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Industry Insider: Made Up

21 Jan 2021

The location:live crew had the pleasure of sitting down with Danny Cooper, Executive Director at Made Up ltd. Safe to say they nailed the 'pivot', read on to find out what they have been up to.

I think the pandemic and BLM have had a profound impact on all of us this year, and we expect to see events with more focus on inclusivity and much more consideration of the environment.

Who are made up?

Founded in 1998, Made Up have been at the forefront of the brand, entertainment, and lifestyle experiential industry as its grown into the most compelling creative sector in the world. With workshops and studios in London and Ibiza, we have led the way in providing every aspect of event organisation and production.

Ultimately our ambition is to create productions and installations that are not only compelling, memorable, and meaningful, but also ethical and sustainable. We have delivered 1000’s events to countless clients for more than twenty years and helped expose brands and talent to millions of participants.

How was 2020 looking for you?

January and February were shaping up to be the biggest start to a year yet, with many new clients and some very exciting productions being planned.

We had secured some great opportunities such as Under Armour, Campo Viejo, as well as supporting Pride across the UK with productions for Jean Paul Gaultier and Warner Brothers. Our partnerships with the BBC, Pernod Ricard and Bacardi were full steam ahead and new agency partnerships were increasing the demand exponentially.

Then COVID came along. It really hit home in February as we were preparing to finalise some of our projects for March activations, when we got a sense from one of our US clients that they were starting to get nervous about flying executives to Europe during a possible pandemic, so dates started to be deferred. Then within three weeks, every single project we had was put on hold indefinitely. I think most people in the industry were aware at that time that this was not going to be a quick recovery, so much of our work was deferred until the Autumn at least.

I’d say during that period the most concerning thing for us was seeing relationships that we had built with partners across the industry begin to go quiet, firstly through them going on furlough, and then sadly for many being made redundant. This was difficult for us as we cherish our relationships, and clearly seeing people we had worked with for so many years being put into this deeply sad situation was incredibly hard to deal with for all of us. This was a pattern that unfortunately was repeated across our industry and devastated so many lives and businesses.

What steps did you take to adapt?

The first two months were probably the most difficult as we had gone from this period of having this incredible workload, to then everyone sitting in the office looking at one another with the phones not ringing and our machinery idle. It was a strange and surreal time for all of us. We decided early to ensure that we were protecting our staff and their families, so we set up the infrastructure for them to work remotely and almost immediately sent everyone home. 

Then the furlough scheme was introduced, which was super helpful, but it was still a huge adjustment when you are used to being in the office with everyone around you. We went from being surrounded by a group of amazing people in a highly dynamic environment, to being at home and no one working. We are a very close company and from everyone being involved in everything that is going on, to then suddenly having nothing going on was tough. We went through that strange phase of adjusting to the new world which took many weeks to adapt to. 

We understood rationally that there was not going to be any traditional experiential work for a while, which is our main offering, so we had to develop some new opportunities. 

Firstly, we looked at how we could raise the profile of our web streaming, webinar and studio production services to support socially responsible broadcasting. The second thing was to pivot our fabrications team to produce services to be helpful during the pandemic. We delivered several Covid partition systems for companies like Made, Ingenious and numerous other organisations. 

This kept our teams feeling like there was hope and keeping them busy where possible and contributed to keeping people safe. It felt very rewarding to be contributing as best we could during this time. From this came some incredible new opportunities, in particular to build bespoke Covid safe Bars and Food Services for the First and Club Class lounges in Terminal 5 for British Airways.

We were also mindful of those that had been put out of work during the pandemic and did our best to bring people in to help with the delivery of some of the opportunities that we had available. We also worked closely with our partners in developing client briefs to expose new Covid Safe opportunities. We believed that by working together we would collectively come out of this stronger and this approach has really helped us to strengthen those relationships.

There has been a lot of ingenuity from people in terms of working with the restrictions including immersive socially distanced theatre and outdoor award shows, such as the BBC Radio Introducing Awards from Kew Gardens. We also were part of the team that delivered the socially safe Joe Wicks live stream for Children In Need, and some very cool retail installations including most recently at Selfridges, along with “social bubble” dining pods in conjunction with LVMH.

In addition, our streaming and webinar services have been an enormous success, having delivered over 100 hours of live and interactive content for brands in the past six weeks alone and we believe that this trend will persist. We also recognise that we have been incredibly fortunate to have a strong pipeline of productions during this time and are very grateful to our team, clients, and partners for their support.

Do you feel like Made Up has changed as a company? How do you predict this benefiting you in 2021 and how do you think events will change in 2021?

I think as a company we have had time to reflect and see how tentative our industry can be and how important our eco-system is, our team, partners, and audiences alike. I think the pandemic and BLM have had a profound impact on all of us this year, and we expect to see events with more focus on inclusivity and much more consideration of the environment. I think consumers will be far more conscious of these important aspects and brands will naturally adjust for this. I think this adaptation will play to our strengths as these values sit at the very core of our company.

I also suspect that the economic impact is possibly going to have a part to play during the recovery, perhaps with some of the excesses of the past few years being reduced in scale, and ensuring that where excess is necessary, that it is balanced with consideration of environmental and social conditions. Perhaps events will be smaller at the beginning of the year, with mixed hybrid making them more sustainable and accessible. 

We also recognised that having had a year on pause, that demand is going to be very strong once the vaccine begins to have an impact, and in preparation for this we have invested in a new 16,000sq.ft. state of the art production facility to increase our capacity and enable us to accommodate many more concurrent productions. In addition, we believe that the demand for our streaming, virtual and hybrid events will continue to grow, so our plans are to expand our new facility further to include live broadcast recording studios in the near future.

I think we can all now see the crack of light at the end of the tunnel, and whilst live events may continue to struggle at the beginning of 2021, once we get the green light there will be some big parties and we will be at the heart of producing them.

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