The impact of the Coronavirus pandemic in the event industry in Cameroon : Jesse Happy Ndongo, General Manager of EasyGroup

Guest Number 03: We’re welcoming Jesse Happy Ndongo, the Managing Director of EasyGroup a Cameroon based event and marketing agency. The company helps advertisers and individuals to organize their events and develop their brands.

What was the financial impact of this pandemic on your business and what strategies did you put in place to maintain the support for your clients during this period?

The watchword has been transparency. We had to say what we know and not say what we do not know. I think the uncertainty was a global trend. Firstly, we were transparent about the situation because there were some colleagues who did not measure the extent of the crisis. Secondly, we were transparent about the precautions to be taken to preserve the lives of the collective of colleagues, our partners and our clients. Thirdly, we were transparent about the actions we were forced to take, i.e. to stop work to preserve the company dear to everyone. The reality is that the crisis is like a vehicle that breaks down and we are all forced to get out and push the vehicle to start it up. 

Everything has come to a standstill, so the balance sheet is worrying, but this concern has prompted us to take stock of our vision, our mission, our team and our operations. As a general rule, the crisis is a daily reality for any entrepreneur, any boss. The only difference is that this time we are all experiencing the same crisis. The quantitative balance sheet is worrying, but I’m very optimistic about the qualitative balance sheet because questioning our vision, our missions, and our functioning will certainly make us bounce back more robustly.

How did your customers react at the time of the crisis (breach of contract, campaign postponement, event cancellation, etc)?

The agency is like the doctor. In the event business, we see a lot of the bling-bling and emotional side. But the agency is the brand’s doctor in many ways. I would say that our patients turned to us and there again, we were transparent, we told them the risks and what to do. So we did for our customers what we did for ourselves. So our thinking has turned to the positioning of our clients in these times of crisis: how do we reinvent ourselves? How do we adapt? For some clients, a bit like those we have in insurance, they didn’t necessarily need to reinvent themselves because they already had products that addressed the health issue. They simply had to be proactive in speaking out and capitalize on the opportunities offered by digital and mass media.

"Due to our involvement in most of the major entertainment events, both technical and audio-visual, we have a huge amount of content that was broadcast by our clients during the period. "
Jesse Carlton_Naole RP
Jesse Happy Ndongo
General Manager of EasyGroup

During the confinement, several companies offered virtual events (concerts, talks, meetings, press conferences, etc.) in Cameroon. Do you think that social networks will make face-to-face events disappear?

The crisis will rather reinforce face-to-face events. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that many events welcome 100, 500, 1000 people. Most spectators are people who experience the event after or at least through the screen: small screen (the telephone), the tablets and the big screen (the TV), etc. I think in view of this reality that the events will be hybrid. On the physical level, people will be able to be present on the emulated sites, but also on the digital level to enjoy the retransmissions. Today everyone is present on social networks, and I think that this will democratize the events even more and we may even be overbooked.

As far as live events are concerned, we have accompanied companies from the telecom sector; artists; brewing companies and many others, notably to celebrate the recent music festival. Due to our involvement in most of the major entertainment events, both technical and audio-visual, we have a huge amount of content that was broadcast by our clients during the period. We probably have the largest database of entertainment content in the sub-region. I very often wonder whether we should not have the local equivalent of Netflix.

What advice would you give to an advertiser wishing to organize an event open to the general public (taking into account all the health measures in force)?

The event is not just a method, it is a weapon, but before the weapon, you need the strategy, so you must first ask yourself the question “what is the objective of my communication? Is event management the right way to go? » There are several ways to communicate. You can communicate through push mail, SMS, through a TV spot, through radio and also through an event that can be hybrid, i.e. with people present and a broadcast or 100% digital.

My advice is first of all to ask the question “What is the importance of the event in my communication”. There is a designer of Congolese origin, Anifa Mvuemba, who recently held an event for the launch of her new collection through a live Instagram. A few years ago I had to work at the Johannesburg Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in South Africa. It was beautiful, I experienced a lot of things live but honestly this 3D catwalk is probably the best show I’ve ever seen. That’s just to say that at the end of the day you have to define the “specific goal” beforehand and keep in mind that several paths can lead to the same goal.

This unprecedented crisis has not spared your industry. How do you plan to reinvent yourself as a business?

We have already reinvented ourselves. We have set up an in-house team called “rethink” to reposition our company’s offerings. The company remains true to its intention to provide the best possible support in times of crisis as well as economic stability. Today, our support is not simply limited to the desired outcome of an event. A “Process” approach is essential. It is necessary to take into account the environment that frames the desired outcome, the way it is prepared, the way it is implemented, and then the way it is amplified afterwards.

I think that the crisis has allowed advertisers to understand that you can do several things with the same platform. With the pressure of time, we were systematically moving from one thing to another. Today, we’ve been forced to go back in time and duplicate the way we use the same content. I think this is an interesting and much more sustainable change. It is in times of crisis that we see the real entrepreneurs, those who really provide a solution as opposed to those who simply deliver a solution. We’ll see which category EasyGroup falls into. But I remain convinced that we are true to our DNA, which is to support brands and individuals.

"We asked ourselves this question two years ago. That is why we launched the "Tous bâtisseurs" movement, which aims to involve citizens in achieving sustainable development objectives."
Jesse Carlton_Naole RP
Jesse Happy Ndongo
General Manager of EasyGroup

How can your agency help society today?

We asked ourselves this question two years ago. That is why we launched the “Tous bâtisseurs” movement, which aims to involve citizens in achieving sustainable development objectives. It should be noted that the health issue has been and is at the heart of the “Tous bâtisseurs” movement’s concerns. Indeed, a dirty environment pollutes the air, it pollutes the water, it affects health and many other things. Today, this Covid-19 crisis simply highlights the work we had already started to do. “Tous bâtisseurs” has launched an operation called 100K masks with the aim of providing support to the most exposed populations (benskinners, motorcycle taximans, call-boxers, rescuers, etc.). 

In addition, we have launched the “Feel protected” platform; and so we are listing those points of sale in places where people live, which have implemented respectable hygiene measures: restaurants, hotels, lounges, bars, etc. This will allow the citizen who wants to go out for a drink to know where to go because today we are relatively obliged to live in spite of the presence of the virus; and therefore how to live with it in a way that preserves our health. 

Finally, I also had to put on my writer’s cap to publish the book COROLEARNER: 19 life lessons to be learned from the pandemic of the year, available on corolearner.com in French and English. 

How do you perceive the evolution of the communication and event management professions in Cameroon following this crisis?

I certainly think the world, Cameroon, and the industry will be better off after this crisis. Humanity, humanism and humanity have returned to the center of priorities. Your slogan clearly illustrates this “to create, establish and maintain this human relationship that exists between brands and customers”. I think EasyGroup fits in with your slogan to say that today it is about creating lasting relationships and a sustainable industry.

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                                                                                      Par Elodie MBIDA

Elodie MBIDA

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