagram and we’ve spent a lot of time looking at how technology can be used. Virtual reality, mixed reality and augmented reality are playing an important role in creating immersive experiences Many companies like Meta and Apple have invested billions in taking these to new levels in recent years. We have access to this technology now which means that our clients are ahead of their competitors when they work with us.”

Then there is the topic de jour, artificial intelligence which, Davis says, “will undoubtedly transform the marketing landscape” in the coming years, but the reality is that the impact is happening now, and brands need to be engaging today.

“AI’s prowess in data analytics and customisation makes it a game-changer. Its ability to collate, understand, and translate large volumes of customer data means we gather actionable insights faster than ever before, allowing us to pivot in real time to maximize performance. The combination of AI with immersive technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) is set to create a whole new realm in experiential marketing, as exemplified by Apple’s Vision Pro. With the product launched in February, the Vision Pro is set to revolutionize AR experiences. Traditional events will become immersive spectacles, fostering deeper emotional connections with the audience. Just as Apple seeks to embed itself seamlessly into consumers’ lives with Vision Pro, brands should adopt the same ingenuity, propelling experiential marketing into uncharted territories in 2024.”

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