Examination of Witnesses (Questions 300-319)|
WEDNESDAY 15 NOVEMBER 2000
M O'CONNOR AND
MR D JAMES
300. A difference of six million is a bit more
understandable over a year rather than two weeks. In early 1995,
when the figure of 15 million was first identified, until 11 December
1996, when we got back to 13.5 million, can you understand the
confusion which existed among all those people who were trying
to implement decisions when there were six different numbers in
terms of projected visitors. The unpredictability of six numbers
is usually on your lottery ticket rather than six different numbers
in terms of visitors to the Millennium Dome.
(Mr James) I can see one very clear reason why there
might have been that confusion and that is that at that date it
was substantially in advance of the time when the contents had
been identified and therefore there were different perceptions
of who had come to different types of exhibition.
301. On ticket sales and visitor numbers you
talked about sales over the Internet being 90 per cent below expected
projection. What effort did you make to market yourself? In terms
of compiling e-mail databases, direct mail through e-mail? I only
know, for example, that in the last couple of months a gentleman
called Mr Al Gore has been e-mailing me every day. I do not know
why. I do not live in Florida and I have no friends in Florida,
but he has been making that effort throughout the world. What
efforts were made by yourselves to try to tap into that market?
(Mr James) We had a multi-faceted marketing programme
which amounted in total to £30.89 million of budgeted expenditure
at the time of the launch.
302. How many people were you regularly e-mailing?
(Mr James) I could not tell you the number. We had
a number of tie-ins as well with various sponsors which were developed.
We did £16.44 million of direct advertising at the time.
303. That is not what I am asking. It is a good
answer but it is not to the question I am asking. If that information
exists, could we be given a note?
(Mr James) I have just been told that the answer is
that we did none.
304. How many people were you e-mailing on a
(Mr James) None.
(Mr James) We acknowledge that we have had a major
disappointment in our network and e-mail marketing.
306. It cannot be a disappointment in terms
of returns because you did not e-mail anyone.
(Mr James) No, but we had our own booking site.
307. I know. I visited it.
(Mr James) Therefore it was accessible and had the
usual forms of e-mail advertising going with it on the site.
308. I ask you for an opinion here. I am so
taken aback that I had to construct a question which would give
you a gentle way of offering an opinion. The Millennium Dome,
the celebration of a new millennium, with all that it brings and
all it identifies and all that it symbolises, that great new world,
yet you did not think of directly targeting or directly mailing
through the e-mail system a single person on this planet.
(Mr James) That is not true in terms of the way the
309. You just thought about it but you did not
(Mr James) The tie-in advertising with various sponsors.
310. I accept that British Airways may be telling
their clients or whatever. How many people did the organisation
(Mr James) None. We had a website which invited visits
but we did not have a proactive strategy and I have to say that
is the reality.
311. I would put that down as an enormous marketing
mistake. Would you agree?
(Mr James) I think I have had a constant theme of
some concern about the lack of an integrated marketing strategy
and that has been one of my points when I have been sympathising
with the points made by various members of this Committee today.
To that earlier comment, I would say that I agree with yours that
it is another point which should have been included. There was
a great deal of very serious intent to try to get the marketing
straight, but if I look back on it and ask what the biggest characteristic
of this company was that I see as an operational problem, it was
the huge concentration of everybody's efforts to get the thing
open and built by 31 December and I think certain things were
lost in the process and the marketing was one of them.
312. I am sure the Committee heard the strength
with which you made that comment. Appendix 8 of the report identifies
sponsors and partners. There is a whole list there. I am surprised
by that list. I shop at Boots, I watch BSkyB, until this year
I drove a Ford car, I have eaten at McDonald's, I shop in Marks
& Spencer and Tesco, I fly with British Airways and I visit
various BAA-built airports in this country. I am not aware at
any time in any of those outlets or organisations of having been
handed a piece of paper saying "Visit the Dome". Why?
(Mr James) I cannot comment on those particular ones.
313. Was there no effort to involve or task
the partners and the sponsors?
(Mr James) There has been and it has succeeded but
it has come late in the year. What I am agreeing with you is that
it did not happen at the front end. The comment which has been
made to me by people I have challenged on this question of marketing
is "How the hell could we start marketing the damn thing
in the middle of 1999 when we did not know what it was going to
314. You have already acknowledged that the
vilification in Parliament by certain quarters has undermined
the project. The report says that negative publicity in one week
knocked ticket sales by 30 to 50 per cent in the following period.
Would you agree with the statement that the coverage and the publicity
generated here in Parliament has helped undermine ticket sales?
(Mr James) I am afraid this is not one of those projects
where you could say that all publicity is good publicity. We have
suffered undoubtedly from the constant threat of criticism which
has run through both the press and the political arena.
315. Publicity here in Parliament has undermined
your ability to sell tickets for the Dome.
(Mr James) Every time we have been heavily criticised
in public, whether it is political or journalistic, we have had
316. I shall take that as a yes.
(Mr James) May I correct one comment I have made to
you and I must in fairness do this. Of our sponsors, BA did regularly
contain the advertisement for us in their High Life magazine,
so there was an ad for it in front of everybody who flew with
them. We have had much varied support from Boots, from Marks &
Spencer and from BT along the line as well.
317. I forgot to mention also that my telephone
and internet lines are provided by BT and I have had no marketing
through them either. Where I have eaten, where I have shopped,
where I have flown, the car I have driven, are all within your
sponsorship range and I am not aware of having been handed a good
old fashioned piece of paper telling me to go to the Dome. Equally
I have not received an e-mail telling me to go the Dome from anyone.
Why did so few people from Scotland visit the Dome?
(Mr James) You are very cautious with your money in
Scotland, are you not? That is the traditional view of an Englishman,
I am afraid. You have already said it is a long way to come and
318. I did not say that; it was someone over
(Mr James) My tongue was slightly in my cheek with
the answer, so forgive me. I suppose it is because physically
it is a long way to come. People would go to the Dome perhaps
on a visit to London generally planned.
319. They go to DisneyWorld in Florida which
is a lot further away.
(Mr James) They probably go for longer.