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Jack Morton Worldwide's Bill Morton

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Bill Morton is the CEO of Jack Morton Worldwide, one of the largest special event companies in the world. He joined the company--which was founded by his father in 1939--more than 30 years ago and has helped it grow into an international firm with more than 1,000 employees in 30 offices worldwide. Owned by marketing giant the Interpublic Group, Jack Morton has clients including General Motors, McDonald's and Avon.

BiZBash: What is the biggest challenge facing the special event and meeting industry?

Morton: The economy by far; our business kind of hit a wall at the end of the first quarter of 2001, and this was coupled with 9/11.

How are you stressing the importance of special events to your customers?

Smart companies realize they can have a competitive advantage; when the rest of the world is pulling back, they can be aggressive. IBM is a perfect example. With the tech sector suffering, they've been aggressive in brand marketing, advertising and public relations, and they've gained market share.

How are clients' plans for meetings and events changing?

They're changing from two different angles. The drivers today are what can we do that costs less, and how can we use technology to reach dispersed audiences? They're looking at webcasting and videoconferencing, especially in the last 10 months.

Also, the tone of the meeting today is extremely important. Celebration and frivolity are less important than recognizing key people for outstanding performance.

Is the definition of what makes a successful event changing?

Everybody's looking for value and measured return on investment, more so now than ever before. Our clients can get information on their return on investment (from focus groups, online surveys, etc.) to know if it's been worthwhile.

How do your clients feel about the New York market now?

New York is one of the best markets in the world for hotels and convention facilities. People want to come here. As the meeting business continues to revive, New York should benefit significantly.

How can Jack Morton continue to succeed when customers are reluctant to spend money?

Meetings are probably the least expensive and the most important investment a company can make. We are a culture of people who need to gather. Spending money on meetings is not frivolous.

There was a decline in meetings in 2001, but some of that was due to postponements and cancellations. Now there's pent-up demand because of that, and business in 2002 will be far better.

Our business is so diverse it allows us to respond to the needs of our clients. For companies who want to know how to get information to their clients, we have created BrandExpress, a traveling exhibit that goes in a truck to different markets. Our training business is also booming, because companies need to train people on their products and services, using events, distance learning and CD-ROMs.

What is your favorite annual event in NYC?

The boat and car shows.

Posted 03.11.02
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