44 Team 2023

Co-op Live, cycling events and campaigns are all things that do better being late than being rushed, says 44’s Account Director Nick Robbins.

Did you hear the one about the comedian who couldn’t play his show because the venue didn’t open on time?

The saga of Manchester’s Co-op Live has generated plenty of interest as a slew of high-profile performers have been forced to cancel shows as the venue continued to miss its opening night.

It drew headlines for all the wrong reasons, saw a CEO resign, and put money in the pockets of a rival venue across the city that stepped in to fill the breach for some of the displaced performers.

Now with a delayed, but successful, launch under its belt, Co-op Live is left wrestling with a dilemma: navigating its future while in certain circles, its name becomes synonymous with ill-advised launch dates and missed deadlines. It’ll be a reputation that the venue will be hoping to shake in the coming months and years.

Ring a bell?

I imagine there’s more than a few PMs and comms professionals who have some sympathy for the team behind the scenes at Co-op Live.

As comms professionals, we know that getting a launch right can be the difference between a campaign igniting and catching fire or fizzling out like a damp squib. Of course, there are differences: it’s unlikely that we’re having to shunt Peter Kay around our schedule or postpone Take That.

Here’s the thing: delay can be the right thing to do. My colleague, Tom Abbott, recently gave the example of when all the available evidence was telling his son to pull out of a cycling race. Unquestionably, the right choice was to stop and regroup.

It’s a choice in our armory that we often under use: what if we stop, postpone or abandon plans when circumstances change?

Rarely will you be making these decisions independent of other stakeholders, and it can feel challenging to be the negative voice in the room: ‘It’s not the right time’, ‘We’re not ready’, or ‘This won’t land at the moment’. But it’s a role we have to play.

It might not be as clear cut as Co-op Live, when key safety equipment and testing was yet to be cleared or completed, but it’s worth weighing up the evidence. A late launch is almost uniformly better than a disappointing or ill-judged one. It’s hard to row back what’s gone out to your audience, while most will understand (or never know!) if a campaign starts a week or two late.