Eventex Awards is more than a competition recognizing excellence in the field of events. Through the years, the awards have become an industry showcase of the best practices, the most original ideas, and the top innovations of today as well as a fountain of ideas for those seeking inspiration.
In this series of interviews, we will present you some of the most distinguished Eventex winners over the past few years.
XSAGA is a Dutch live communication agency founded in 2001 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Today, the company is one of the most famous creative agencies in the Netherlands and beyond. Following one of the main principles of experiential marketing, XSAGA’s projects truly engage audiences and blur the lines between brand activation, sponsorship, event and entertainment marketing by staging amazing experiences. It is always about content impact & momentum.
For three years in a row, XSAGA has swept away the competition at the Global Event Awards. In 2015, Turn On the Lights 2014 impressed the jury and was pronounced Event of the Year and Best Cultural Event. In 2016, XSAGA participated with two projects – National Museum Week and Opening new entrance building Van Gogh Museum which won the prestigious accolades for Best Campaign and Best Cultural Event respectively.
In 2017, XSAGA stole the spotlight once again with the colourful Allerhande Kerstfestival which won 1st prize in Best Brand Engagement Event, 2nd prize in Best Festival and was awarded the Eventex statuette in the special category People’s Choice.
For the 8th Edition of the Global Event Awards, XSAGA will be competing in 10 categories, although the project entries are still kept secret. We sat down with Maarten Hogenhuis, an event professional and partner at XSAGA to talk about the recipe for success and find out the secret ingredients of truly memorable and transformational experiences.
First of all, we want to ask the question on everyone’s mind: how do you pronounce “XSAGA” and what does the name mean?
“XSAGA” is the right pronunciation. It means to tell a story – a “SAGA,” and by adding the X for Experience and the X-factor, we created Xsaga.
What would you say is the company’s core competence?
At Xsaga, we are passionate about people and brands. We connect the two and put them in the spotlight. When we develop creative concepts, we like to think outside the traditional boxes of marketing communications and we refuse to be limited by existing boundaries in the field of live communications. We think beyond any particular media and believe in making a real connection with people and brands. This is how we build the bridge between the commercial message and the soul of the audience.
How do you approach the creation of an event? What’s your creative process?
It always takes a lot of research and often discussions with the creative team to understand the real goal of the client. As soon that’s clear the idea has to be simple and effective. You have to understand it directly and content impact & momentum are key!
A good example is the opening of the new entrance of the van Gogh museum. It was not about the van Gogh museum but about the awareness for the new entrance. Therefore we created the labyrinth which directly attracted the attention of the audience. Every visitor directly understood the idea and linked it to the museum. And the choice of the sunflower was obvious of course…
How do you balance creativity with pragmatism?
In the creative process we always try to reach new heights and goals. A good example is the opening of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Probably everyone knows the famous picture with the orange daylight fire-works which travelled all over the world, including the front page of the New-York times. It was impossible to test this effect in The Netherlands because it was never used in Europe before… It was not yet regulated. It seemed impossible to create this WOW-effect due to strict regulations. So we decided to fly to China with an expert and the governmental responsible manager to get a license to use this effect. That’s what we call a balance between creativity and pragmatism. Reach for the stars!
In your opinion, to what extent does luck play a role in event organization?
You have to plan thoroughly and always have a plan B. When it is about weather and a chance of rain, you need luck and a tent… With an outdoor event it is always nice to sip your coffee in the sun, instead of in the rain.
About the effect you want to reach with an event you need some luck, that on the day of your event, a big natural disaster doesn’t occur and all front pages the next day are filled with that issue instead of your event.
As a company, what type of events would you refuse or be reluctant to organize and why?
We love to challenge! See if we can turn something ‘negative’ into something positive!
If you could go back in time to witness any event in history, which one would you choose?
As a child, I wanted to visit a concert of Queen in the Netherlands. I was 15 years old and my parents said that I was too young. I’m afraid they were right, but I was really disappointed. Then two years later, Freddy Mercury died…
Going back to something positive…What is the single most spectacular event that impressed you or inspired you as a spectator?
The opening of the Turin Wintergames was one of my personal highlights. To witness an Olympic Games opening is an unique experience!
What is the best thing about participating in an awards competition?
It is like playing the Champions league. You can meet the experts and colleagues from all over the world, learn from them, get inspiration and inspire others.
And what have you taken away from Eventex Awards competition in particular?
The evident proof of the fact that events have a lot of marketing power. And that brands are discovering this. The trend is to use events or better; ‘live communication’ as a marketing tool. It is about creating ambassadors of your brand.
What advice would you give to future contestants?
Be sure that you never forget the aim of your event. Why did you propose this event to your client? It is not just to celebrate, you want to stage this brand and to engage the audience!
What projects are you working on right now?
At the moment we work on the 3d edition of Allerhande Kerst, the opening of Leeuwarden, the Cultural capital of Europe, an event for KLM, Museumvereniging. Until the end of the year we will organize approximately 30 events.
What were the biggest challenges of the past year?
We organized a huge Sport Festival for approximately 20.000 visitors a day. In the building period we had so much rain that the festival terrain turned into a swimming pool. It was finally impossible to host all the visitors securely and safe, so we had to cancel. Talking about luck…
What are you looking forward to?
We witness a situation where events are becoming a bigger component in the marketing mix, that event agencies are growing and getting a more important role in marketing and sales. I’m looking forward to be involved in a marketing campaign from the start and not only in the final stage. That’s what is happening at the moment and we as live-communication experts are part of that interesting journey.
To create content impact & momentum for our brands!
The 10th edition of Eventex Awards will be held entirely online thus making it accessible to more people than ever. If you are in communications, marketing, advertising, organize events as part of an association, government, a private company, or represent a venue, a hotel or a destination – you are invited to join regardless of where you are on the map.
Register now, fill out your entries later!