As the effects of coronavirus are being felt across the world it was inevitable media and advertising events in the region of the epicentre – Asia – would start to be postponed, but what many of us didn’t expect was the cancellation of Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona.
Admittedly the allure of MWC to the advertising hub has faded significantly over the last few years as most of the movers and shakers from the industry had gravitated towards CES, Cannes Lions and Dmexco as their events for adtech in media.
As an organiser of events around the world, but on a much smaller scale than MWC, we completely understand the feeling of sick at the pit of your stomach when you realise you have to cancel an event at the last minute. We had a similar experience when we were forced to cancel our Festival of Media Latam event in Miami due to a hurricane in 2016.
However, the fact the organiser, GSMA, has had to cancel the show so close to the start of the event due to sponsors pulling out and concerns it could have been a breeding ground for spreading Coronavirus, could have a far greater impact in the industry than just the obvious economic costs to the GSMA, everyone involved in exhibiting, attending, bringing the event to life and the city of Barcelona itself.
A number of the key sponsors who pulled out are some of the big paying partners for the likes of Cannes Lions and Dmexco and if they can do this to MWC due to health concerns for their staff then what is stopping it happening to both of these events, particularly as a vaccine is not due to be found until the end of the year or after.
As we all know these things have a tendency to fall like dominos. If one pulls out others tend to follow suit and that could have catastrophic consequences for these large-scale events who tend to take over most of space and hotels in the cities in which they place their events.
It’s time for the organisers and the partners to look at their insurance policies and ensure they are covered for any coronavirus cancellations, or the landscape of large-scale advertising events could be changed forever.
It could also mean that 2020 becomes the year the advertising industry embraces virtual events. 15 years ago, the likes of Intel was creating virtual events with questionable avatars, but with the amazing technology now being produced in our industry, imagine what we could create now?
In the meantime, and for our events too, we are hostages to the virus, the decisions of the big partners and what the industry deems as safe to attend.
It could be a very interesting start to the new decade.