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Michael Menezes: The Master Of Landmark Events

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Founder and Managing Director of Showtime Events, Michael Menezes, is notably recognized for his 35 years of experience in the world of advertising and events, a series of prestigious awards, and a former presidency over the apex body of event management in India, EEMA (Event and Entertainment Management Association). Truly a pioneer in the events industry, we speak with Mr. Menezes about the state of the events industry in India and related pressing issues.



After so many years of being in the industry, what is the one most important principle you have adopted as an event manager?



Having been in the communications industry for so long has given me tremendous exposure and an in depth understanding of its functioning. I think that the most important principle in the business of events is that God is in the details. The more detailed your planning and concept development, the better your event is likely to be. Unfortunately, I feel the problem with most of my colleagues in the industry is that they approach each event in a similar manner and do not stress enough upon customisation and planning as per objectives and targeted audience. The needs of every client are different and only through a personalised approach and detailing can you deliver the desired results.



It is obvious that there are a lot of expectations of return on investment. What are the expectations marketers have when they invest on experiential marketing and how do you ensure they are met?



Measuring ROI is something which is still very nascent in our industry. Primarily because of the diverse nature of events across the spectrum. There are certain events where assessing ROI is possible, say when a consumer is test driving a car or attending an exhibition of smart phones, so ROI can be measured in how many consumers have converted into hot prospects and ultimately how many products have been sold. But in the large format events measuring ROI is something which has not yet taken shape. There has indeed been a lot of talk about finding a way to measure ROI, there is also an exercise happening which is being driven by Ernst and Young but it is premature to say what exactly comes of that.



Hero Honda was your first client in the year 1997. How has your relationship developed over the years?



Hero Honda launched us into the events business, so at some level Mr. Pawan Munjal could claim to be one of the founding members of our company. They gave us our first cheque of Rs 50 Lac and our business has catapulted since then. Hero Honda has always been a very innovation driven, pro-event company with whom we’ve done a lot of pioneering work over the years. Its strange you ask this question today because in the next week we will be doing our largest ever event with the Hero group in New Delhi.



What do you think is the most significant result that experiential marketing can deliver?



Well, I think from the marketing point of view the most significant result would be if the campaign translates into sales. Then we have the media angle, where we take into account the visibility the brand has achieved across the spectrum of people it wants to reach out to. You differentiate one event from the other by how unique it is, how innovative it is and the immediate impact it has made.



What are some of the major challenges of implementing experiential marketing in India?



One of the biggest challenges is the fact that unlike advertising, events are still not seen as an integral part of a brand’s marketing strategy. Since rate cards are not common to events due to the presence of several elements unique to that very event, it becomes difficult for a client to calculate the costing. Therefore, events are generally planned on a fairly ad-hoc basis and events are often a one-off type agreement. Event companies tend to be looked as more of vendors than of partners and thats a huge challenge when you’re trying to do world class events for someone.



A huge challenge as an industry is that we are very dependent on vendors since everything is outsourced within a company. Sadly though, the quality of service, attention to detail and their desire to deliver is often lacking. Not because of any deliberate attempt to sabotage the event but mostly because they are working several days in a row and cannot give it their optimum potential. It is also very frustrating when you take a certain technology to a vendor and he audaciously uses the same technology at the very next event he does for a different event company.



Another thing that is important and should be acknowledged is that in the events industry you are recognized for the value you deliver. Therefore it is very important to maintain a standard and be able to deliver consistent results. Picking up momentum may be a difficult thing at first but maintaining that momentum is a lifelong challenge.



Is an event planner merely an executor or does he also operate as a strategist at some level?



I think largely most event companies are working only on the execution of events. But having said that there are several others who are also working as strategists for their clients. I say that because our industry is quite heterogenous. The nature of events is very broad. However, the kind of events we do definitely requires some amount of strategising, thinking, concept building, technology related inputs etc.



The drawback may be that a client could possibly pick up one of our ideas and pay a cheaper company to do the same job. And, sadly, event companies do not have any qualms about doing that, which I feel is another challenge to our industry. We have requested EEMA to encourage event planners to begin charge a pitch fees to its clients, but I don’t see it happening anytime soon. We try and tackle this issue by only working with companies with high ethics that respect us for the value we promise to deliver.



Name a brand that has evoked both rational and irrational responses in you.



One of the nicest clients to have worked with has been the Tata Group. Our relationship with BMW and DLF is also very close. Our association with every client that we’ve worked with has generally been cordial. I have noticed that most companies understand the value of events, they just don’t seem to understand why one event company is more expensive than the other. After all, both BMW and Maruti are both cars, but with an obvious difference. Our specifications are different, our vendors are different, our promise is different. And eventually what we deliver is different.



You have planned events across the world. What has been your experience as an organizer abroad as opposed to one in India?



International brands came into India with a history of organizing events. Therefore it came naturally to them and they understood its value. That being said, Indian companies are also evolving at a very steady pace. Hero group, for example, has blazed a trail with the kind of events they’ve done.



Organizing an event outside of India is definitely a lot different mainly in terms of maintaining health and safety standards. Exit maps for large gatherings, the maximum limit of people at a venue, use of fire retardant cloth etc. are the usual international standards. Fortunately, India is also trying to follow suit but most often health and safety issues are either completely overlooked or not implemented with seriousness.



How should advertisers leverage experiential marketing in the year 2013?



From what I understand, 2013 seems to be a challenging year for most companies. Almost all levels have been hit by the recession. The answer basically lies in using your money right. In advertising you could be spending a lot of money but experiential marketing proves relatively beneficial as you can ensure that your efforts are reaching your targeted audience. So this year when budgets are tight and money is going to be scarce I think experiential marketing will have a great role to play.


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