The Art of Experience: An Interview with David Saalfrank, Managing Director, Eventive.

We would like to thank David Saalfrank, Managing Director at Eventive for taking the time out to talk with us about some of the exciting experiential projects the agency has been working on and the unique approach they take to elevating brand experiences into an art form.

The Art of Experience: An Interview with David Saalfrank, Managing Director, Eventive.

By Jeff Finkle


AdForum: Eventive has been involved with producing some exciting consumer and B to B events in recent years and you guys seem to have a strong relationship with the NFL, in working on the NFL Fan Style Tour.  It seems like such a challenging but fun event to work on. What was the biggest challenge in executing a Fan Style Tour in promoting a brand that is so etched in American culture like the NFL?


David: I think the biggest challenge was ensuring that this fan experience delivered something new and engaging for fans given that most of the event days on the tour were hosted at stadiums during NFL game day.  Lots of excitement and distractions to have to overcome.


Fans have seen it all, especially on game day at the stadium.  We had to strive to ensure that this interactive experience was seamless and relevant for the fans, while also delivering a brand experience that produced content worthy of sharing with other fans.


The proof was in the results.  We exceeded all the key performance goals established by the NFL and the program even won a Pro Award from Chief Marketer.


AdForum: Last year, Eventive put together the Homegating experience for the NFL at the L.A. Food and Wine Festival, which seems like a great way to merge the NFL brand with the culinary experience of the Festival.  This seems like an exciting way to re-engage the LA market with the NFL before the Rams’ return to Los Angeles. How was this “Homegating” experience executed by your team and how was the feedback from the NFL and the fans that arrived. I am a fan of the term “homegating” by the way.


David: Glad you’re a fan of the term “homegating,” as it has become synonymous with the NFL, which is one of the objectives of this program.


The NFL Homegating initiative is a PR-driven program for the Consumer Products division of the NFL.  We created a collective agency solution for the NFL that is based on a key marketing platform centered around educating, empowering and encouraging fans to celebrate their favorite teams, at home, to drive alignment, awareness and sales of branded team merchandise.


Last year was Phase II of this initiative, where we supported PR efforts by bringing the NFL Homegating experience directly to target consumers who we knew were predisposed to entertaining and cooking. We developed and produced a NFL Homegating environment that showcased team merchandise as well as, provided NFL home entertainment solutions through product demonstrations and takeaway entertainment guides.  The consumer experience had to be memorable, interactive and shareable while aligning with the core platform.  Since many of the venues selected were food festivals, we created an interactive hamburger slider bar where consumers could customize their own sliders and share their creation via our Slider Cam cameras that pushed photos out through social media channels. Photos were branded with NFL Homegating logos.


Supported by celebrity cooking and home entertaining demonstrations as well, at each event, the results were positive and we are developing Phase III of this initiative based on key learning and revised objectives.



AdForum: I want to congratulate you on your new relationship with Cigna. The first project you are running for Cigna is the “Go. Know. Take Control” Health Improvement Tour.  Can you tell us a bit about the goal of the tour? How has the feedback been from people who have attended your mobile clinics? Also, did the fact that there are so many people in the U.S. who are unsure of their future health care factor in at all to the planning of this project?


David: Thanks.  Our Cigna client really appreciates the value we bring in so many areas and most importantly, challenges us to be an even better agency.  The Cigna Health Improvement Tour (HIT) is designed to reinforce the importance of overall wellness and healthy living.  It empowers consumers, customers, and employees to take control by providing a snapshot of their health through biometric screenings.  The Core Four as it’s known.


Our Tour Managers and staff also work with Cigna health coaches and screening professionals on site.


Generally, everyone is very appreciative of the effort by Cigna to travel to events, neighborhoods and places of employment to provide this service.  The HIT is one part of an overall initiative and reflective of Cigna’s continued commitment to a health lifestyle and providing services for people to manage and improve their current well-being and condition.


Though there are no doctors on-site at these screenings, and no additional medical services provided (other than biometric screenings), we did have one case recently where, through the screening process, it was determined a consumer may have been suffering a stroke and his brother was able to get him, quickly, to a nearby hospital.


The current uncertainty of healthcare and the political climate really had nothing to do with the planning of this project.  This is a top down initiative by Cigna to serve the public need and continue to be a leader in the healthcare industry.  However, given that healthcare has been more topical, I’m sure it will keep individuals’ health top-of-mind and hopefully, motivate action.



AdForum: Eventive is under the umbrella of the Omnicom Group but your team at Eventive functions like a boutique experiential agency. How have you been able to maintain the culture of a boutique agency and how do you think that translates into the creativity you bring to the experiences you create?


David: Yes, as part of Omnicom for the past 12 years, we are in a very unique situation.  We are an independent experiential agency, yet also part of The Integer Group and the TBWA\ agency network.

Frankly, I wouldn’t want it any other way as we have the best of all worlds.  Eventive is boutique and also has great depth when it comes to resources (if we need them) to deliver insightful and integrated solutions to our clients.

With that, we actually take extra effort in maintaining a culture that harnesses the power of creative thinking to deliver results-driven solutions.   Our number one rule is to blow up clichés and break boundaries when developing a brand experience.  No two programs are the same, which makes sense because no two brands or companies or client needs are exactly the same.

To maintain our identity and culture, it first helps that we maintain a separate personality from our agency network brethren. Our brand personality is defined as: Bold, Agile, Driven, Spirited.  Every day, we challenge ourselves to top ourselves when it comes to creating artistic, inventive, and memorable ways of telling a client’s brand story.

Secondly, we embrace the flexibility of being a small-medium size agency.  It’s manageable, it allows us to be very responsive, our staff feel empowered, and our clients love that we are hands-on.  And if need be, we can rely on our resources to ramp up or down, depending on the situation.  The key is to maintain a level of quality and consistency when it comes to our service to our clients.

Lastly, we’re always trying to elevate ourselves and our clients’ brand experiences into an art form.  That approach really comes from our commitment to be Creators, not just ‘Doers.’ We call our internal process, “Brand Crafting” and it’s based on the approach of taking the time to focus on the “why” vs. the “what.” Digging deep into a brand for insights that form the foundation for “wow.”

It doesn’t mean that we’re creative for creative’s sake, as we recognize that “creative” is very subjective and means nothing without results. We embrace the term “creative solutions” as it represents the complete description for the results of our thinking.

Crafting creative solutions with a kick-ass spin if you really want to get specific.


AdForum: Eventive is in the final stages of refreshing your own brand and the tagline you have chosen to represent your agency is “The Art of Experience.”  What do you think are the most important things an experiential agency can do to raise the bar of a project during the ideation and execution of an event that takes it past being successful and into more of an “artistic experience” for attendees? 


David: I touched on a few above.   As an agency, here are 10 things we strive to do to elevate our service and our solutions:

First question to a client, what does success look like?

Be creators & marketers.

Be bold, confident & smart.

Ask “why”.

Take the time to listen and process.

Be curious always.

Invest in people and develop them.

Find the fun in all we do and make it fun for the client too.

Always be in “beta mode” – try new things, with or without clients.

Don’t believe our own headlines, rather commit to making headlines for clients.


The Art of Experience speaks to both our expertise and our approach.  Here are a few things we always keep in mind:

Begin with the end in mind - what do we want people to do, think, feel when they engage.

Account for every stage of the consumer journey and ensure it’s consistent and effective.

Empower and emotionally connect with who you are trying to reach.

The best way to “sell” is to not overtly sell.

Extend the experience beyond the point of engagement.

Creativity is for Closers.  Make it work for the brand objectives. Shiny objects are a lazy solution.

Bigger isn’t always better.

Ideas come from everywhere and everyone.