GroupM APAC CONFEST 2015 is the second “festival” of conferences for the Asia Pacific businesses of GroupM and GroupM agencies.
Held once in every four years, it aims to bring together the entire group in the region, align everyone on the group’s vision and mission, and showcase the exceptional and unique qualities of each agency in the group. Each agency is also given the space and autonomy to organize and conduct their own meetings and get-together during the week before the main plenary session.
This 2015 edition gathered more than 1,000 attendees (up from the 400 attendees in 2011) and took over three hotels and the entire Bali International Conference Center (BICC) for 11 agencies and specialists meetings, 1 main plenary session and 4 partners activations across the week between 9 – 16 March.
Because of the sheer scale of the event and the breadth of participation by different parties, the success of Confest is not just hinged on operational excellence; a huge part of it is also dependent on exceptional stakeholders management. Besides GroupM, Clearwater had to work with the group’s 11 agencies and specialists as well as 5 external partners, each with their own agenda, brief and objectives, to stage their activations and events during the week. CwC had to strike the perfect balance between addressing each of their needs and brief and their respective positioning and exposure at Confest. Managing and balancing the needs of each and every stakeholder while keeping the overall event identity and character intact is instrumental in the success of CONFEST.
This was also the second time the core team has worked with GroupM and its agencies on CONFEST – how do we raise the bar? Especially in a destination like Bali – how do we ensure the standards we take for granted in big cities are being met and exceeded? The CwC team made regular trips to Bali to meet with the local partners, interview and train local staff and conduct production checks. Some of the technical equipment and operators had to be brought in from Indonesia and Singapore as there was zero margin for error – especially the production of the main GroupM Day.
- 11 agency and GroupM specialist meetings and one main plenary for the entire group
- 21 dinners and receptions onsite and offsite across the week
- 3 hotels and 1 convention centre were home to CONFEST for a week
- 1,100 in attendance across 8 days of CONFEST
- Close to 600 attended the plenary GroupM Day and the eMMies Awards Gala Dinner
- Special guests include Sir Martin Sorrell and Lachlan Murdoch, as well as headline act by renowned band from the UK, the Cuban Brothers.
- 5 partners onboard CONFEST for the first time - Facebook, Fox International Channels, Google, Kantar and Youku
With our understanding and familiarity of the various clients, brands, dynamics, objectives and purpose of the event, Clearwater Communications (CwC) was entrusted with the entire planning, experience design, registration, logistics, creative and production of CONFEST, including the partners’ activations.
GroupM adopted an inclusive and collaborative partnership with Clearwater, viewing us as an extended team in the entire planning and organization of the event, which was crucial in organizing an event of this scale and scope.
The week started on Sunday with each agency hosting their respective meetings and group dinners. Friday was the main GroupM Day where employees of GroupM and WPP companies came together as one group. Presentations, speeches from global business leaders, GroupM regional management and the Asia Pacific businesses ran through the day, engaging and inspiring all 600 participants in the room.
Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO and Founder of WPP and Lachlan Murdoch, Co-Chairman of 21st Century Fox and News Corp were special guests on GroupM Day. They were interviewed by leading correspondents Zeinab Badawi of BBC and Anna Coren of CNN who were specially invited to facilitate the conversations with the two special guests on stage.
On Friday evening, partners and guests joined the eMMies and gala dinner followed by a ‘Summer Nights’ after party hosted by one of the partners Fox International Channels.
Saturday was a day dedicated to fun activities in line with one of GroupM’s values ‘Life should be Fun!’, with more than 200 people signed up for tours, beach cruise, white water rafting and golf tournament.
Throughout the week, we converted the Italian restaurant in the hotel into an “mBar”, where everyone regardless of entity, title and agency, mingle and network after the day’s sessions.
This year was also the first time partners of GroupM such as Facebook, Fox International Channels, Google, Kantar and Youku participated at CONFEST. The partners’ activations was a great opportunity for GroupM and agencies to know more about them and the CONFEST platform allowed for the meaningful exchange of ideas and social interactions amongst the partners and agencies.
The overall creative and branding of CONFEST was an interesting yet complex part of the planning. While maintaining the identity of CONFEST, we also needed to give each and every entity who is present its due brand exposure. This requires careful zoning of the different areas within the venues. The attendee needs to experience the CONFEST journey upon setting foot into Bali, and at the same time be able to see and feel the other brands that are present as well, especially the external partners. Common areas such as the lobbies of the three hotels, the convention centre which we took over entirely, as well as the driveways were branded with CONFEST. mBar – the common hangout joint after the days’ sessions, was also cleverly designed. We incorporated the logos of all participating agencies and partners into the interior design, while still keeping a chic and swanky bar atmosphere.
CwC had to be shrewd with the design of the set and staging for GroupM main conference as well. It had to serve multiple purposes with presentations by different entities, speakers, exposure for the various partners, as well as an awards gala dinner in the evening – all these bearing in mind as well the materials and cost effectiveness of what we could obtain and control locally. Widescreen projection in the centre of the stage meant we could customize and produce different multimedia content according to the rundown; the sides of the stage were decked out in gauze panels that allowed for projections of the different logos, lighting and content depending on the agenda. The setup also allowed us to produce a totally different experience for the awards gala and the headline act by Cuban Brothers in the evening without having to drastically change the set.
The post-event survey results were very heartening.
90% of attendees rated CONFEST on the whole as very good/excellent and 96% rated the plenary session ‘GroupM Day’ as very good/excellent.
80% of the respondents suggested CONFEST to be held more frequently i.e. every 2 – 3 years, instead of once every 4 years.
“We set the bar very very high for this event. It was much bigger, more complex and challenging on every level vs the 2011 Confest. The CwC team were outstanding from start to finish and the execition on site in Bali was flawless. I lost count of the positive feedback I received there and post the event. It was simply at a world class level and something that even the partners such as Google, Facebook and Fox thought was beyond anything they had experienced in their own companies too.
I was immensely proud of Min and the team and the relationships they developed with the myriad of “clients” they had to work with over the many months. I have recommended that CwC are retained to manage possible Confest meetings in other regions of the world in 2016 and beyond”
~ CEO Asia Pacific, GroupM
“We are grateful for all your assistance and perseverance. We had a fantastic meeting with flawless execution which could not have happened without you or your team’s efforts behind the scenes from preparation stage right through to us leaving Bali for our respective markets.”
~ Chief Business Development Office APAC, MediaCom
“A special thanks for your commitment over the last nine months in helping us prepare and run the content session at CONFEST 2015. Your team literally did not leave any stone unturned. Having worked in event marketing for over 10 years I have a fairly keen eye for details and I can’t find a single fault at all.”
~ CEO, GroupM Content Asia
“I have been to many conferences over the years and have to say that, for me, CONFEST 2015 was the best conference I've attended in 14 years with the company. Great organization, great venue, great alignment across disciplines and agencies, regional and global, and the right mix of serious and fun.”
~ Global COO, GroupM
“On behalf of the entire Google team, I just wanted to say thank you for all your help and support with our participation in Confest. You did a phenomenal job of pulling it together and execution was excellent! Our team could not have been happier with how things went. I appreciate all your patience and help. Without your knowledge and expertise, I don't think we would have extracted the same value out of each of the elements of our presence.”
~ Head of Global Agencies, Asia Pacific, Google