Clients are always encouraging the inVNT creative agency to design and produce live events that are “unlike any other that their attendees had experienced,” said Kristina McCoobery, an inVNT partner and executive producer, but they very rarely sign off on anything truly different. “We do get that direction a lot,” McCoobery said, but “sometimes they get nervous about pushing the envelope.”
But when a large pharmaceutical company challenged inVNT to create a memorable product launch for a new drug treatment last spring, it was very clear about what it wanted: an event that would “tap into the emotions of the audience and remind them why they where there,”McCoobery said, “which was to better the lives of the patients.” inVNT took the company at its word, and proposed a program that would take attendees – about 500members of the company’s internal sales force—on a subtly emotional journey. To inVNT’s surprise, the company agreed to everything. “They wanted stuff out of the box,”McCoobery said. “I gotta hand it to that team—they went for it.”
Right from the start, when attendees first filed into the hotel ballroom for the opening session, things were different. Instead of being greeted with high-energy music and dramatic lighting, they walked through a maze created by floor-to-ceiling drapes. Projected onto the cloth were images of people living with various states of the medical condition that the drug was designed to treat, accompanied by “a soundscape of overlapping voices” of people whose lives were touched by the disease, including patients, caregivers, and doctors. “In an honest and poignant way,” McCoobery said, “we began with why they were there; it was the patient. It set a very different tone.”
Once everyone was seated, a band began performing “a really uplifting opening number.” Halfway through the song, the lighting shifted so that the lead singer was illuminated and the band behind her faded out; as she continued singing, the screen behind her filled with words, explaining that the singer herself was a patient living with the disease. McCoobery and her team had hired the woman specifically because of that (and because she “blew the roof off the place” during her audition). She got a standing ovation when she finished.
Then it was time for the general session. One of the company’s executives came onstage, McCoobery said, and rather than setting up a panel discussion or an in-depth PowerPoint presentation about the new drug treatment, he simply said something along the lines of, “We’re going to move into the next part of our meeting. It’s a little different, but we think it’s going to open your eyes to something you might not know.” What followed was a one-woman show, written by a playwright specifically for the product launch and performed by a New York stage actress, who over the next 15 or 20minutes played eight different characters—men and women, young and old, patients and doctors, all of them stakeholders in the cycle of the disease.
There were other “creative beats” throughout the meeting, including a closing session that began with a Def Jam poet who “basically took on the personality of the product through the vehicle of a Def Jam poem,” and ended with an invitation for attendees to share what they found most memorable about the event. “Some people got very emotional as they talked about their time there,” McCoobery said, “how they felt very prepared and attached to the stories they heard. It became very real to everybody, which I think is invaluable.”
“If people are looking for something different and out of the box,” said inVNT’s Kristina McCoobery, “the only way it is really going to hit a home run is if it has purpose behind it. That’s what makes it meaningful to the audience. That’s what makes it memorable and ultimately meets the objectives. You can come up with some really crazy ideas, but unless it’s pointed and on brand and on message and purposeful, it doesn’t matter how crazy the idea – in my opinion, it’s not worth the craziness.”