BELGIUM – 27Names, exclusive interview with CEO Vergucht: ‘The public needs live events’

27Names is Europe’s number one live communication agency. Starting as a network in 2008with the objective of fostering synergies and competitive strength among events agencies at the international level, it now takes a further step forward by transforming from a network into a corporation.

27nameslogoThe agency is currently headquartered in Brussels and covers 16 countries. Let us have a look at the characteristics and strong points of this organization, which numbers an Italian agency, Sinergie, among its founding members.

On the occasion of his first visit to the ‘home base’ in Milan, we interviewed Milo Vergucht (image), CEO of 27Names and expert in international events and meetings. With over 20 years of experience in operations, sales and strategic accounts management in the meetings and events industry, Vergucht boasts an extraordinary CV, attesting to his commitment to improving the results of live communication by international organizations. Prior to assuming his current role, Milo was manager of regional sales for Gruppo MCI, where he developed a great deal of expertise and experience in multinational event campaigns.

How and when was 27Names founded? What were the objectives? 

The first step towards the concrete realization of 27Names took place at EuBea, the ADC Group fair dedicated to European events. The year was 2007 and together with Ulf Gassner (of Concept X-Germania – Editor’s note), we came up with the idea of creating a network of agencies to share working experience and creative stimuli. Our sphere was live communication, i.e., everything that involves active interaction with the audience. The objectives? Give our clients the possibility of producing pan-European campaigns through local executions by a network of ‘excellent’ agencies that work with extreme professionalism, efficiency, creativity and competence. Our ambition is to continue to grow until we cover all 47 countries on the European continent.

How is 27Names represented in the various countries? What are the advantages of being a part of it? 

First of all, the agencies continue to operate in their own country. We organize international gatherings during the year to meet, discuss things and work together. It is an exchange that opens the mind to stimuli and creativity within the context of a platform of people who do the same work, who inform each other and pick up on trends. This all takes place within the realm of qualitative excellence, because the agencies that are part of 27Names are market leaders, only the best. By joining with 27Names they have the opportunity to make themselves known and cooperate at the international level, also optimizing their budgets; because coordination takes place at the international level, but the work is done locally. Working with 27Names means having access to 600 strategists, creative minds and production experts distributed all over Europe.

Who determines how to produce campaigns and to whom to entrust tasks at the local level?

As CEO, I am the one to decide, maintaining a neutral position as regards the agencies. My choices are based on what is best for the client. Let us take a concrete example: a client wants to develop a product launch campaign in 10 countries. We bring together the creative proposals of the various international agencies and develop the best. The choice of roles, such as the creative director, depends on the expertise of the particular agency in relation to the project.

The member agencies have their own specialization profiles. Some are more specialized in festivals and public events, some have the automotive industry as their core business, others are outstanding in organizing conventions. Each one has its own background and my job is to amalgamate excellence so we can providing the client with something truly unique. Always with one objective: co-create the event in close synergy with the client, working side by side, in the conviction that cooperation boosts both quality and creativity.

The recent development is that you have transformed from a network into a corporation.

Following progressive and organic evolution, we were ready for the next step: the creation of a European live communication company. Witnessing our growth, we felt the need for more organization and solidity, for having an image, a ‘face’. It is a great step forward that speaks for the will of the individual members to work together as a team.

And there is an Italian agency among the founding members, Sinergie.

All our partners must be strong, solid market leaders. They must meet highly specific requisites if they want to be part of 27Names, there are very strict selection criteria. They must have a certain level of revenues, a certain business volume, excellent accounts, a minimum number of staff and, most importantly, a core business in events. We do not take companies with other specializations into account. Furthermore, all our members are the founders of their agencies, entrepreneurs, and this spirit opens the mind to business and to ideas. All member agencies must operate at the same level, maintain certain standards of quality, transparency and ethics, and have a strong work method. Sinergie clearly meets all the requisites.

Can you give us an example of what you have already accomplished at the international level?

For Volkswagen Group Communication International we brought together 12 creative minds from 7 countries in a two-day full immersion experience, a workshop for coming up with a new event format for an international car show. It was a brainstorming session that proved to be extremely productive and effective. For a French region that is still off the tourism track, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, we worked on territorial marketing with an international survey to understand how to improve its image. The result was a new magazine promoting tourism.

More generally, given that you have a super partes outlook, what do you think of today’s events market, making comparisons among the European countries that are covered by 27Names? What sectors stand out? 

Digital and social media dominate throughout Europe. They are growing at an incredible pace. But precisely for this reason, there is an increase in the request for live, physical events. We need to regain contact among people, interaction, the value of spending time together. The public needs to ‘live’ their experiences in first person and not just virtually. And this trend is growing.