The Brief: Mechanical Gator Rides and ‘Wonka’s’ Bitter Taste


This week’s hot takes on hot topics in experiential marketing cover syrup fountains, the “Fyre Festival of kids events” and the inaugural Florida Man Games.



The typical “Florida man” is like a living, breathing urban legend that wreaks havoc on society—and endlessly entertains us. Behold: The Florida Man Games. Oh yes, “the most insane athletic showdown on Earth” just wrapped its inaugural competition in St. Augustine, FL. On Feb. 24 at Francis Field, Florida’s, um, finest faced off in mechanical gator rides, weaponized pool noodle battles, a mullet contest, sumo wrestling involving pool floats and pitchers of beer… and the absurd list goes on. The event was presented by FloGrown, with sponsors like Curaleaf, Ford and Lincoln also on board.

Our favorite response to the event, as reported by AP, comes from James Gordon, a Florida resident and games competitor: “I’ve lived in Florida my whole life. They’re calling these ‘events.’ I’m calling this [expletive] Tuesday afternoon.”


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An experiential museum, dubbed “Willy’s Chocolate Experience,” in Glasgow, Scotland, inspired by the tale of Willy Wonka, turned out to offer nothing more than weak signage and gummy samples, according to ticketholders, who claim the event didn’t match up to what was advertised by the production company, House of Illuminati.

According to Business Insider, and other reports, tickets to the experience went for $44 U.S. dollars each and promised a “place where chocolate dreams become reality,” with an “enchanted garden, an ‘Imagination Lab’ that promised ‘mind-expanding projections and optical marvels,’ and a ‘Twilight Tunnel.’”

stock_jellybeans_isolated_candyThe pictures of the event, however, paint a not-so-sweet picture—like a flat screen monitor with visible wires and plug, party murals tacked to walls, and random candy statues—leading many following the story to believe the images advertised for the event were AI-generated.

Organizers issued refunds and offered a mea culpa after police were called to mediate the situation, stating: “Unfortunately, last minute we were let down in many areas of our event and tried our best to continue on and push through and now realise we probably should have canceled first thing this morning instead.”

But who better to weigh in on this all than Billy McFarland himself, convicted felon and co-founder of the ill-fated and fraudulent Fyre Festival, who suggested he’d hire the team to activate the experience for adults at “Fyre 2.” Now that’s a sticky situation.



Deal or No Deal Island_2024_Hollywood_BAs with briefcases on staircase_credit Ben Draper_2Just when you think Hollywood has run fresh out of ideas for reality shows, another one enters the chat. This time around, it’s NBC’s “Deal or No Deal Island,” a reality game show spinoff of the original “Deal or No Deal” that involves 13 contestants facing off in dangerous games on a banker’s private island for a cash prize of $200 million. Yes, you read that number correctly.

Ahead of the show’s premiere on Feb. 26, NBC popped up at L.A.’s Ovation Hollywood on Feb. 17 and New York City’s Westfield World Trade Center on Feb. 22, with the Destination Deal or No Deal Island tour, activations anchored by replicas of “The Temple” staircase from the show.

At each event, the show’s famous briefcases were toted around by “banker’s assistants,” who donned resort wear to highlight the island theme, as well as a sandcastle-tower-themed photo op, among shareable moments. In NYC, members of the cast surprised attendees on-site, and in L.A., the show’s host, Joe Manganiello, and executive producer, Howie Mandel, were on hand to greet fans. Deal. (Agency: Giant Spoon)

Deal or No Deal Island_NYC_Ben Draper_5

Photo credit: Ben Draper


iStock-gavel_cyber security_ftc_computer chip copyScammers have long plagued the event industry, particularly within the trade show sector. But the FTC’s official clampdown on business and government fraudsters last month may mark the dawn of a new era, thanks, in part, to the event industry’s advocacy. With AI rapidly advancing—and scammers using the tech to make their cons more believable—it was an apropos time for the organization to finalize its Impersonation of Government and Businesses Rule.

The rule will allow the FTC to directly seek financial relief in federal court from scammers that:

  • Use government seals or business logos when communicating with consumers by mail or online.
  • Spoof government and business emails and web addresses, including using lookalike email addresses or websites that rely on misspellings of a company’s name.
  • Falsely imply government or business affiliation by using terms that are known to be affiliated with a government agency or business.

The new regulation will become effective 30 days from the date it’s published in the Federal Register.


Some sweet, syrupy news: In Gatlinburg, TN, the “Pancake Capital of the South,” consumers can now book a stay at the Eggo House of Pancakes on vacation rental platform HomeToGo. The family-oriented experience was launched to celebrate the brand’s “other favorite breakfast staple” in honor of National Pancake Day on Feb. 28, with bookings running through March 18.

When Eggo says “House of Pancakes,” it’s not kidding. The home, located in the heart of the Smoky Mountains, is quite literally shaped like a stack of pancakes and features a stick of butter as its chimney. The property, fit for eight guests, spans pancake-ified furniture throughout, a maple syrup fountain, a game room with a pancake-themed pool table, branded cornhole, a fire pit, a freezer stocked solely with the brand’s pancakes and Eggo’s signature yellow hue everywhere. Breakfast of champions, indeed.

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Kait Shea
Posted by Kait Shea

Kait joined EM in 2015 and today enjoys her role as senior editor, digital content. When she’s not in reporter mode, rocking mermaid pants at Comic-Con or running laps at MWC Barcelona, you can find her at home listening to music.
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