Case study: How Dentsu Aegis Network found an event management software partner

Being responsible for hundreds of events per year for Dentsu Aegis Network (DAN), Ali Lord wanted to get “far, far away from the nightmare of having to dash between multiple software platforms” to keep on top of things. This is how she did it.

DAN is headquartered in London and comprises a global network of marketing and advertising agencies with more than 40,000 dedicated specialists operating in 145 countries.

In 2016 Ali joined DAN as they created the role of an events manager to deal with the growing number of events they were operating. Within 2 years Ali had demonstrated how valuable the role was to the business and in April 2018 she was promoted to Head of Events for UK & Ireland, taking responsibility for the events across their 21 businesses. This includes internal events such as an annual all-colleague event for 2,500 people, entertaining clients and working with DAN’s media partners – the companies from whom they buy advertising space.

“Our approach is that events aren’t just a nice-to-have, they should link back to business strategy,” says Ali. “So our annual Christmas event isn’t just a nice big party, it’s actually hugely important for employee engagement. Some people might laugh when they hear me say that, but you take away the Christmas party and you’ll see the employee engagement go down!”

Up against it

In addition to the sheer number of events Ali had to juggle, one of her biggest challenges was keeping control of budgets. She didn’t have an overall view of what was going on and had to dip in and out of various pieces of software to keep track of planning and spending. “Even with lower event budgets – and I think that’s something we’re all facing across the board – you’re still expected to deliver the next best solution, the next best event.”

Another big challenge was data. “At DAN, we’re data-obsessed as a business. It’s what we do for our clients, and it’s not cookie-based but actual, real people data. When you’ve got data and people right and you understand both of them, you’ve got a recipe for success.” Ali did have various sets of raw data about DAN’s event attendees, but there was no way for her turn that into strategic information that she could act upon.

She made the business case to approach the market for an event management software partner, which the board approved.

Ali Lord, Events Manager, Dentsu Aegis Network (DAN)

Looking for a solution

“I’m a big believer in fewer, deeper relationships, and that informed my search for a partner. We didn’t want to have to pick and choose between eight different pieces of software for different events, we wanted a single solution. We also didn’t want a pay-per-event situation – it had to be an annual fee that covers everything.

“My checklist also included things like: Is the product fit for purpose for what I need? Are they good people? Are they going to advance technology in the way that I want them to and genuinely have the same vision that I do? For example, we want every event to be paperless, and a seamless experience for guests.

“We’re a small team, so I need to rely on the people I choose to partner with as extensions of my team, and I use that word really seriously because if I can’t trust them explicitly and have a really good relationship with them, it’s not going to work.” Between the procurement department’s due diligence process and Ali’s own requirements, choosing Evessio was the right choice for DAN and they signed an agreement in May 2018.

All in one place

With Evessio, Ali now has full sight of every event at an enterprise level. She can also drill down to each business in the group to have a look at what they are doing and each business has sight of their own events.

“I put every single event that we do into one platform. It’s not a case anymore of ‘this event is huge so we’ll put it through the platform and this one is small so we won’t’. I’m now far, far away from the nightmare of having to dash between multiple software platforms, which is how it used to be.”

As for data, Ali is able to understand in greater detail what her 4,500 colleagues in the UK and Ireland are up to. “When I invite these people to the summer party, a group of people to a conference and also to a Christmas party, I can start to see themes on who’s attending what and who’s not attending. I can look at the data in an intelligent way to understand for example why there’s been a drop-out at a certain event’s attendance, and that feeds into my event planning for the next year.”

Ali finds the ability to have a bespoke website for each event especially valuable. “The backend is the same and I have access to each and every event from there, however the user interface is designed for each event and therefore has a bespoke, more premium look and feel to it.”

Away from the technology, the nature of her relationship with Evessio has allowed her to do more with less. “Last year, we had our Christmas party coming up and my budget had been pulled back slightly. But people still expect the amazing experience they’ve had in previous years. So we worked with Evessio to make the event website much more engaging and interactive than merely using it to get people to RSVP.”

How does Ali see the future of event technology? “I get hugely excited by technology. And this is not an attempt to duck the question, but it’s a case of ‘we don’t know what we don’t know’. We don’t know what Apple are going to release in their phones in a year’s time and we don’t know what the event tech space is going to be talking about. But I hope it’s good!”