Dome’s promoters go back to basics

As the Millennium Dome is handed yet another financial lifeline, marketers are being asked to ditch talk of its so-called life-changing properties to focus on the practicalities – like making it sound fun.

<b><b>Date </b> May 2000 The New Millennium Experience receives an extra &£3m for marketing as part of a &£29m rescue package from the National Lottery-funded Millennium Commission. This is on top of its &£16m advertising budget. By te first quarter of 2000, the Dome had spent &£6.7 on ads – half of it on TV, a third in the press and 16 per cent on radio (AC Nielsen MMS). The NMEC refuses to comment on how the other &£9m is being spent. It then appoints David Quarmby, former chairman of the British Tourist Authority, as chairman. April 2000 Coca-Cola agrees to fund a &£3m replica of Wembley Stadium in bid to attract more visitors. February 2000 NMEC chief executive Jennie Page is sacked. Ex-Disney boss Pierre Yves-Gerbeau is appointed as her successor. He insists that the Dome’s marketing go “back to basics”. The NMEC asks the Millennium Commission to provide a &£60m rescue package to rectify “short-term cashflow” problems. It then announces record attendance figures of more than 75,000 visitors in three days. December 1999 / January 2000 Dome opens on time, but the Millennium Eve is uipset by ticket fiasco leading to queues of angry VIP guests at Stratford station. Sponsor Boots calls for action to reduce queues for the body zone, as the Dome manages to combine low visitors with two-hour queues. September 1999 The NMEC launches the first part of a &£16m advertising campaign through M&C Saatchi, using catchline “one amazing day”. August 1998 M&C Saatchi wins the NMEC account. The NMEC announces that Bill Muirhead and Jeremy Sinclair, unpaid marketing advisers to the Dome and top M&C executives, stepped down on June 16. July 1998 The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising complains that the advertising review process is too hurried. June 1998 Sholto Douglas-Home is appointed as NMEC marketing director February 1997 M&C Saatchi partners Muirhead and Sinclair are appointed to unpaid roles advising the Millennium Experience Company (NMEC) on its advertising, marketing and corporate identity.

Date

At its launch, the Millennium Dome was trumpeted as the “greatest show on earth”. Not only was it supposed to represent everything that is great about Britain but it was also hailed as a centre of marketing excellence.

Yet, with little more than half of its life remaining, Dome bosses are being asked to reassess their marketing strategy.

Nearly &£3m of last week’s &£29m rescue package will be ploughed into trying to convince an increasingly-sceptical public that a visit to the Dome really is “one amazing day”.

The Millennium Commission’s decision to make a further grant to the New Millennium Experience Company (NMEC) was based on stringent conditions. One of these was that it produces a revised business strategy showing “enhanced marketing plans”.

A Millennium Commission spokeswoman admits the public needs an “accessible take on what a day at the Dome is actually like”.

However, some observers argue that the &£16m advertising campaign through M&C Saatchi has so far failed to focus on the Dome’s accessibility. The public has simply not been told what a day at the &£750m “marquee” involves, say critics.

Instead, campaigns such as “One amazing day”, launched in September 1999, have chosen to focus on the attraction’s life-changing properties.

An insider who was once closely involved with the Dome’s marketing says the ad campaign chose not to treat it as a normal consumer brand. “The marketers involved have always resented giving out responsive, practical messages,” the source says. “Instead, the above-the-line ads have focused on the attraction’s high-brow status. It’s all been very worthy, but it has lacked the idea that the Dome can be fun.”

But the insider believes things will change. “The people at the Dome have been very good at putting together practical packages, such as striking deals with public transport companies, yet there has been little awareness of these. There is growing frustration that this work is being ignored.”

NMEC marketing director Sholto Douglas-Home refused to comment.

“The NMEC is now under immense pressure to focus on the practicalities,” says the insider.

This is likely to result in major below-the-line campaigns offering packages that make it easy, and worthwhile, to spend a day at the Dome. Claydon Heeley Jones Mason handles the direct marketing account.

A Millennium Commission spokeswoman confirms the extra marketing coffers will be used to reinforce some of the newer, perhaps less sexy, approaches to selling the Dome. She says a recent regional press campaign received a great response. “We accepted the NMEC’s point that it needed more funds to do more of this type of marketing.”

The NMEC insider believes the Dome’s marketers may even abandon its closely-guarded pric ing structures. “The Dome may begin advertising ticket offers, such as two-for-the-price-of-one. Although this may not be the most desirable option for the marketers involved, it would be better than seeing the project go down the pan.”

Despite going against the grain of the ad campaigns to date, M&C Saatchi Sponsorship joint chief executive Matthew Patten says: “Every penny should go on getting people to attend.

“The NMEC should also look to the sponsors. They have bright people on board whose everyday jobs are to get people through the door.”

Patten believes the Dome’s main problem is the difference between media and visitor perceptions. “While studies show that visitors really like it, the Dome has become the media symbol of the Government. No marketing spend will change Fleet Street’s view.”

He adds: “There are huge numbers of people planning to go, but somehow they still haven’t got into gear. The issue for marketers is getting to those on the cusp,” he says.

Unsurprisingly, this view is shared by the companies which stumped up &£12m to be official sponsors.

Adrian Hosford, BT’s director of the millennium project and chairman of the Dome’s official sponsors’ group, says: “On the one hand, the sponsors are very pleased with the response of people who go. But, on the other, there is concern about the brand associations being made by those who do not. What is needed now is a campaign to get people there so they can make up their own minds.”

Of course, with just six months remaining, or less if reports of its early closure prove true, there are those who say the marketing strategy should have been examined long ago. But one observer points out: “Whatever the outcome, it seems certain that for the agencies involved there is going to be another verse.”

Date Event

May 2000 The New Millennium Experience receives an extra &£3m for marketing as part of a &£29m rescue package from the National Lottery-funded Millennium Commission. This is on top of its &£16m advertising budget. By te first quarter of 2000, the Dome had spent &£6.7 on ads – half of it on TV, a third in the press and 16 per cent on radio (AC Nielsen MMS). The NMEC refuses to comment on how the other &£9m is being spent. It then appoints David Quarmby, former chairman of the British Tourist Authority, as chairman.

April 2000 Coca-Cola agrees to fund a &£3m replica of Wembley Stadium in bid to attract more visitors.

February 2000 NMEC chief executive Jennie Page is sacked. Ex-Disney boss Pierre Yves-Gerbeau is appointed as her successor. He insists that the Dome’s marketing go “back to basics”. The NMEC asks the Millennium Commission to provide a &£60m rescue package to rectify “short-term cashflow” problems. It then announces record attendance figures of more than 75,000 visitors in three days.

December 1999 / January 2000 Dome opens on time, but the Millennium Eve is uipset by ticket fiasco leading to queues of angry VIP guests at Stratford station. Sponsor Boots calls for action to reduce queues for the body zone, as the Dome manages to combine low visitors with two-hour queues.

September 1999 The NMEC launches the first part of a &£16m advertising campaign through M&C Saatchi, using catchline “one amazing day”.

August 1998 M&C Saatchi wins the NMEC account. The NMEC announces that Bill Muirhead and Jeremy Sinclair, unpaid marketing advisers to the Dome and top M&C executives, stepped down on June 16.

July 1998 The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising complains that the advertising review process is too hurried.

June 1998 Sholto Douglas-Home is appointed as NMEC marketing director

February 1997 M&C Saatchi partners Muirhead and Sinclair are appointed to unpaid roles advising the Millennium Experience Company (NMEC) on its advertising, marketing and corporate identity.

<b><b>Date </b> May 2000 The New Millennium Experience receives an extra &£3m for marketing as part of a &£29m rescue package from the National Lottery-funded Millennium Commission. This is on top of its &£16m advertising budget. By te first quarter of 2000, the Dome had spent &£6.7 on ads – half of it on TV, a third in the press and 16 per cent on radio (AC Nielsen MMS). The NMEC refuses to comment on how the other &£9m is being spent. It then appoints David Quarmby, former chairman of the British Tourist Authority, as chairman. April 2000 Coca-Cola agrees to fund a &£3m replica of Wembley Stadium in bid to attract more visitors. February 2000 NMEC chief executive Jennie Page is sacked. Ex-Disney boss Pierre Yves-Gerbeau is appointed as her successor. He insists that the Dome’s marketing go “back to basics”. The NMEC asks the Millennium Commission to provide a &£60m rescue package to rectify “short-term cashflow” problems. It then announces record attendance figures of more than 75,000 visitors in three days. December 1999 / January 2000 Dome opens on time, but the Millennium Eve is uipset by ticket fiasco leading to queues of angry VIP guests at Stratford station. Sponsor Boots calls for action to reduce queues for the body zone, as the Dome manages to combine low visitors with two-hour queues. September 1999 The NMEC launches the first part of a &£16m advertising campaign through M&C Saatchi, using catchline “one amazing day”. August 1998 M&C Saatchi wins the NMEC account. The NMEC announces that Bill Muirhead and Jeremy Sinclair, unpaid marketing advisers to the Dome and top M&C executives, stepped down on June 16. July 1998 The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising complains that the advertising review process is too hurried. June 1998 Sholto Douglas-Home is appointed as NMEC marketing director February 1997 M&C Saatchi partners Muirhead and Sinclair are appointed to unpaid roles advising the Millennium Experience Company (NMEC) on its advertising, marketing and corporate identity.

Date

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