Best of 2010: 10 New York Event Industry Highlights

By Anna Sekula December 13, 2010, 9:00 AM EST

Among the many creative events this year was the Brooklyn Museum's Brooklyn Ball, which engaged attendees with an interactive meal.

Photo: BizBash

As part of our Best of 2010 look back at the last year, we asked our local editors to share their—admittedly subjective—take on the most important things to happen in their markets this year. Here's what New York-based associate editor Anna Sekula had to say.

1. High-Tech Decor, Activities, and Bidding Systems
As electronics manufacturers and technology companies energetically battled to make and market the most popular consumer gadget in 2010, events too seemed to be in competition with each other, looking to implement the newest and latest high-tech toy. The fashion industry was quick to ride the wave of new digital platforms: IMG Fashion debuted a new online check-in system for Fashion Week in September; Chanel put up a digital graffiti wall for the opening of its SoHo store; Marc Ecko launched an ad campaign using augmented reality; and Ralph Lauren celebrated the 10th year of its Web site with an impressive 4-D video show. Nonprofits also made smart use of Web-enabled phones and apps for auctions and other fund-raising endeavors. For example, at Keep a Child Alive's Black Ball, guests could scan bar codes with their smartphones to make on-the-spot donations to the organization.

2. Online Companies Moving Into Offline Endeavors
In an interesting twist, as fashion and other industries incorporated more technology into their events, Web-based companies made some significant forays into offline marketing, bringing their intangible products and brands into engaging physical environments. Of note were the public auditions Progressive Insurance held in January and AOL’s Partner Summit in April. What set these particular events apart was the marked attempt to align previous marketing efforts in an in-person setting. AOL hosted a business-focused affair for clients to underscore its logo redesign following its split from Time Warner. Progressive held open auditions for a new TV ad spot, tapping into the popularity of “Flo,” a character from its commercials.

3. Hands-On Benefit Galas
New York sees a vast number of fund-raising events every year, and for the most part, they stick to the same true-and-true dinner format. In 2010, two benefits broke out of this mold in very inventive ways. At the Brooklyn Museum's Brooklyn Ball in April, artist Jennifer Rubell's unconventional food presentation forced guests to actively participate in their meals with self-serve drinks and eats. June saw Target's Party for Good, a unique but simple event that combined the concept of a volunteer drive with a dinner. Not only did it engage those in attendance, it also gave them a very specific idea of how and what they were contributing. (To hear what they said, watch our video from the event.)

4. Changes at Lincoln Center
The ongoing renovations at the cultural campus have made an enormous impact on the Upper West Side and events in general. Yes, the renovations have been going on for a while and there's still more to come (the Film Society of Lincoln Center's new Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center), but the idea of Fashion Week and fashion events gravitating toward that area has spurred changes to existing venues and restaurants, as well as bringing new ones to the neighborhood. It's tough to really pinpoint what prompted what, but Diller Scofidio & Renfro's redesign of Alice Tully Hall and architecture for Lincoln deserve some of the credit.

5. Budget-Friendly Ideas That Don't Look Cheap or Boring
Camper's press preview in April was a great example of what marketers can do with a limited budget if they're resourceful and creative. Sure, the Camper folks saved money by using a space the company owns, but buying Hoberman spheres on Amazon and broccoflowers from FreshDirect was such a straightforward idea—and one available to anybody—and it was used in a way that made sense with what the brand was selling.

6. Social Media
Facebook, Twitter, and other online platforms have become valuable tools for corporate and nonprofit marketers, and a move that’s gaining momentum is the use of social media sites to curate and generate guest lists for consumer events. Dos Equis and Ikea took advantage of that idea this year, directly targeting their fan bases rather than hosting an open promotion and waiting for the crowds to show. Such conscious outreach efforts are not just effective in reaching an established audience, but also provide an opportunity for a brand to get a foothold in new, untapped market segments.

7. Artsy Public Promotions
The popularity of pop-ups is slowly starting to recede, and what’s emerging, aside from the prevalence of flash mobs, are some really clever marketing concepts. In a departure from previous promotional efforts, USA Network’s Covert Affairs publicity stunt in July was positioned as a live (and silent) art installation and proved consumer interaction isn’t always necessary to create an impression. In a similar vein, Target turned a fall fashion show into an impressive light and performance display that took over the entire southern facade of the Standard hotel. Crowded on the street and the High Line, spectators used branded binoculars to take in the visual spectacle.

8. Unconventional Auto Industry Events
The recession saw a big drop in large events hosted by car companies, but as the economy got back on its feet this year, so too did the automakers. However, there was a distinct change in the tone of the promotional efforts and the target audience, which made for some interesting and somewhat playful events. As part of an integrated campaign for its CT 200h hybrid, Lexus launched a debate series in March, bringing in renewable-energy advocates and global-warming skeptics to argue over environmental issues for a mixed crowd of celebrities, fashion bloggers, tech reporters, and automotive journalists. Volkswagen chose a much more public setting for the global debut of its 2011 Jetta in June, gathering swarms of consumers with a live performance by Katy Perry and a cooking demonstration with chef Mario Batali.

9. New Hotels and Spaces
It was a big year for hotels in New York, and the influx of new properties and renovations brought some unexpected offerings—chic, brandable spaces for events and meetings and a slew of chef-focused restaurants. Hyatt pioneered a new, residential-style concept with the opening of two Andaz hotels, where the function rooms are centered round a communal kitchen and lounge. The refurbishment of the Hudson Hotel’s basement produced the raw and flexible spot dubbed Good Units, while the newly constructed Trump Soho created an intimate penthouse space. Geoffrey Zakarian opened the Lambs Club at the Chatwal New York, the InterContinental Times Square got Ça Va from Todd English, and Michael White created Ai Fiori inside the Setai Fifth Avenue. Plus, with the development of these (largely) freestanding structures came a slew of rooftops—from Gansevoort Park’s expansive 13,000-square-foot, trilevel spot to Ink 48’s 3,000-square-foot deck. So it’s not surprising that more events are taking place at hotels, including movie premiere parties.

10. EventCamp
At the Roger Smith Hotel on February 6, five planners launched EventCamp, a new industry gathering for the active online community of event and meeting professionals chatting through the Twitter hashtag #eventprofs. Dedicated to exploring new strategies and emphasizing the importance of networking, the national symposium brought more momentum to the growing movement of unconferences and spawned regional incarnations, each testing out new styles of participant-driven conferences. Not only does EventCamp open the door for planners to experience these models, but hopefully, it gives them ideas on how to make their own conferences more engaging.

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