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M&IT’s 20 event agencies: the ones to watch out for in 2020

In an era fuelled by technology, sustainability and innovation, event agencies have plenty of requirements to fulfil for their clients. Throw into the mix a year of prolonged Brexit uncertainty and a last-minute election, 2019 wasn’t a generous year for event budgets and forward planning.

But delivering under pressure is key to any successful event agency and plenty of the UK’s event planners have grown in the face of adversity.

M&IT has chosen 20 of the UK’s event agencies that we recommend keeping an eye on in 2020. From well-established agencies heading in a fresh direction to new agencies taking the industry by storm. These are 20 event agencies setting the industry on fire in 2020.

Yellow Fish

The Yellow Fish team.

Brighton-based full-service creative event agency, Yellow Fish, has been diving into the event industry since 2003 and recently announced two new creative branches: YCreative and YBrighton.

YCreative is a standalone creative studio ready to be used for graphic design, print, digital, room layouts and video. YBrighton was born from a love of the agency’s hometown and specialises in managing events in Brighton, from corporate meetings and conference to incentive groups and bespoke experiences.

YellowFish has recently launched its “Dive In” initiative which aims to contribute back to local and industry-relevant projects that match the ethos of Yellow Fish.

The Department

A live production by The Department.

Established in 2013, The Department gave the world its first immersive experiential agency. The agency goes beyond just offering VR headsets and instead, creates new immersive event worlds using actors, technology and unique venues, all while offering full-service event production.

Specialising in large-scale immersive events, The Department has worked with brands including FIFA, Lexus, BMW and even won gold for its work with Toyota launching the new C-HR Hybrid.

TEN6 Creative

Conceptualised in the UK in 2017 and rapidly expanding across the globe, TEN6 Creative has offices in four continents and offers services including logistics, production and content.

TEN6 Creative has a strong client base in the US and has added a myriad of impressive pitch wins to its portfolio, including the 3,500-person CX summit for Genesys, a customer experience company in Nashville and Levi’s Global Leadership Summit in San Francisco.

Matt Culverhouse, TEN6 Creative CEO and founder maintains strong working relationships with clients and suppliers by ensuring constant transparency, which has led to 100 per cent client retention and doubled the agency’s revenue.

Bearded Kitten

Created with the belief that anything is possible, Bearded Kitten started life as a festival sideshow and transformed into an award-winning brand experience agency, working with global brands, delivering innovative immersive concepts to the experiential market.

With values based on fun, creativity and a can-do attitude, Bearded Kitten is pushing the boundaries of what sharable immersive experiences can be.

Bearded Kitten announced 2019 as its biggest year to date with experiential billings increasing by 60 per cent and its full-time team expanding from 21 to 28 employees.

With retainer clients such as Heineken and Hammerson already signed up for next year, 2020 is looking like it will be yet another big one for Bearded Kitten. They may not be the largest fish in the events pond but unlike many competitors, Bearded Kitten is genuinely full service. They are both small and agile enough to act fast and deliver activations on tight turnarounds as well as big enough to deliver yearlong campaigns for the likes of Cadburys and Lagunitas.

Legacy

While some agencies are weaving sustainable practices into their offering, Legacy was built on sustainable foundations.

Legacy creates and manages events for clients while considering the environmental impact and carbon footprint by carefully choosing venues, materials, catering and ensuring minimal waste is produced from events.

Beyond planning and management, Legacy also offers eco venue and supplier finding, along with training to support clients to meet the ISO 20121 sustainable event standard, something the whole industry will have to get on board with soon in light of the UK’s net-zero target for 2050.

Hyphen

Proving small is beautiful, Hyphen is a boutique live events and experiential marketing agency. Hyphen has reported a brilliant 2019 with its turnover more than doubling on the previous year.

The agency has also doubled its team from four to eight staff and won three new clients: Honda, Purina & Vodafone retail.

Despite being a compact agency, Hyphen excels in identifying industry trends and knowledge sharing. It’s Brand Recall and The Senses Report, for example, identifies the crucial link between marketing and events and how they contribute to the clients’ experience.

Looking into 2020, Hyphen is focused on growth, driven largely by its work with Vodafone and Madame Tussauds.

Wonderland Agency

Wonderland lives up to its name by creating integrated experiences that aim to form connections between brands and their target audience.

Working with some of the world’s biggest brands, such as Twitter, Nike, Harrods and MTV, Wonderland has grown its reputation as an international events agency built on creativity and a workforce of specialists from strategists, producers and planners to set designers, carpenters and artists.

In an industry that is constantly looking to curate creative events and offer more memorable experiences, Wonderland is already steaming ahead.

Live Union

Live Union created a marketplace at Dublin Convention Centre.

Live Union has proven itself as an innovative disruptor in the events industry time and again. The creative event agency has debunked the set-format of corporate events and instead offered the industry campus-style events, focusing on connection rather than content and the ‘unconference’ which involves the audience deciding the event agenda and facilitating topics to make the content more relevant.

Equally, its focus on developing discussions via an intimate and personalised style of content delivery has a lot to be said for. These campfire sessions shift the focus from static plenaries to a more mobile distributed experience.

Live Union proves that it pays to be disruptive in a saturated market.

SevenEvents

SevenEvents reported its busiest year to date in 2019, delivering 137 events across the year, up 20 events on 2018. Of those events, 31 were overseas incentive travel events.

SevenEvents also opened in a new office in Birmingham to better service its northern clients and to manage events for its first pharma client as well as expanding its team with five new hires.

Moving into 2020, SevenEvents is starting the year strong with 40 events in the diary with the focus for the new year on diversifying more into content creation and building strong event strategies.

Sleek Events

Some of the Sleek Events team.

Sleek Events announced a UK event turnover of £6.6 million for 2019, so its little wonder the agency has been named Britain’s 19th fastest-growing private company in this year’s Sunday Times Virgin Atlantic Fast Track 100. It was also the highest-placed business representing the events sector.

Back in October, the agency was also named Best Overall Business at the Best Business Women Awards.

Founder, Jennifer Davidson, grew the company from a spare-bedroom project in 2015 into an event specialist, servicing both corporate clients and luxury private parties.

With the rate of growth and number of awards under Sleek Events’ belt already, we don’t doubt the agency will continue to make waves in 2020.

Absolute Corporate Events

Absolute Corporate Events team.

Boasting 150 years of cumulative experience among the team, Absolute Corporate Events knowns a thing or two about corporate event planning (as the name would suggest).

In 2019, the agency reported a £3.9 million turnover, which contributed to the 400 per cent growth the agency has seen since it began operations in 2013.

But aside from profit, Absolute Corporate Events has recently announced schemes that will contribute to growing the industry and recognise key players in the sector.

Back in June, Absolute Corporate Events announced the launch of the Talent Pool which seeks out the next generation of new talent in the event industry. Additionally, the agency also launched the Aced by ACE awards which will recognise and celebrate the best event cities in the industry.

DRPG

John Lewis and DRPG worked together on the Empowering Leaders Event at the NEC

John Lewis and DRPG worked together on the Empowered Leadership Event at the NEC.

New hires, new offices and new programmes would lead an industry-outsider to think that DRPG was just beginning its events journey. But this 40-year-old agency turned over £35.5 million in 2019 and is continuously striving to create a more inclusive industry.

At the beginning of 2019, DRPG participated in an industry-first initiative to attract young talent to the industry by hosting a three-day training course along with specialist event crewing company Crewsaders, with the promise of a selection of jobs at the end.

DRPG was placed at 29 in the Sunday Times 100 Companies to Work For list this year and have won several other awards.

2019 might be tough to top for the agency but DRPG has a few ideas up its sleeve, including completing 40 corporate social responsibility projects to coincide with its 40th anniversary.

Top Banana

Recently crowned Agency of the Year at the EVCOM Awards, Top Banana has a lot to shout about.

Achieving a 2019 turnover of £6 million helped Top Banana win the prestigious award but that’s only part of the story. Last year, the agency saw huge growth through new hires, increasing its workforce by 19 per cent, to 50 employees. It also opened new offices, introduced new services and celebrated its milestone birthday of 20 years.

With a strong and growing commitment to the industry, even during the turbulent last 12 months, we don’t doubt Top Banana will go from strength to strength in 2020.

XSEM

XSEM Event and Marketing Solutions exceeded its 2019 financial targets thanks to an influx of new client wins, including Slingsby, Merchant’s Heart, Carthy and Black, and Beluga Vodka.

The new clients saw XSEM fly by its target by half a million pounds in the middle of the year, which has driven bold plans to turnover £7.4 million in 2020.

Nine new hires in 2019 saw the team grow to 30, with key hires including a new project manager, a marketing rewards manager and a rewards and hospitality coordinator, who will focus on the incentive division of XSEM.

2020 will also see the development of XSEM’s Golf division which exists to deliver an event from a golfer’s perspective.

Hudson Webb

Hudson Webb may only have begun its venture into corporate events two years ago, but the minds behind the full-service corporate event agency bring with them more than 25 years’ experience.

Julia Hudson and Charlotte Webb, founders of Hudson Webb, both worked in the in-house events sector before opening their agency. They’ve produced events for diverse clients, a highlight being the “Enchanted Garden” summer party at Kensington Palace for 300 guests.

2020 is set to be another fruitful year for the agency with conferences, parties and incentive trips already in the planning stage, and no doubt more to come. Even with a trend of short lead times emerging and challenging deadlines, Hudson Webb is used to delivering the events its clients want, to the time scales they need.

In2Events

On the back of a successful 2019 whereby In2Events grew headcount and turnover consecutively year on year, the agency is now looking to expand into other markets. Plans for 2020 begin with looking at offices in Australia and Boston in order to offer a better service to existing clients who already operate in these regions.

In2Events is also expanding its UK base with a new events facility opening in early 2020. This will help with its expanding event logistics operation and give the agency the ability to offer new services within its growing event production service.

TAG

TAG, formerly The Appointment Group, has seen monumental growth in 2019, reporting an £8.8 million turnover for the financial year.

Newly acquired by Apiary Capital, TAG has opened a US office in Los Angeles and is focusing efforts on developing the ‘super incentive’ model to host ultra-luxury events for a select group of key top-tier distributors and partners.

Heading into 2020, TAG is looking to grow its offering in the area of multi-sensory experiences and integrated technology with the aim of improving the organiser’s journey.

Don’t Panic

Manchester-based, Don’t Panic event agency is dedicated to producing innovative and profitable events for the B2B sector and can handle every facet of an event from planning, concept, budgeting and strategy to design, marketing, sales and sponsorship.

However, the agency’s main focus for 2020 will be growing its owned awards assets across the globe with launches in Miami, New York, Singapore and Canada.

SLEDGE

Doing things differently, SLEDGE combines live experience and digital content creation with a full-service incentive offering.

SLEDGE recently posted a UK event turnover for the 2019 financial year of £3.6 million, but its profits aren’t what got it onto the list.

SLEDGE’s passion for sharing industry knowledge shines through in the agency’s online content and offers prospective clients and even other event planners a preview of what’s going on in the industry. With a wealth of content on event technology, tips on the tricks of the trade and ‘hotlists’, SLEDGE displays its knowledge of an ever-evolving industry.

ExecSpace

ExecSpace Team.

Starting an agency in an industry you have no prior knowledge of sounds ludicrous. But that’s exactly what Emma Little, founder of ExecSpace did back in 2008.

The agency is now one of the UK’s leading venue finders, placing approximately £9 million of conference and event business across the UK and internationally. The agency works primarily with large corporate and government organisations, including Standard Life Aberdeen, Grant Thornton, Aegon, Nucleus Financial, Aggreko, Mazars, the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and the SQA.

While primarily a venue sourcing agency, ExecSpace also offers event planning and management services which it’s looking to expand going into 2020.