By Fi Reyner
Activation Account Manager
2nd August, 2022

I’m Fi – a Festival-loving Activation Manager at Guy & Co. It’s certainly been a challenging couple of years for brands, and none more so than in the activation space, so I was intrigued to see which brands would take a leap back into the world of experiential during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year, in its IRL reboot. As well as seeing around fifteen shows outside of work, I was lucky enough to oversee various Festival activations for our clients, like pop-up bars and on-trade installs for Blue Moon and Madrí. Anyway, this piece is not about our work, but rather to highlight some of my favourite activations throughout the city in August…

TikTok: Find More Funny

TikTok launched in the UK back in 2018, but it certainly wasn’t a well-known social channel before the pandemic. It’s now a completely different story, with over a billion users globally, and this year TikTok positioned itself as the Fringe’s first ever official virtual stage, giving the TikTok community ‘the best seat in the house’. Its main installation appeared in a prime spot at the bottom of the Mound, and it didn’t hold back with surprises. As well as giving out free coffees daily, there was also the opportunity to win prizes like tote bags, which became must-have accessories (and cunning brand visibility pieces) across the city. This felt like a fairly unique concept at the Fringe this year, at a time when brands could have understandably been tightening their purse strings. It also hero-ed its most prized assets – TikTokers themselves. Some of Scotland’s biggest TikTokers got involved, with a giant screen on the Royal Mile showcasing their reels. I loved this activity as it cleverly put the TikTok community at the heart.

Naked Malt

Recently rebranded, Naked Malt was an unexpected pop-up that was enjoyed by many passers-by looking for a refreshing whisky cocktail in the heart of Festival village. Naked Malt’s positioning is ‘whisky at its most uncomplicated’, which was reflected in the space it took over. Hidden away behind big venues like McEwan Hall and Teviot, this bar was perfect for avoiding the lengthy queues and crowds mere metres away. As well as its more chilled atmosphere, it also had a clear roof, perfect for sheltering with a drink when the heavens inevitably opened. The décor had a warm and inviting feel to it, with foliage, soft furnishings and illustrated fruits, which first tempted me in. I enjoyed many evenings here in August and hope to see the brand pop up elsewhere in future. 

Arbikie: A Club

Table-served cocktails can be hard to come by during the Fringe, especially before a show. I was pleased to see that the ‘A Club’ had returned to Merchants’ Hall this year, an iconic venue that featured a brilliant range of music acts, from tributes to traditional folk. It’s not easy to dress the front of a listed building, but Arbikie did a great job, making the venue eye-catching and welcoming. Arbikie have recently opened their Highland distillery to the public, and were able to use the A Club as a bit of an outpost. This immersive experience is one not all drinks brands could pull off, and is an unexpectedly brilliant addition to the Fringe.

RZSS Edinburgh Zoo: Giraffe About Town

Finally, this genius little idea from Edinburgh Zoo has surprised and delighted both tourists and locals alike throughout summer. 40 giraffes could be spotted across the city, each one designed by a different artist and community to help celebrate Edinburgh’s extraordinary heritage and cultural diversity. Finishing on the same day as the Festival, they’ll now be auctioned off to raise vital funds for the zoo’s conservation work. This activation was brilliant simplicity at its finest, appealing to kids and adults alike. I used to walk past three on my way to work every day, (not to mention the miniatures that could be spotted in shop windows), so I’ll really miss them.

So, from gin-fuelled Abba tribute nights to tartan giraffes, I for one am delighted the Festival is back. And whilst much more is worthy of celebration, for me the most exciting part is the clear signal that brand activation is firmly back on the menu. Bring it on.