By Tim Burrowes
So it’s come to this. Tomorrow I’ll be joining the (in theory) 10,000-strong crowd traipsing the halls of the Dubai International Exhibition Centre.
Will it be a case of no business like show business?|~||~||~|So it’s come to this.
Tomorrow I’ll be joining the (in theory) 10,000-strong crowd traipsing the halls of the Dubai International Exhibition Centre.
I’ll be dropping my business card into goldfish bowls on the outside chance of winning bottles of cheap Champagne (I bet the big spending clients mysteriously beat the odds in most of the draws though). At some point I’ll put down my dinky little conference satchel stuffed full of dull flyers and accidentally walk off with somebody else’s. I’ll be desperately avoiding eye contact with even more desperate looking salesmen on various far flung, sparsely visited stands. And I’ll be cursing the undersupply of taxis and oversupply of delegates.
Yes, I’m joining the exhibition set and going to the Marketing and Media Show.
The British comedian Steve Coogan created a wonderful but short-lived character called Gareth Cheeseman. He was a dreadful computer chip salesman who would liven up his trade exhibition PowerPoint spiel by slipping in a rogue picture of a woman in a bikini with a cheesy “Whoops! How did that get in there!?”
He also had the charming habit of psyching himself up by staring in the mirror and bellowing out: “You’re a tiger! Grrrrrr!” (Colleagues trying to actually get some work done must love it when I download that phrase from the internet and play it aloud).
After Cheeseman, I found it impossible to contemplate trade exhibitions without thinking of slightly desperate salesmen, dressed quite badly, talking at uninterested delegates before making drunken late night passes in the bar at women very much out of their league. Not very glamorous.
And this is where the adland snobbery kicks in. Surely we don’t go to trade exhibitions? We pontificate at conferences; we brainstorm at round tables; we educate ourselves at advertising festivals. But an exhibition? A bit beneath us all, surely?
At least, that’s the attitude we’ll see from some. Or rather we won’t, because they’ll be the ones who won’t show up.
And the factor that will define the success or otherwise of the show will be just how large a group this turns out to be.
The key issue that will decide whether the show goes into a second year will ultimately not be the number of exhibitors, but the number of delegates. Those with the power to influence spending plans — marketing directors and media planners in particular — will need to choose to wander the halls. The prediction from the organisers of 10,000 visitors certainly sounds remarkably optimistic, but it might be possible.
Two things will help achieve this. First, there is an associated conference with an agenda that is reasonably strong (I just hope that Tim Sebastian is briefed to ask Antoine Choueiri some appropriately tough questions). The conference should bring people in through the doors who will then hopefully pop in on the stands too. And second, when people arrive in Dubai, somewhere between passport control and customs they seem to have inserted into them a drive to network at all costs.
And I guess there’s one more factor. It might also have a novelty for marketing folk. After years of being the ones selling things at Gitex and the like, it must be rather refreshing to have the upper hand for once.
And, actually, I can’t wait to see what the ad agencies do at the event. Some will have bog standard stands — but I’m going to be very disappointed if some of these clever ad types who are exhibiting don’t come up with something more interesting than the usual. After all, if you’re trying to impress clients with your creativity, you’re hardly going to simply hand out a leaflet and leave it at that, are you? The same should go for all the media owners too.
And in the meantime, I’ll see you at stand 207.||**||