Throughout my time at aerofone* I was still heavily engaged in evolving the Mac shows. We had run two versions of The Expo and ran several regional MacFest events at sports grounds like Edgbaston, hotels in Manchester…
But Farhad wanted to sell it on as this was not his prime business and he recognised he had few skills and limited interest in this business. Richard Hease and I bought it from he and his partner, we renamed it MacExpo and moved its base into Richard’s Uxbridge offices.
Over the years the relationship with Apple had become closer, the new head of Europe invited me to meetings in Paris where he proposed they would formally take a stand at the London show and commit all sorts of resources to making the event a great success.
These sorts of promises were made every year thereafter by him and his successor, but while we had their goodwill this did not result in further exhibitors and features, or increased stand revenues. Though, the fact of their participation was enough for us to attract exhibitors and visitors.
The European head also approved our working closely with CKS the new Apple agency for Europe, which had been recently formed by the American marketing agency who had organised the Apple Macintosh advert that was run during the Superbowl XVIII interval, a Steve Jobs/Ridley Scott anti-IBM production.
ASIDE: CKS was based in Hamburg and we met up regularly. They were nice guys but had foibles. The first was that they dressed like Steve Jobs and loved to use American buzz words. But the strangest was when Richard and I attended their launch of a new name. They ran through mood boards and other marketing-speak to announce they would become ‘March: First’. Richard immediately whispered in my ear ‘March: First. Ask questions later?’ We later repeated this strapline to our contact there and saw the notion speedily shelved.
The 2003 UK MacExpo will always stay with me for an unrelated event. MacExpo was held at the BDC in Islington and the organiser office is at the side of the hall, equipped with Sky television. The fifth Rugby World Cup was being held in Australia and we were delighted that the final (Australia v England) to be held at Sydney was scheduled to finish before the show opened for its busy Saturday. But it went to extra-time and thus overran into our open hours. As it was always going to be a close-run thing, many of the stands had purchased aerial feeds to their stands and installed big screens so their staff had an incentive to arrive early to site
I opened the event and sprinted back to the Organiser Office to see what was happening. It was evident that England was manoeuvring to get Jonny Wilkinson in place for that winning drop goal. But as the ball was being prepared to be passed to him on our screen, the whole hall outside erupted. We could guess what this meant, but had to wait painful seconds for our delayed Sky broadcast to show us the successful kick – then we erupted.
Almost immediately a stern-faced business-clad woman entered the office and complained she had come to the show to do business, but everyone was watching the match. I too wanted to break away from this conversation to see the post-match comments, but struggled hard to remain polite.
For the 2004 UK MacExpo we moved from the BDC to Olympia and planned a much larger event. Louise, a member of our sales team, sold a stand to someone called Green my Apple and its aims slipped under our guard until we were at site. The first I heard was that a woman with an infant in a pushchair came to the organiser office in tears because someone from that stand had thrust an apple (fruit) into her infant’s face and was taking pictures despite her asking him not to do so. I investigated and found that they were running onto various stands handing out their fruit, as part of their protest that Apple was damaging children who worked on fabricating their batteries in Asia. These were a militant group that had flown in specially from Greenpeace Netherlands – yes flown, so not so very green.
I sought out their stand manager and explained that I would fight anyone for their right to an opinion. However, they had paid for a stand to be the location from where they would express that opinion, they had to obey the same show rules as other exhibitors and not carry their message to the aisles or onto other stands. They agreed, but later began to run onto the Apple stand making more aggressive claims as the morning wore on.
I went to their stand and repeated my advice which they vehemently now stated they would not respect. So, I said their stand was therefore closed and they must leave. One bolshy girl crossed her arms and said you will have to carry me out. We had one particularly Neanderthal security guard, with knuckles closer to the ground than most. He was stood in the aisle, so I pointed at him and said, ‘Well, he’s ready if you are’, she went quietly.
An older Dutch guy started to get voluble and pulled out his camera saying he was filming our Nazi tactics, he was gathering a crowd, I asked him to desist. He held his camera up behind his head still video-ing, so I reached for it. Quite instinctively I pulled on his pony tail to reach for the camera. (I have always believed that both forms of pony tail sit behind a horse’s ass). He whinnied that this was assault. But when more of my security detail arrived he too went quietly. But only so he could post his pictures to the Net. For some years if you looked me up on Google you got a raft of Greenpeace posts.
MacExpo UK gained the support of Apple Europe and a progressively larger presence for Apple themselves. Initialy we met routinely and they would propose features and other notions we might use. They were initially poor on delivery from their side, though there were senior managers who presented seminars and workshops at our event. The success of the show meant that they were slowly lured into having a full exhibition stand, which involved Cupertino’s events’ team.
We also launched a German MacExpo as a joint venture with a local associate and this had the unofficial support of Apple Germany. It was a strange relationship because our event was held at Cologne, Köln Messe, and Apple USA decided that the G5’s European launch would be in Germany, but located this in Berlin at around the same date. The German MD drove through the night to bring two G5s from Berlin and presented these at MacExpo Köln. At the second event they took a semi-official stand at the show and many of their team were ready to present seminars and ran features.
We also launched a MacExpo at the RAI venue in Amsterdam, again the local Apple Netherlands MD could only give us unofficial support, equipment and information. He did give me one piece of advice that went a tad awry. On being asked for his advice, he recommended a local guy, Albert, who he thought would be a good local partner for us and I met up and negotiated a suitable arrangement.
We announced this at a suitable event and I noticed that Albert too had adopted the Steve Jobs uniform but had accessorised it with a pink chiffon scarf. Perhaps I should then not have been surprised when a week or so later he sent me an email announcing he was entering a period of dressing as a woman prior to surgery, he asked that we henceforth should call him Alice. I guess we should be pleased the environment we set up with him gave him the confidence to take this step, but it was dreadful timing for our launch.
One amusing feature of the Dutch show was that its debut was as the iPod was launched and the Apple country teams were quite liberal in supplying us with free iPods to use to promote the event. They became a highly desirable commodity and I managed to stem feature-build costs by offering iPods to contractors. The Dutch love a deal and I settled with one contractor for a 4,000 euro job, by supplying him with just four iPods!
We renamed our organisation as XPO Events Ltd, and I subsequently arranged to take this out of Richard’s operation. We moved to Marlow offices and added further events of our own.