Media festival

Every four years, media investment management group GroupM gathers its regional arms for Confest – a “festival of conferences” where the group’s agencies are invited to showcase their work and celebrate their achievements. GroupM had worked with members of Hong Kong-based events agency Clearwater Communications (CwC) on the same event in 2011, and asked the agency to take care of the 2015 edition held from March 9-16 in Bali. 

Winning Pitch

The 2015 event was due to host a 50 per cent increase in attendees on the last edition, held in 2011, bringing the number of attendees up to 1,100 across the conference’s eight days. Min Liu, managing director of CwC, said the team was tasked with creating a format that allowed agencies to “stage their own conference with their own agendas and showcase their best work to the rest of the region”. 

Part of advertising giant WPP’s communications services, GroupM is parent to 11 international media and marketing consultancies, such as Mindshare, Maxus and MediaCom. To accommodate delegates from all agencies, CwC booked out the Westin Resort Nusa Dua, Nusa Dua Beach Hotel & Spa and The Laguna Resort & Spa, while Bali International Conference Centre (BICC) hosted the group’s plenary session, specialist meetings and “partner activations”.


CwC organised 21 dinners and receptions – both onsite and off – for agencies throughout the week. First-time partners Facebook, Fox International Channels, Google, Kantar and Youku were secured and incorporated into the branding of networking areas such as the mBar, which was converted from the hotel’s Italian restaurant into a casual space where attendees could mingle after a day’s sessions.

With the scale of the event, there were challenges managing all of the event’s stakeholders, says Liu. “The success of Confest is not just hinged on operational excellence; a huge part of it is also dependent on exceptional stakeholders management. 

“Besides GroupM, Clearwater had to work with all of the agencies, specialist units and five external partners, each with their own agenda, brief and objectives to stage their activations and events during the week. CwC had to strike a balance between addressing each of their needs, exposure and positioning at Confest.”

The highlight of the conference was the group’s plenary session, GroupM Day, which saw employees of both GroupM and WPP gather for a day of presentations and speeches. Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO and founder of WPP, took centre stage during the session, and he and special guest Lachlan Murdoch, co-chairman of 21st Century Fox and News Corp, spoke about their respective business’ growth during interviews with the BBC’s Zeinab Badawi and CNN’s Anna Coren. 

After GroupM Day, attendees were invited to celebrate the conference’s climax with a gala dinner called the eMMies, which carried on into the night at the “Summer Nights” after-party, hosted by Fox International Channels. 

The day after the plenary session was dedicated to leisure and teambuilding, when more than 200 attendees signed up for tours of the local area, beach cruises, white-water rafting and a golf tournament. 

The Upshot

Feedback from Confest attendees was overwhelmingly positive, with over 90 per cent of attendees rating the event as very good/excellent, and 96 per cent rating GroupM Day as very good/excellent. Of the respondents, 80 per cent suggested that Confest be held more frequently, every two to three years rather than once every four. 

Mark Patterson, CEO of GroupM Apac, said: “We set the bar very, very high for this event. It was much bigger, more complex and challenging on every level versus the 2011 Confest. I lost count of the positive feedback I received there and post the event. It was simply at a world-class level and something that even the partners such as Google, Facebook and Fox thought was beyond anything they had experienced in their own companies too.”

Confest partners Google were equally impressed with the event support and execution. Google’s head of global agencies, Apac, Jared Smith, said: “Our team could not have been happier with how things went… I don’t think we would have extracted the same value out of each of the elements of our presence.” 

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