Magazine article Marketing

Delivering the Dome

Magazine article Marketing

Delivering the Dome

Article excerpt

As challenges go you can't get bigger than that facing the marketing director of the Millennium Dome.

If he succeeds in staging an exhibition that truly lights the touch paper to the nation's imagination, then he can rightfully claim a place in the history books.

But fail and his name will be relegated to an ignominious footnote to what is regarded as one of the greatest and costliest White Elephants this country has ever known.

Such is the pressure on Kevin Johnson, a former marketing director of the British Tourist Authority - the government quango that recently gave us a child's splurge as our new identity - that he can be forgiven for coming across as a little, well, confused.

For example, on being asked what is the Millennium Challenge: "It is a hierarchical approach from the self right through to Britain seeing herself in a global context."

On business's involvement: "We have to give our [business] partners a chance to wrap their arms around the world and use Greenwich as a cornerstone of the operation."

On his own role: "While Jennie [Jennie Page, chief executive] is the key performer, the chief conductor of the whole orchestra, I'm the conductor of the wind section. Make of that what you will..."

Harsh though it may seem, Johnson is a man who appears to be singularly lacking in the flair and panache needed to ensure the party of a lifetime goes off with a bang. I doubt he could even find it.

Looks and manner, however, can be deceptive. In the not-too-distant future we might owe a debt of gratitude to Johnson for touching our soul and giving us a permanent structure in which to house this country's pride and achievements. But somehow I doubt it.

Why? Because at this late stage in the game he, along with the very public he serves, seems unable to explain exactly what the magic of the Dome will be.

His excuse for not saying anything of note is that he does not want to pre-empt the PR blitz in the New Year. It appears that a combination of media paranoia and the fact that the Dome is still in the planning stage makes for little to say.

As he so succinctly puts it - and it is the only time he does put anything succinctly in the whole interview: "Don't expect us to lift our skirts up to the ceiling. …

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