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April 6, 2008
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The death of TV advertising, and other stories?




Last week I expressed my scepticism that the Association of Exhibition Organisers (AEO) Conference – held at the Brewery in London on 7 September – could offer anything of relevance to anyone other than those in the exhibition industry. In fact, the four seminar sessions that took place throughout the day focused more on the rise of live marketing in general, with its growing importance to marketers underlined by media agency Mediacom and superbrand O2 putting forward speakers.

Certainly Tom Treverton, the AEO’s PR manager, is under no illusions about exactly what their presence meant. “Fundamental to the success of the conference was having O2 and Mediacom on the platform. Insight from a major brand and an influential media agency (with both communicating what they want from the event marketing industry) was not only compelling content, but was also input we have previously been unable to access,” he says. “Why? Exhibitions and events simply have not been on the radar of brands and agencies – previous attempts to get brands/agencies to speak at AEO Conferences have been met with an ‘I’m washing my hair’ response – they were not interested in our media offering.”

So what does Treverton think has happened to change this?

“Most fundamentally, exhibitions and events are getting better – benefiting from more content, becoming more usable as an environment for structured meeting/networking, and developing more experiential approaches,” he answers.

“Second, brands (and brand agencies) are very aware that digital marketing should be supported by the engaging, face-to-face offerings that only live marketing can provide. Digital media can achieve everything that traditional media options offer – replicating press, TV, direct marketing, radio et al – but it cannot replace the unrivalled ‘being there’, five-sensory attributes, that are served up consistently by exhibitions and events.

“So, as event marketing rides high on the second ‘digital wave’, traditional media panics with the realistic fear that they might be swept under!”

Without doubt, Mediacom’s Matthew Mee and O2’s Paul Samuels provided the most intriguing elements of the conference, while VNU’s Fedde van der Woude presented a wake-up call to exhibition organisers everywhere.

Mee, whose title of ‘director of freshness, strategic solutions team’ sounds more janitorial than advertorial, essentially confirmed the death of the TV ad. “In TV advertising’s ‘hey day’,” he said, “three TV spots would reach 85% of the UK population. In order reach this percentage today, brands would need 185 spots!”

Mee went on to explain that distrusting consumers, who are “besieged” by mass communication, are forcing agencies to turn to “permission” marketing and to “utilise the whole (marketing) orchestra”! And if a major agency like Mediacom, which was previously married to the traditional media of TV, radio and print, is opening its eyes to the potential of live and experiential marketing, then corporate marketers really should take note.

EVENTS:review caught up with Mee at the conference and his revealing interview will appear on the site shortly.

O2’s head of interactive partnerships, Paul Samuels, meanwhile, gave a masterclass in event sponsorship, not only selling it as a key promotional medium, but also giving wonderful pointers as to how to approach it. “I was finished with exhibitions a few years ago,” he said, “when someone asked me to promote O2 at an event by putting my logo on a plastic carrier bag – and it wasn’t even the only logo on it.”

What Samuels said companies wanted was the total ownership of an event that truly matched their brand values – and you can read a full report on his AEO lecture soon on ER.

VNU Exhibitions UK’s managing director Fedde van der Woude delivered one of the few addresses directly related to exhibitions – and he pulled no punches. Seven years of research by VNU has revealed how exhibitors can drastically improve their performance – and therefore their ROI – at an exhibition if they do the right amount of pre, during and post promotions. The key thing for van der Woude, however, was that he believes it’s the responsibility of organisers to help them perform better, for the benefit of exhibitors and the industry as a whole. ER’s interview with van der Woud will also be on the site shortly.

In fact, it seemed that van der Woude was signalling the future of exhibitions more than any of the futurologists who also spoke at the conference. It certainly sends out a signal that exhibitors should be demanding far more from organisers than many of them are currently getting. And it also shows how effective exhibitions can be if approached in a strategic way.

So the end could indeed be nigh for exhibition organisers who believe their role is simply filling floor space, not to mention those selling logos on plastic carrier bags… “and we could also put your brochure inside if you like sir”.


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