What You Missed at EMS 2017: Day One - Event Marketer

EMS 2017

What You Missed at EMS 2017: Day One

Ben Grossman of Jack Morton Worldwide presents Data University in one of the opening day workshops at EMS 2017.

Ben Grossman of Jack Morton Worldwide presents Data University in one of the opening day workshops at EMS 2017.

Happy Birthday to the Experiential Marketing Summit. What began 15 years ago as the experiential community’s first official gathering has ballooned into the industry’s ultimate training conference and networking event. And in honor of this special year, we’re back in the city where it all began… Chicago. It’s good to be home.

In typical fashion, EMS (May 3-5) at McCormick Place kicked off with a robust afternoon of content. We “supersized” activities this year, including offering the ultimate b-to-b events field trip: McDonald’s University. The 60 attendees who registered headed to McDonald’s downtown digital offices for a master class on how the 62-year-old brand is reinventing itself through live and digital experiences. For attendees looking to do a little sightseeing and networking, we offered two different daytime excursions, including a Chicago Architecture River Cruise and a visit to the Sky Deck at Willis Tower.

Back at the home base at McCormick Place, three other in-depth workshops covered event measurement and data, sponsorship and Experiential Marketing 101, all hosted by expert panels of speakers.

At 4:30 p.m. sharp, the Summit officially roared to life with the first night opening reception in the Solutions Center, sponsored by Event Staffing. In the two-story Highmark Hub on the expo floor, mixologists shook up classic cocktail demos, while culinary experts hosted an EMS Iron Chef competition featuring freshly made pasta. It’s how we do it.

PG Cooks kicks off an Iron Chef competition at the EMS 2017 opening reception.

PG Cooks kicks off an Iron Chef competition at the EMS 2017 opening reception.

At 7 p.m., attendees headed into the historic 15th Anniversary Ex Awards and after-party, sponsored by AFR, Shiftgig and PRG. The industry’s Golden Globes-style event covered 26 categories and Ex Award winners. Over lobster macaroni and cheese and filet mignon, there were many cheers and lively conversations to go around among the 600 marketers in attendance. The Ex Awards were packed with surprises, including—new this year—the first-ever Brand Ambassador of the Year Award, presented by Shiftgig. Congratulations to the 10 BAs for your hard work and for elevating this vital profession. We also debuted our First Annual People’s Choice Award, powered by YouTube sizzle reels. Thousands of fans voted for the industry’s favorite program, and Netflix’s “Luke’s Coffee Day” program took home the prize.

Our highest honor, the coveted Grand Ex, was awarded to Airbnb Open, a trendsetting, industry-defining case study of a colossal takeover of Los Angeles that had everyone in the room rethinking how they think about b-to-b events. Congratulations to Airbnb and Civic Entertainment Group. Well done. Check out the full list of winners here.

Does it get any better than this? We’ve got two more days of recaps. Stay tuned as we return tomorrow with our next recap with more insights, tips and quotes from EMS 2017. Be sure to follow us on Twitter and Instagram for sharable tidbits and moments from the show.

Ex Awards sponsor Shiftgig honors the 10 Brand Ambassadors of the Year.

Ex Awards sponsor Shiftgig honors the 10 Brand Ambassadors of the Year.


“The more granular you can get about how the nuances of your events—all those individual moments you create—map to each of your specific marketing goals, the more successful you will be.”

“Knowing how to create a sound event strategy not only aligns your events with the larger marketing objectives, it sets your event up for success and allows you to prove the value of your event spending. A sound strategy moves you away from what’s fun to have towards what moves the needle and makes a measurable difference. And it forces you to be accountable to goals and to omit experiences and budget items that might not actually map back to your goal.” 

—Jessica Heasley, Content Director, Event Marketer


“Sponsorships are getting more sophisticated. You’re not going to see the ‘I need the biggest side of the stadium’ or ‘I need more tickets’ anymore. Clients are looking at sponsorships more from the perspective of an ad agency, more holistically, and they want to see how all the parts come together.”

—Josh Ellovich, VP, Advantage International


“With the advent of technology and social media, sponsorship is changing. Now, we’re seeing brands addressing multiple challenges within a single sponsorship, they’re focusing on engagement as well as reach, all of these different activities that get us a little bit closer to consumers. And we see the trend accelerating with new platforms like Snapchat.”

—Andrew Schunk, EVP, Octagon

“The experiences we create really have to be agile, and if you’re not changing something between event or activation days, then you’re not listening closely enough to what your audience or participants are telling you. So when you look at key performance indicators, you’re really looking for those metrics that are things that we can change or act upon, and some examples of these include number of attendees, net promoter score, average time spent, engagement rates, conversion, satisfaction.” 

—Ben Grossman, SVP, Group Strategy Director, Jack Morton Worldwide

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