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Awards case study: How Oliver created a buzz for its Manchester office through a live-event lock-in

Learn how a live event that locked agency staff and potential clients in a room, forcing them to work together to escape, raised the profile of Oliver's new Manchester office and its 'better inside' approach


Oliver Manchester launched in April 2016. With many existing agencies in the city and North West region, it knew that it had to make an impression and fast.

So, it created a bespoke event that would intrigue and attract a c-suite audience from the top 50 brands based in the area. The event would serve as a real life demonstration of Oliver’s ‘better inside’ approach, which places dedicated agencies directly within client organisations.

Oliver believes that by clients and agency working together inside the client organisation, marketing can be delivered faster, better and more cost effectively; the Escape Convention event was the perfect vehicle to show how.

Prospects received an intriguing piece of mail that directed them to sign up through a dedicated microsite. They were then kept engaged through an email campaign in the lead up to the event on 28 April 2016.

Clients went to the exclusive Gotham Hotel where they were teamed with Oliver personnel, locked in a room and given the task of escaping. This could only be achieved through collaboration and teamwork – a perfect example of the Oliver way, in action.

The event established Oliver Manchester as a new and dynamic player in the regional agency mix.


Oliver works with brands to build dedicated agencies inside their organisations. It's a unique model that defies advertising conventions. The approach allows a single brand team composed of agency and client marketers to work closely together. This creates a depth of understanding about the brand and the wider business context that it works in. Information flows more quickly, decisions are made more rapidly, and work is ultimately produced more effectively.

At a time when marketers are under greater time and budgetary constraints than ever, Oliver believes its ‘better inside’ model works better for marketers and their brands. It breaks down the barriers between client and agency, creates a culture of collaboration and shakes off the shackles that hold back the potential of what client and agency can achieve together.

It’s a way of working that has been embraced by some of the world’s biggest clients including Google, PepsiCo, Starbucks and KPMG. And it has led to phenomenal growth for Oliver, including the opening of its new Manchester office. However, it's a relatively new approach that marketers may not have encountered before. In order to introduce themselves and their working methods to new clients, Oliver came up with a campaign that demonstrated the approach clearly at a live event.


When in-house agency specialist Oliver opened a Manchester office in April 2016, it was launching into one of the busiest marketing communications sectors outside of London. The agency was understandably keen to make an impression and raise awareness of its Manchester office among senior client marketers in the city and surrounding North West region. It also wanted to underline the fact it's different, with a business model that offers a new, more collaborative approach for marketers.

Objectives of the campaign

The main objective was to get on to the radar of the influential c-suite of movers and shakers in Manchester and the surrounding region. Corporate hospitality or standard direct mail (DM) shots were an option, but Oliver wanted the activity to embody its philosophy of going beyond convention.

The target audience

The agency targeted the top 50 senior clients in Manchester and the North West, inviting them to an event that would introduce Oliver and demonstrate how it was different to other agencies.

This group of clients is bombarded with requests from agencies looking for business, so Oliver had to try and do something that was genuinely different and intriguing.

Media, channels or techniques used

Oliver decided to ‘show, don’t tell’ by creating its own unique launch event at one of Manchester’s coolest venues, the Gotham Hotel. To get the target audience to sign up and attend the event, it opted for a mix of traditional DM, email and digital.

The first targeted marketers knew of the event was when they received an intriguing piece of mail. The premium mail pack was impactful and provocative, designed to ensure that it got past the PAs and gatekeepers of the audience, and ensuring that Oliver’s message got delivered in typically unconventional style.

Inside the pack was a pair of handcuffs and the message ‘Escape Convention with Oliver’. Prospects were invited to sign up and ‘lock in’ to an upcoming event through a dedicated and personalised microsite,

Details were kept deliberately vague to keep the intrigue and excitement going. An email campaign ran for a month prior to the event to ensure interest remained high, the audience kept engaged, and that the Oliver Manchester launch remained firmly in their diaries.

Timescales of the campaign

Invites went out a month ahead of the event, which was scheduled for the evening of 28 April. Clients arrived at the Gotham Hotel, and after a brief introduction, were put into teams that mixed client marketers with Oliver agency personnel. They were then put into a ‘lock down’ situation in a room and tasked with escaping from the room in the quickest time possible in the Escape Games.

No one person could accomplish the task on their own, so Oliver Escape became a living demonstration of the agency’s unique and collaborative way of working closely with clients. By co-locating the mix of talents and focusing them on a task – solving a puzzle and escaping the room in the quickest time possible – the launch campaign literally showcased how much creative potential could be unlocked when client and agency worked together, the Oliver way.

Collaboration and communication was the key to success. Client and agency had to work together to escape. Groups spent an hour working on their release, which they all successfully managed to achieve.

Having experienced the Oliver approach first hand, they were then ideally placed to understand a presentation on the Oliver way from senior personnel, including founder and global chief executive officer Simon Martin. This was accompanied with food and drink and an opportunity to network with Oliver’s Manchester team.


In terms of results, the event was judged a huge success for the fledgling Manchester office of the agency. It quickly created intrigue and interest in the new player. It was attended by senior clients from an enviable collection of brands in Manchester and the North West including Co-Op, Kellogg’s, brewer JW Lees and Manchester City Football Club.

It has already seen Oliver Manchester shortlisted and invited to pitch on a number of major accounts, including securing 20 follow-up meetings, after only being in existence for three months. Coverage was secured for the Oliver Escape event across the trade press with a value estimated at £124,000.

Simon Martin, global chief executive, Oliver Group, said: "It’s always hard being the new kid in town, especially in a competitive agency marketplace like Manchester. We knew that Oliver had to stand out quickly and demonstrate how our collaborative, better inside approach could help clients achieve their marketing ends. Oliver Escape helped clients get it straight away by slotting them into a team and showing how it put them back in control of achieving great results."

B2B Marketing Awards 2016

This case study was submitted as part of the judging process for the B2B Marketing Awards 2016. It was shortlisted under Best use of live-event marketing: 'Escape Convention' by Oliver.

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