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Thinking outside the bag

Breaking through the clutter and connecting with tens of thousands of rushed and busy people has always been a challenge for trade show marketers. It's all too easy for attendees to get overwhelmed by the larger-than-life ads covering every square inch of the event space - not to mention the hundreds of branded pens and other tchotchkes that are constantly thrust into their hands as they make their way from meeting to meeting.
September 1, 2005

Breaking through the clutter and connecting with tens of thousands of rushed and busy people has always been a challenge for trade show marketers. It’s all too easy for attendees to get overwhelmed by the larger-than-life ads covering every square inch of the event space – not to mention the hundreds of branded pens and other tchotchkes that are constantly thrust into their hands as they make their way from meeting to meeting.

But even under these circumstances, it is possible to create a lasting, positive brand impression. At MIPTV in April, European cablenet Jetix hired three Hummer cars to taxi acquisitions execs between hotels and the Palais Royale. Decked out in weather-proof, branded decals promoting its new show A.T.O.M. and featuring costumed drivers and blaring soundtrack tunes, the shuttle stunt worked on two levels. First, it catered to the comfort needs of Jetix’s core target demo of buyers, who appreciated not having to schlep back home on foot after spending all day walking from booth to booth. And second, because the vehicles parked right in front of the Palais when not in use, they generated a lot of interest amongst show-goers waiting to pass through security.

Shari Donnenfeld, senior VP of marketing and communications at Jetix, says the stunt worked better for the brand than a traditional party or bag giveaway because it was a natural extension of what the show represents: the outdoors, urban life and vehicles. But it also delivered more targeted impressions. In all, the three Hummers transported about 100 buyers, whereas Jetix’s famous market parties can attract up to 500 attendees from all corners of the kids entertainment biz. But the cars also generated impressions beyond the buyers by serving as moving billboards that communicated to the throngs of TV delegates on their way to the Palais.

In terms of cost, Donnenfeld says the Hummer initiative worked out to be about 20% to 25% less expensive than Jetix’s traditional beach parties, and it generated better buzz. Planning-wise, the Jetix marketing team started looking at proposals from Cannes-based agencies with connections to the city council, the police, Hummer dealerships and hotels four months before MIP. In the time it typically takes to organize a party, they worked through logistical nitty-gritty including parking and traffic flow issues.

To promote Trollz at both MIPTV and Licensing Show in New York this year, DIC Entertainment gave away ‘Trollerz’ gift certificates good for a free drink at one of the food stands in the events’ convention centers. Table-top ads and flyers encouraged execs grabbing a quick bite on-site to drop by DIC’s booth to pick up the free vouchers, and all 5,000 printed for each event were given away.

The trade show concept was hatched out of an existing consumer promotion still running on DIC’s Trollz website. Each time they log on, on-line visitors are given Trollerz that they can use to spruce up their Trollz avatars with things such as accessories and new hairdos.

Marketing VP Jedd Gold says the cost was considerably less than buying up ad space on the buildings. Trade show organizers are a savvy bunch, he explains, and they control the pricing on almost every on-site marketing opportunity available in their buildings. But Gold found that nosh available in the food courts was one untapped exception, and decided to deal directly with the snack stand vendors. He pre-paid for enough drinks to cover 40% to 50% of the 5,000 vouchers at each event (normal promotion redemption rates are between 10% and 20%), and based on vendor feedback, almost all of these pre-bought bevvies were picked up by market attendees. Besides covering the tab for the pre-order, DIC’s only other costs were signage and printing. In all, Gold estimates that he spent at least 50% less than his usual promotional outlay for these events.

In keeping with the spirit of tapping into basic needs, the Icelandic creators of hit preschool show LazyTown shipped 10,000 bottles of branded water to MIP – and won over everyone in the smoky, crowded Palais bunker in the process. The giveaway was a perfect fit for the property, whose aim is to promote activity and healthy eating to kids.

And LazyTown executive VP Agust Freyr Ingason says that tapping into existing promotional partnerships with Iceland Springs and Icelandair (which helped ship the bottles to Cannes) kept the cost on par with a large ad buy in the Palais. But because the brand message was portable, LazyTown ended up making a much wider impression, since parched execs took the bottles with them to meetings.

Gifts that keep on giving

Check out which trade show freebies pass muster with some of the most seasoned travelers in the kids biz

Most useful market giveaway:

Pocket-packs of tissue – Marion Edwards, Red and Blue Productions

‘They turned out to be incredibly useful at MIPCOM when everyone came down with the dreaded ‘market-lurgy.”

A blanket – Deirdre Brennan, ABC Australia

‘It was light and warm, and it doubled as padding for the boxes of

materials sent back to the office.’

Bottled water – Theresa Plummer-Andrews, Plumtrees

‘It’s often hot and dusty, hangovers are rife, and liquid refreshment

means a lot to one’s liver under these circumstances.’

What you most hope will be at the next event:

Slippers – Theresa Plummer-Andrews, Plumtrees

A business card holder to wear around my neck – Deirdre Brennan, ABC Australia

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