INTERVIEW: Joe Macgregor

Joe Macgregor, is client services director at new event production

agency Sprout, which was formed from Marcom and is now part of the

Konftel Group. He tells Mike Fletcher about the importance of building

strong client relationships and how he plans to win blue-chip

business.



Sprout client services director Joe Macgregor is on rabbit watch after

the event production company, which was born out of Marcom Presentation

Services, re-located to the estate of a 16th century stately home in

Sunnydale, near Ascot in Berkshire.



"That's Kenneth Branagh's house in the distance. We're also neighbours

with a couple of oil sheikhs," he says. "I get a bit over excited about

spotting rabbits. There have even been sightings of deer."



Sprout is part of Impact Europe, the audio-visual and IT arm of the

Konftel Group. It launched on 2 April and moved into the parental home

after Knoftel bought Marcom (Marketing Event, May). Sprout has now been

placed on a roster of preferred agencies by Barclays Bank and will be

invited to pitch for business.



"Barclays is a big result for us. We have been given approved status and

it is up to us to get the work," Macgregor says. "The creation of Sprout

recognises a need to respond to changing industry trends and client

requirements.



The name reflects the essence of an imaginative, dynamic team that

understands experiences, brand values and live communications - all of

which are more than simply supplying and coordinating kit for big

events. We've broken away as an independent creative agency, although

Marcom will still provide us with our hardware infrastructure."



Macgregor's background is in advertising, having spent 12 years in

client services for Saatchi & Saatchi. "I joined as a graduate trainee

after a four-year stint at a Texas university on a tennis scholarship. I

was lucky enough to be put on the British Airways (BA) account at

Saatchi.



It's the agency's biggest account and probably the best one to learn

from," he says. "I became involved with BA's events and sponsorship

activity and discovered Marcom towards the end of my time at the agency.

I needed to source equipment for two brand launches and I had no idea

where to look."



In June 1999, Macgregor joined Marcom to improve its client

services.



He helped set up an events arm that was responsible for the Persil Non

Bio Love your skin Roadshow, the UK and European launch of the Honda

Civic and the extensive pan-European training programme for Deloitte

Consulting.



After the launch of Sprout, the team staged this year's Regional Press

Awards in July, a lunchtime event with 500 guests at London's Hilton

Hotel for Quantum Publishing.



"Many of our clients have been generated in the past year and a half and

all have been supportive of the change. When we told them the name we

expected many questions but they all got it straight away and conceded

it fits well with what we do," Macgregor says. "Client relationships are

very important to us and they all seem keen to see us grow and develop

as a successful production firm.



"We are pushing for clients to get us involved earlier so we get to know

the brand. We want to give clients the confidence to bring an event

production company into strategic meetings and discuss the brand rather

than just equipment and staging. The final experience needs to have

synergy with the overall brand so that it doesn't appear to be bolted

on."



Greater involvement in a client's brand message does not mean Sprout is

offering the complete communication solution. Macgregor is keen to point

out that Sprout concentrates on staging live events such as roadshows,

awards and product launches.



"We are not in the business of competing with a client's direct mail

company or its ad agency, sales promotion agency and new media

department," he says. "We need to concentrate on the bit we do well and

we have been very specific when we meet potential new business. There

are many opportunities in the market ranging from staging and technical

to creative solutions, which is where we position ourselves."



Sprout is targeting blue-chip business, but with a limited number of

briefs being chased by a raft of good agencies, Macgregor will have to

work hard to ensure Sprout is successful.



"Our new location offers good potential and a good local client

base.



Hopefully, companies will want to come and see us in these beautiful

surroundings and we have a nine-strong team with a proven track record

which is not afraid to go for the bigger budget projects," says

Macgregor. "Who knows, if things go well we can broaden the offer and

eventually open Sprout's international headquarters in Brussels."



COMPANY FACTS

- Sprout launched on April 2, 2001

- Sprout is jointly managed by client services director Joe Macgregor

and production director James Marchant

- A staff of nine is aided by an extensive freelance base

- Clients include CPM/Lever Faberge, Deloitte Consulting and Honda

- Parent company Konftel specialises in the design and integration of

video-conferencing, audio-visual and IT solutions




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