We have some major news on the event tech front – PSAV is now Encore! The events industry is in constant mutation and news of acquisitions and mergers are not rare. And this time around, the Event Tech Podcast is here with the freshest update to reach our ears. It’s exciting, it’s interesting, and it will have consequences. But of what kind?
Will Curran and Brandt Krueger are ready to give you the scope on the PSAV is now Encore news. Did we see it coming? What does this mean for the events industry? And more specifically, to the world of event tech? Well, if you want all these questions answered, wait no more – press play and join us on this special edition of the Event Tech Podcast!
Brandt gives us some context on the PSAV is now Encore front. “PSAV has announced that they plan to move to a new master brand and it is Encore. So, as we have covered on this show in the past, we announced when PSAV announced that they were acquiring Encore Audio Visual Services. Encore, probably one of the second largest names in in-house AV”, he explains. “They announced that they were acquiring Encore, which was the latest in a series of acquisitions by PSAV. So, they stated that “PSAV, a global leader in event experiences, announced today that it will align its portfolio of companies under a new master brand and will assume the name Encore”.
Laying Out The Biases
Our hosts make a point to let us know where they stand when it comes to the matter. “I own a third-party AV company that does compete against PSAV and Encore and all these brands a lot of the time”, Will explains.”But I think that, most importantly, we just needed to get the news out there for people to be aware of. I, happily, if I get beat by them, I’m happy to admit that there are times where they are a great vendor. And times where I work with them and they’re actually one of my suppliers as well when we were doing rigging and things like that”.
“So, as an independent technical producer, I work with all kinds”, says Brandt. “I want to make sure I’m getting the best deal for my customer or, to be perfectly frank, I’m going to do what I think makes the most sense for my clients. So, sometimes, that’s the in-house AV, sometimes that’s third-party. If budget is a primary concern, obviously, then we start looking towards third parties just because as a general rule, they tend to be less expensive”.
“But sometimes, convenience is the overall majority thing that we need to be keeping in mind, that we want it all on the same master account. We want the equipment to be all right there. Things are going to be changing a lot on the fly. You and I have talked about this quite a bit on the road. We’ve talked about it on the show. We’ve done our traveling AV SmackDown, where you represent the third parties. I represent the in-house because it’s been increasingly more difficult to get someone to represent the in-house”, he adds.
PSAV Is Now Encore: A Branding Problem?
Brandt raises an interesting topic in relation to the PSAV is now Encore news. “I think there’s no doubt in my mind even trying to stay relatively independent, relatively above the fray on this, that this is clearly, in my mind, an acknowledgment that they have a branding problem”, says Brandt. “And I think that rings true because pretty much everyone that I know, almost every planner that I know of when they say the word PSAV, do it with a little bit of disdain in their mouth. Because I think it being such a large company, at some point or another, they’re going to have been burned by a PSAV crew, in one way or another. So, that tends to stick, that tends to linger. And so, this to me is kind of a tacit acknowledgment of the fact that their brand is tainted at this point”.
“I’m looking at this from a purely business standpoint”, adds Will. “If I was PSAV, I would be making the same move as well. But I think that when they are acquiring companies and becoming so large now that we’ve talked about the word, the M word, monopoly, I think that it has to be in check at some point too. And we have to have these sorts of conversations and be hard about it. And the same way that I hope as well that any vendor would also want to keep my company in check. I don’t think I’ll ever be as big as PSAV, but I would hope that everyone wants to hold each other accountable”.
PSAV Across The Board
“I mean, we sit at all of these conferences. And all the time, they have people who are coming up to us saying they don’t enjoy the brand, they don’t like PSAV. And it’s really kind of sad, I think, for them in some ways because there are good properties. I mean, there are parallels, similar in the same way that PSAV purchased Swank and then renamed everything PSAV”, says Will. “But I think that, in the same way, there are some good properties, and they’re surprised they do fantastic jobs. I know at certain scales of budgets, they do a phenomenal job, and I’ve talked to clients that said they do a great job on this sort of thing”.
“But the interesting thing is that it kind of sucks for them because it’s all under that same brand”, he adds. “So, when everyone assumes PSAV, they assume it’s the same across the board. But yeah, changing over to Encore. Interestingly enough too, is that Encore for a while was the other large in-house AV company across the United States. And they were the ones that honestly also got a lot of flack, mainly because they were the in-house, and they had very similar strategies to PSAV. And how they want to get people into contracts and kind of force you to work with them and things like that. But I think that they had a slightly more respectable brand”.
“If you think about it, if you Google the word PSAV, I bet you, there are hundreds of articles, people talking about it, reviews. I mean, look at their Glassdoor profile, things like that”, says Will. “There’s so much baggage related to that brand, they’re probably trying to sweep a lot of it under the rug. Because they know that they can just take this new kind of step forward”.
“And as someone who owns a company, I have rebranded and I will tell you, it makes people think it’s a new company. I’m not going to lie”, he adds. “When I went from being the DJ company back in the day to starting the AV company, and we went from a basic DJ company name to Endless, people thought it was a completely new company. People thought I was acquiring companies. They thought we were going to have way more services. We literally didn’t change anything. We just changed our logo on our website and that was it. And not saying that we were a bad company. But people’s perception when you change brands is, something new and crazy has happened”.
“Let’s just try and think of this objectively. So, you’ve got this handful of brands, they could have chosen any of them. I think they went with, honestly, a more global-sounding brand”, says Brandt. “It’s going to be something that’s translatable to something that’s kind of around the world, even though it’s an English word. You’re not sitting there wondering, what does it stand for? You’re not wondering what its heritage is. It’s just a brand name, like any other brand name, like Apple or anything”.
“So, the argument could be made, if you’re trying to be devil’s advocate, that of their handful of brands, it was the one that was already the most global. And the one that had kind of the most legs as far as rebranding, if you think about new logos and all the new business cards and all that kind of stuff. Just thinking about it from a branding standpoint can go a long way”, he adds.
Other Discarded Possibilities
Will wonders something about the whole PSAV is now Encore conundrum. “Why not break PSAV into sub-brands? If you’re having an issue where people are taking a bad experience they had and applying it to every experience, why not break in a sub-brand so then that way, you don’t tarnish it? I almost feel like the customer is more the property because they don’t do a lot of offsite stuff. Honestly, they got to make the properties happy”.
“Why not let the properties brand? And why not also just let it roll into the property, so if it goes poorly, it’s a reflection on the property? So you don’t taint the rest of it and lose your revenue potential on this other one. But I’m guessing it also has to do with some infrastructure things as well. That means you got to have individual email addresses for everybody. I’m sure there’s something beyond that as well”.
“They’re always listed as a preferred vendor even when there’s no preference involved, even when the contracts are clear that you have to use them”, adds Brandt. “We’ve done through this show and talked about some of the exclusivity contracts that we’ve had to deal with when dealing with in-house AV, where there was no option to get out. We had to use them. I think then, you can kind of play it off of each other. So, having that extra level of disambiguation. To be able to say, “Oh, no, that’s not us.” when things go south”.
“We had this conversation recently on the show about the difference between a production company and an AV company. I’m wondering if they want to move away from being known as the AV company as well”, says Will. “And so, they know that they just bought all these companies that do beyond AV and they know the Internet’s the future. They know VRs, potentially future ARs, all of these technologies, in general, are wrapping together and the lines are blurred”.
“Maybe they’re like, “How do we, A, get rid of AV out of our brand? How do we fix our brand from being tainted? And then, how do we move forward with a more generic name like just Encore? That’s what we are.” And you can slip event technology, AV production below it all day long, is very interesting. I think that shows that they’re probably trying to make that move”.
In the light of the PSAV is now Encore news, Will and Brandt wonder what this means for the future. “I do think it’s kind of a curious choice to do brand. Because we’re seeing more and more of this kind of umbrella companies. And they had an opportunity here to start doing that. It would enable them to still gobble up smaller companies”, says Brandt. “But they could have kept the branding and just started redoing the logistics and the back-end stuff”.
“And going to the fact that PSAV is an investment opportunity, that seems like a perfect opportunity for them to go down that road, where you’ve got all of these little sub-brands”, he adds. “And so, you could have, like the hotels do, where you’ve got Hilton and all of their various brands, but each one with its own niche. So, then you would have your event technology more focused thing, your more expo-focused, building on the Freeman brand, building on each of these individual brands. I think it’s interesting, potentially a missed opportunity that they are going to try and bring all of these brands under one umbrella”.
Advice For Planners
“I think that in the next month or so, a lot more information is going to come out and we’re going to see a lot of things happen”, says Will. “But I think the best thing for you to do as a planner is, always feel free to get the bid and just evaluate the vendors for more criteria than just price. I think that’s one of the best things that you can do because there’s a lot of factors that go into picking an AV company. And I don’t think it’s just price. It’s not who can get the equipment the cheapest. It’s not who pays their labor the least, that sort of thing”.
“So, I think the best thing you can do is just make sure that you’re aware, you’re an aware consumer, you’re a knowledgeable consumer. And just have those great deep conversations and I think that’s where you’ll be surprised the difference between different properties. And just stay knowledgeable, continue to always learn and grow and I think that it will help you make the right decisions along the way”.
And that’s a wrap on this week’s episode of the Event Tech Podcast about the breaking news of PSAV is now Encore! Hopefully, we offered you some tactical tips to make situations like this easier. Before you leave, make sure you check out our new sponsor, Event Leadership Insitute.
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