Behind the curtain: how a world premiere is prepared

Behind the curtain: how a world premiere is prepared

The premiere of the new ŠKODA FABIA was a purely digital affair. Preparing an event like this required a completely different approach. Take a look behind the scenes.

18. 5. 2021 Corporate life

Previously it was standard procedure to unveil new cars in front of an audience, including VIPs and representatives of the media. But the premiere of the fourth-generation ŠKODA FABIA was different: it was moved entirely online because of the continuing COVID-19 restrictions. That brought both challenges and opportunities.

“On the one hand you lose the magic of a live event with direct contact with media representatives and other participants, but on the other hand you get lots more options during production and postproduction, in other words digital film editing,” says Jens Katemann, head of ŠKODA AUTO Communication, describing the fundamental difference in the way the premiere is approached. He and his team therefore decided to prepare a unique premiere for the fourth-generation FABIA, capitalising on all the options of the online format. 

Jens Katemann
Head of ŠKODA AUTO Communication

Slide and compare Slide and compare

The venue for the world premiere of the new ŠKODA FABIA model was DOX, a contemporary art gallery in Prague.

“What was important was that we didn’t try to simply translate the live event concept into purely digital form. Right from the start we had in mind a movie experience,” says Christian Heubner, head of Product Communications at ŠKODA AUTO. He adds that this approach was necessitated by the fact that this premiere, more than ever before, was not just an event for presenting information for the trade press: it was the first time customers and fans of the ŠKODA brand got to see the car. “It’s not just about listing facts and figures. It has to be entertaining and informative at the same time,” explains Heubner.

Christian HeubnerChristian Heubner
Head of Product Communications at ŠKODA AUTO

Viewers watching the world premiere could both get a good look at the new FABIA in the DOX Contemporary Art Centre in Prague where the unveiling took place, but also see it in action as a camouflaged prototype and even watch its design and development unfold. The FABIA presentation at DOX also had an artistic side. 

The designers made some “tape art”, i.e. an artwork made with sticky tape, for the presentation. A dozen ŠKODA designers were thus responsible for the biggest “exhibit” at the world premiere in the DOX venue: a representation of the car and its interior rendered on a wall 18 metres long and 2.5 metres high. The two-dimensional image was made from thousands of metres of sticky tape of various colours, widths and materials (including some actually used in the car). 

The unveiling also featured an artwork representing the new FABIA model at DOX.

These demanding preparations meant that the number of people involved in the digital world premiere was not very different from the number that work on traditional unveiling formats. But the type of professions and the amount of time each spent on it differed. “There are various professions involved in the preparations. Instead of catering staff, there was a much bigger film crew on site, for example,” says Martin Preusker, spokesperson for ŠKODA FABIA. 

Martin PreuskerMartin Preusker
Spokesperson for ŠKODA FABIA

He adds that the on-site preparations and actual filming took up less time than preparations for a “live” world premiere. “On the other hand, in our digital and virtual world premiere we devoted much more time and effort to postproduction of the footage,” Preusker explains. That resulted in a unique premiere that will be an inspiration for similar future ŠKODA events.

With the preparations completed, the premiere can begin.

The premiere was influenced by COVID-19 measures

The preparations for the world premiere of the new FABIA were hugely influenced by the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. Christian Heubner describes how ŠKODA dealt with this.

What was the biggest challenge when preparing the premiere of the new FABIA?
The biggest challenge here was certainly that the COVID situation was unpredictable. From the beginning we worked with a hybrid concept as a digital world premiere with guests. In the course of the preparations, though, we had to change the location and ultimately plan for a complete absence of guests, as the COVID numbers continued to deteriorate.

How did you cope with COVID restrictions in the preparations?
The ŠKODA ENYAQ iV world premiere in Prague last September and the Covered Drives in February 2021 in Zell am See allowed us to gain some experience and thus develop a sustainable and functioning hygiene plan. We reduced the number of participants to a minimum so that there was as little interpersonal contact as possible. We made sure that each person could stay 2 metres away from others. Everyone had to wear FFP2 masks. We ensured the venue was sufficiently ventilated and we set up numerous disinfection stations there.

Do you reckon you will continue to use the digital premiere format in the post-COVID period?
Of course. High quality digital formats have recently become an integral part of our communication activities and will remain so in future. But we want to get the best of both worlds and further optimise both types of events, face-to-face events and live formats, to gain the maximum benefit for our customers and for ŠKODA.