With a title of 'The Most Influential Person in the Events Industry' and over 20 years of experience, it's not difficult to understand why we were so keen to hear from Kevin Jackson. He’s been a significant player with some of the world’s most respected marketing services groups, including Interpublic, Grey and Saatchi. He’s also worked closely with a vast range of brands, from Adidas to Zumba. Now a Vice President of George P Johnson, Kevin is a thought leader, speaker, strategic consultant and relationship manager, with a huge catalogue of success behind him. 

We’re in a face-to-face industry, and we’re not serving it properly if we’re unwilling to get together in person.

Kevin Jackson

1.     Which projects were the ones that started to define your approach and thinking in the events industry?

I think it’s important to clarify that, although I’ve spent the last decade in the events industry, I’ve never delivered an event. As the quintessential ‘sales guy,’ I’m usually involved long before the event exists. Clients know that; they’re more interested in how I can help them realise their full potential, not in the delivery of the event itself. 

This also means that I learn something new from every single project.     


2.     Give us a flavour of working with some of those key brands in your career and of some of the impact you helped make with their events. 

Over the years I’ve worked with literally hundreds of brands, and since this isn’t the first volume of my memoirs, I think it’s best to keep things top level! 

But a couple of projects really stand out. I developed the concept for a great reading festival for the Evening Standard that gained massive awareness for the paper’s literacy campaign, and involved some of the UK’s most famous faces. 

I also built a relationship with MINI around a student campaign to encourage test drives that saw a nationwide competition taking place on university campuses. And a few years ago, I created a massive six-week roadshow for ASDA, called ‘Fun For Kids,’ which gave harassed Mums a few hours’ relief during the summer holidays, in twenty locations up and down the country. 

Each of these projects were different, but the reason they all stand out is because every one of them was based on a clear customer insight. 

It’s my belief that the best experiences start with a strategic understanding of the client’s objectives – otherwise, it’s just another event.


3.     When did you first start to get involved in event industry associations and lobbying on behalf of the industry?

I’ve always been passionate about the industry and through my roles at other companies I’ve always ‘sold’ the industry as well as the company I work for. It dawned on me a few years ago though that, as an industry, we weren’t selling ourselves as well as many of the agencies that pitch what we do every day. 

I wanted to be involved in changing the language of the industry so that it could promote itself to grow and support agencies such as my own.   


4.     How do you view the event industry association universe today?

What could be better? It would be nice to have less associations, but also for each of them to have a clearer identity, so that event organisers can connect with the one that most suits their job and their ambitions. 

We do this well at ISES, we’ve been clear that we stand for the ‘creative’ events professional; the ones that see events as brand experiences, as part of the marketing mix and a way to create engagement between brands and their customers.

I’m not sure others are as clear on this, which means more confusion and the raising of the perennial question; are there too many associations?!

5.     The new agency start up is a bold move. Was it long in gestation and why now? 

Very much so, the first time I said The Experience is the Marketing was about 20 years ago and I’ve been saying it ever since. The agency is a passion project for me and one that I wanted to create, not only as a viable business, but a disruptive force for good for the whole of the events industry. 


6.     Tell us about the ethos and aims of the new agency?

Experience is the Marketing is many things; it’s a new voice that is telling the industry how best to sell itself, it’s a consultancy to other event agencies and everyone in the supply chain that shares our vision and ambition for the industry, and it’s a delivery platform for brands that want live experiences at the very centre of their primary objective - growth.


7.     Are you one of those in the industry that is drawn to travel, or do you find it a useful by-product of the job? And what can we learn from best practice (or indeed any interesting practices) from abroad?

Sometimes travel can be fun, other times it’s a bind that keeps you away from home longer than you’d prefer. But I understand that it’s an essential part of what we do. We’re in a face-to-face industry, and we’re not serving it properly if we’re unwilling to get together in person.


8.     What would you like your events legacy to be?   

There are three things that I talk about all the time. The first is the evolution of the events industry – let’s get to a point where we’re talking about business issues first, and events second.

The second is about recognising talent sooner. I’m keen to be as active as possible with the next generation of talent, which is why I work so closely with universities and intern programmes.

Finally, I’ll keep banging the ‘measurement’ drum until we get better at it as an industry. It’s the only way we can be sure that we’re really changing things for the better.     

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