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NELSON Freitas has plenty of experience in the business of branding. During his time as senior partner and worldwide group planning director at New York-based Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, he worked with such landmark brands as Coca-Cola, DuPont Unilever and Delta/Song Air Lines. In February, he brought his advertising expertise to New York-based experiential marketing agency Jack Morton Worldwide, producers of the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens. Here Freitas discusses a world of experience.

SPECIAL EVENTS MAGAZINE: What role will you take on in your new position?

NELSON FREITAS: As director of strategy and planning, I will be advising clients on building the right portfolio of brand experiences to engage their various stakeholders.

Q: What made you join Jack Morton?

A: Like many in the marketing world, I absolutely believe that there needs to be a shift from one-way to two-way communications. Live three-dimensional experiences are an ideal form of two-way communication, and they're often the most powerful marketing moments a brand has. Those moments need to be viewed as a primary channel in the planning process.

Q: How has the business of branding at special events changed in recent years?

A: I think the most significant shift on the client side has been from thinking about events as a tactic towards understanding their value on a more strategic level {and} using experiences as a way to bring a brand promise to life in a real way. In a way, people can see, touch, smell, etc., and believe for themselves rather than being told to.

Q: Describe one of your more innovative branding initiatives at a special event.

A: I'd point to a Jack Morton project that truly caught the world's attention — something that I had no involvement in but that I think really captures the immensity of the opportunity. The Athens 2004 {Olympic} ceremonies were not only a spectacular “special event,” they also represented a brand — the host nation of Greece — in a dramatic and visceral way. If you were one of the four billion people who watched the ceremonies, you know how beautiful they were. But they also achieved a significant business effect. The ceremonies were voted the most memorable moment of the entire games, and tourism increased something like 10 percent in the year after.

Q: What are you seeing in nontraditional media branding techniques right now?

A: It's all about starting with the audience and layering the brand on top — where they intersect is the platform for creating a great experience. Clients are looking for a comprehensive approach to building their brands that leverages both traditional and nontraditional media. Our planning process embraces every touchpoint that shapes an experience with the brand.

Q: What challenges does experiential marketing face?

A: Measurement is the foremost challenge on marketers' minds, and it's incumbent upon us, as it is on all agencies across media, to demonstrate ROI. When all is said and done, the client needs to know the extent to which they've achieved the desired behaviors and what that means for the bottom line. We have best-in-class tools to ensure that experiential marketing solutions drive business results and brand advocacy for clients. Our tools track results across a consistent set of factors. How successful was the idea? How engaged was the audience? How much of an impact was achieved against defined business results? And finally, how much advocacy and word of mouth resulted from the experience?

Q: What do you foresee for the future of experiential marketing?

A: The future of experiential marketing will see more and more media outlets utilized and integrated. As technology advances, so do the abilities of experiential marketing. Can a live Internet event create a comparable experience to a corporate-sponsored competitive tournament in Las Vegas? I think the more important question is to what extent the sum is greater than the parts — how they can feed off each other to generate an even bigger impact? Furthermore, I can see consumer-generated content becoming incorporated into experiential marketing. Brand advocacy — getting people to talk and do your marketing for you — is a big focus right now, and for good reason. Experiential marketing is the medium most capable of generating advocacy since participants are so literally “engaged.”

To reach New York-based Jack Morton Worldwide, call 212/727-0400.

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