by Michael Shapiro | September 16, 2011

This week, industry veteran Tony Lorenz launched a new agency, bXb Online, that aims to help clients expand face-to-face events into the virtual realm. Most recently the senior vice president of creative at event management giant Freeman, Lorenz was instrumental in establishing Freeman's virtual and hybrid meetings services, and forged that company's partnership with INXPO. He also was behind the partnership between PCMA and the Virtual Edge Institute, which has resulted in the co-location of those organizations' events. He's still a strategic partner with Freeman and INXPO, but his new agency, he says, provides him the opportunity to focus more exclusively on helping clients develop a marketing strategy that integrates virtual and hybrid event solutions. I had the opportunity to chat with Lorenz about the trends that prompted the new launch.
What trends are you seeing with respect to virtual meetings, and why do you think now is the right time for an agency like bXb Online to come into existence?

First, we can look at this by sector. The corporate sector has clearly embraced virtual meetings and is moving swiftly to bring digital extensions to their live events. There's just no question about that. And I think the association marketplace is going to break out this coming year or 18 months. They've been hesitant, but I think there's evidence that finally the model is coming into acceptance, that the fear is gone. Some associations have clearly stepped up and taken the initiative in that respect.

What's more, I think the association marketplace has an enormous impact, and the opportunity to drive change in event marketing is, arguably, even bigger for associations than it is for corporate. But they're at a point now where they need to figure out how best to do that, and agencies like bXb can help them.
What we're going to see as a result of this acceptance of digital events across the board is a decidedly more converged marketing industry. And I think that's where we all want to be. It's what happened with sports many, many years ago, when the stadium owners pushed back on broadcasters. They didn't want them in there because they were afraid that the stands would empty out. We all know now that quite the opposite happened, that broadcasting games did nothing but drive greater attendance. Interest in the game -- in the content, to continue the analogy -- just grew. I think now we have the opportunity to redefine the event marketing industry favorably, much as it happened for sports years ago.
So do you believe there will be less of a focus on the technology itself in the year to come, and more talk about an overall marketing strategy that just happens to include this technology?
I hope so. The cart's been before the horse, and I think it's time to get the ecosystem in the right order. As we do that, we're going to have experiences online that are just that much more robust; we'll be telling our stories in a very compelling way, and doing so by utilizing this great technology that's been built. The technologists don't craft stories; they just build technology. So to the extent that we, as marketers and planners, can step in and have a hand in crafting those stories, I think we're all going to be in a much better place.