My Event World - Ian Irving

Albert director Ian Irving on banning certain PR agencies, sheltering kittens and acting alongside Frodo Baggins.

My Event World - Ian Irving
My Event World - Ian Irving
I got into the event industry because it was a natural transition from where I began in the media industry. I started out working in music video production, then moved into corporate film and events, after which the marketing bug got me.

I have worked here since mid-October 2010 and still can’t believe what we have achieved in such a relatively short time. The journey from putting the idea on paper to delivery of a stunning brand and a purposeful, focused and relevant proposition that clients instantly understand has been truly invigorating and very inspiring.

I was attracted to this particular role because I have spent the past 12 months looking really hard at the big agency model and how the relationship between agency and client can be improved, and how the connection between audiences and brands can be improved. My research has also focused on looking at just how powerful live communication has become, and it proves that consumers and businesses are realising that the most exciting thing they can do is not online, it is offline, experiencing the unmitigated magic of a live experience. That said, I am fully aware that other media channels are imperative to the awareness of live experiences, but those media must also afford the user an experience, that is why I have created an "experience" agency.

Not many people know that I played the role of a football thug in the Elijah Wood film Green Street.

My worst experience at an event was when I over-reacted to a light falling down during a Basement Jaxx performance for Microsoft. I used my radio to summon help in a rather over-exuberant fashion, along the lines of ‘Emergency, light down, light down!’, thus summoning the entire crew who started to implement emergency procedures with ambulance and fire crews etc, only to find that I’d simply picked the floor-standing light back up and fixed it back up again. Funnily enough, I’ve never been allowed a radio on-site since.

If there's one thing I've learned it's not to cross that fine line between promise and delivery by pretending to be something you are not.

The best event I've been involved in would be hard to decide. During my years in the business I have been involved in some truly remarkable live experiences, such as the innocent village fete, the rugby World Cup victory parade and the first event to be held at The O2 Arena, when we launched it to more than 18,000 O2 members of staff. More recently, the team at Albert has won and completed a 16-venue roadshow for one of my oldest clients, and we are about to create a global activation for a high-street fashion brand, so these are very exciting times indeed.

If I could do it all over again I wouldn’t change a thing. I worked with some great people at Sledge - both staff and suppliers as well as some fantastic brands. I take great pride in what I achieved for that agency and I still retain the long-term relationships with my clients.

The one thing I can't stand is uninspired communications and experiences that are created without true purpose and reason. These lack depth and immersion, so often I find myself perturbed at some of the output of some agencies, especially when they are so-called experiential campaigns carried out by PR companies. Why cant' these people stick to what they know?

If money were no object I would buy a farm in Mallorca and a BMW 507 for the sunny days, and I would spend even more time with my family. I would also improve my cooking skills further and open a shelter for little kittens. Only kidding.

The one event I will never miss is my son’s birthday and the V Festival in Stafford - it’s my greatest business extravagance but always well worth it and we all had an amazing time this year.

The recession has meant that some of the industry chaff has gone and it seems that the gravy train has come to a grinding halt for many. The problem is that there are still many agencies that are top-heavy with huge overheads and near to no profit and poor output, so the time is right for giving clients a new perspective and approach to value for money and empathy. Clients know that they can get better value for money; I have met a number of clients in the past few weeks who say they are tired of the lack of empathy from their 'big agencies'.

The next 12 months will be the most exciting and fast-paced of my career. I have spent the past year looking at what is right and what is wrong about the approach agencies take in terms of value for money and client empathy, and I am looking forward to a most inspiring and varied year. I’m also out to prove a few points.

If I could switch places with anyone else in the industry it would be Jamie Oliver now that he has ventured into our industry – for his culinary prowess and the diversity of his career.

If I ruled the event industry I would impose a ban on PR agencies claiming to be event and experiential agencies.


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