An hour spent in the company of Bill Jones, the man charged with
marketing Disneyland Paris to the UK public, and you’re ready to swim
the Channel to get to the theme park. A consummate salesman, Jones is
also the man behind this month’s launch of the first specific branding
campaign in the UK for Disneyland Paris. He talks in a relentless stream
- barely drawing breath in an hour.
Combine the sales patter with the 42-year-old’s boyish enthusiasm for
the Disney brand and you have a package that has convinced British
Airways, Le Shuttle and Eurostar to set up UK promotions with Disney’s
maligned European operation.
‘The best bit of the job is when I am in the product,’ he says. ‘I spend
a lot of time there and take a lot of people there, and watching those
who were previously sceptical being swept away by the sheer scale and
brilliance of it all is fantastic.’
But behind the slick exterior, colleagues past and present talk of a
highly skilled manager who sets high standards and brooks no failure.
In 1994, Jones was handed the task of convincing the British public to
spend their money at Disneyland Paris, the result of a belated
realisation that Europe was not a homogeneous market. With the UK only
accounting for 12% of the 10.7 million people visiting the park last
year, he has his work cut out.
Coming to the job from the business-to-business travel arena, Jones
admits enjoying the move to a high-profile consumer brand.
With a background in sales and general management, he is in some ways a
‘He is not a trained marketer,’ says one who is. ‘He’s a travel man, a
sales guy and a manager whose is enormously enjoying the advertising
role that has come with the Disneyland job. But he is not a roll-your-
sleeves-up-and-lets-sort-it-out kind of marketing guy. He identifies the
issues, works out how they can be solved and then manages the process.’
But those inside the industry argue that Jones’s approach is just what
He has won respect with his un-Disney-like frankness about the park’s
‘Disney is known for its arrogance but Bill made the people at
Disneyland Paris realise they needed to start afresh,’ says an industry
insider. ‘He had the conviction to come out and say it as it is.’
For a man who started out as an 18 -year-old sales rep for Bristol
Myers, Jones has come a long way.
His confesses to ‘humble origins’ that spurred on his ambitions. ‘From
the minute I left school I got a job, and it had to be one that was OK.’
And his attitude towards his own failure, in his teens, to make it as a
professional footballer suggests he is as hard on himself as on anyone
who works for him. ‘I stopped playing completely in my 20s,’ he says. ‘I
couldn’t handle the fact that I couldn’t play at the same standard.’
His first job included selling hair-care products. ‘The joke is that he
started out selling haircare products and clearly he still uses them,’
says one source close to Jones, who wants to avoid identification for
fear of reprisal through a practical joke.
After rising through the sales ranks at Avis, he added the word
marketing to his job title at Hogg Robinson before going to rival Thomas
At Thomas Cook, Jones was sent to Canada, as vice-president of Eaton
Travel. His task was to stop the company haemorrhaging cash. He stemmed
the flow successfully enough for him to be offered the job of head of
global travel management across Thomas Cook’s growing Canadian division.
His time in North America has left him with a good line in self-analysis
- he admits that a period as ‘a career-obsessed idiot’ resulted in the
failure of his first marriage. He feels his life is more balanced now -
he makes time for his second wife and their six-year-old daughter -
although he is constantly driven to do more.
‘I’m always on the look-out for something better than what’s in front of
me,’ he says. ‘I probably drive some people crazy.’
Now, he plans to treble the number of UK visitors to the park over the
next three years and his initial moves suggest that this is the kind of
Mickey Mouse marketing that could do just that.
1979 - 1987 Regional sales manager, Avis UK to head of travel industry
sales - Avis US
1987 - 1989 Sales & marketing director, business travel - Hogg Robinson
1989 - 1991 Sales & marketing director, travel management - Thomas Cook
1991 - 1994 Vice-president, travel management - Thomas Cook, Canada
1994 - present UK managing director, sales and marketing - Disneyland