Julian joined Jack Morton in 2002 as director of operations. He joined the Global Executive Team in 2009, became President, EMEA in 2011 and was appointed President, International in 2015. Today, Julian is Vice Chairman of Jack Morton Worldwide, stewarding the creative quality and output of the agency in addition to his continued leadership of the agency outside of the US. In his 30 years in the industry, Julian has led major communications campaigns and projects for most of the world’s leading brands. Julian remains a passionate creative at heart, winning many creative awards during his accomplished career. Teams under his leadership have earned over 500 awards, including well over 100 in just the last 2 years.
I have always been optimistic about the future of the live event industry, and I continue to be so for 2017, because no other form of communication has the quite the same impact as a live experience. Consumers are actively seeking out new experiences more than at any point in history, and brands know that they are living in what Joe Pine defined as the ‘Experience Economy’. The IPA Bellwether Report continues to track Events as one of the 2 best performing sub categories in marketing spend in the UK, alongside Online Marketing.
One reason for this is, undoubtedly, the quest by brands for greater purpose and authenticity; the key trend buzzwords at Cannes for the last couple of years. You can only demonstrate that authenticity and purpose through your deeds and actions. Words and promises aren’t enough. It’s all about how brands behave and what they do, as opposed to what they say. And that’s what our world is all about: brand experience.
This year, of course, everyone will be anxious to see how the bigger geo-political issues - Brexit, Syria/ Daesh and Trump in particular - will play out, and what they mean for the business world. But at a more manageable level, our clients are focussed single-mindedly on outcomes/ results, and therefore on cut-through.
The marketing budget hasn’t changed as a percentage of revenue – but the number of places to spend it has grown out of all proportion. It is fashionable to say that TV advertising is dying. But it isn’t. Brands will continue to shelter in the safe and measurable harbour of TV until the day when there is inarguable evidence that their money would be better invested elsewhere. The truth remains that traditional advertising, albeit now executed across many different types of broadcast and digital media, is still the best place to invest if your goal is simply awareness. Consequently, we in the live industry need to be single-minded about demonstrating the true value of our work – in terms of capturing hearts and minds to achieve goals such as loyalty, conversion, recommendation and hands-on experience.
An area I hope that everyone in the live event sector is focussing on is, of course, technology. But one trend that I am particularly keen on, and which I hope we will see more of in 2017, is the playful and deliberate use of very analogue solutions in an increasingly digital world. Whilst digital is a key driver and component of live experience, it’s vital that we celebrate the live opportunity by doing things that can’t be experienced authentically on a digital device. I cannot see the point in asking people to interact with a regular screen at a live event. They can do that at home, or at work, or even on the bus. Vive la difference! That said, as VR and other immersive and inventive technologies get better, they open some very interesting possibilities if used in original ways.
From a more personal perspective, at Jack Morton I’ve always loved the variety in the work that we do, as well as in the clients and industries that we work with. Although throughout my 30-year career I have only worked for two agencies, I feel as though I have had hundreds of jobs. There is barely a sector that I haven’t worked closely with. This year I am excited for us to be working with new clients who are at the forefront of defining the future, such as Google and Facebook. But they stand comfortably alongside our long-standing clients who are also coming up with their own game-changing solutions – in areas such as electric vehicles, mobile computing and business technology.
However, I still don’t see enough agencies in our space taking a chance on bringing in graduates and school-leavers and training them up. I started an annual graduate recruitment and training programme 20 years ago when I first became an MD, and I’m proud to say that we haven’t missed a year. One of the graduates in that first intake is now head of creative strategy at Jack, and today almost every experience agency in London has someone from one of my intakes at the top, or on its senior team. This new year it would be good to see more agencies do the same! Some do, I know. But there are some who rely too heavily on others to do it for them. You know who you are!