Resistance is futile

Fred Cox Jr. wasn't always an Internet enthusiast. In fact, like a lot of his colleagues in the trade and consumer show business, he had his doubts about whether the Web would have a favourable impact on the industry. Developments in...

Fred Cox Jr. wasn’t always an Internet enthusiast. In fact, like a lot of his colleagues in the trade and consumer show business, he had his doubts about whether the Web would have a favourable impact on the industry.

Developments in the recent past, however, have left him pleasantly surprised.

Cox is vice-president of Unionville, Ont.-based National Event Management, which produces a number of high-profile expositions, including the Outdoor Adventure Sports Show, the Financial Solutions Show and the Electronic Gamers Odyssey. Last fall, he began noticing a significant drop in the number of people phoning his office for information about these various shows.

His initial reaction was alarm. Did this signify declining attendance? Not according to the numbers, which indicated that, if anything, attendance figures were on the way up. What, then, could it mean?

Further investigation suggested that people were still seeking information about the shows – but now they were doing it online, at National Event Management’s Web site (www.nationalevent.com).

On the whole, the exposition industry has been slow to embrace the Internet. Some, in fact, see the medium as a potential threat to the business. Many exhibitor companies, they fear, will begin using the Web as a less costly means of accomplishing what they now do at trade and consumer shows.

Little by little, however, resistance to the Internet is dissipating. A Web site offers no substitute for the kind of face-to-face interaction that happens on the show floor, industry experts say, so it’s unlikely that the Net will ever supplant the exposition business. But an intelligently conceived Web presence can prove an invaluable complement to a trade or consumer show.

‘All of our members certainly have Web sites – some advanced enough that they are now doing registration over the Net,’ says Megan Parry, president of the Canadian Association of Exposition Managers. ‘It’s seen as a positive business tool. They all realize they have to be getting on board.’

The Internet is certainly helping companies in the show industry do business faster and more efficiently, says Fred Dalrymple, account manager with Halifax-based exhibit firm Atlantex. For example, materials that once had to be couriered or sent by snail-mail, such as text and graphics for promotional materials, now can be sent electronically, expediting the production process.

‘It’s easier to deal with the global nature of the industry,’ he says. ‘It has enabled us to work with clients that are much more distant. So we’re competing in [geographical regions] that we wouldn’t have been able to before.’

If the industry has been slow to climb aboard the Internet bandwagon, Dalrymple says, it’s largely a matter of priorities. Show business is booming, he explains, so many companies – Atlantex included – have had their attention focused elsewhere.

Most major expositions now have at least some kind of Web presence, however basic, says Barry Siskind, president of Caledon, Ont.-based International Training and Management, and a leading consultant on trade and consumer shows.

What they’re finding, he says, is that the real challenge lies not in creating the site, but rather in promoting it once it’s up and running – and in encouraging visitors to keep returning.

‘Once you have a site, you can’t just leave it,’ Siskind explains. ‘Once your show is done, you put it aside and you worry about it a few months later. But you can’t do that with a Web site – you have to update it all the time.’

A Web site is the perfect vehicle for doing pre-registrations, he adds – but show producers should be using the medium for more than just that. Audio or video clips of speakers, for example, can be used to help generate excitement prior to the event.

For the most part, the exposition industry is still experimenting with the Internet, says Kent Allen, president, home interest, with Toronto-based DMG World Media (formerly Southex Exhibitions).

While multimedia tools such as Web broadcasting hold obvious potential, he says, there’s only so much that show producers can do with them at this point, since many Internet users still don’t have all the necessary hardware and software on their desktops.

At present, DMG is in the process of building sites for the various shows it produces. Allen says each site will be designed to provide comprehensive information about the show, the exhibitors, the products and the category, so that visitors will be equipped to get more out of attending the event.

A site can be used to do more than simply market the show itself, Allen adds. For example, DMG’s site for its home interest shows (notably the National Home Show) will try to attract year-round traffic by offering answers to consumers’ general questions about home improvement.

‘If we can use the Net to get those consumers thinking about us when they think of home improvement, then that will help the shows in the long-term,’ he says. ‘It also puts us into a leadership category for home improvement. So it’s another great marketing tool that we can use.’

A show’s site can become a portal for information on the subject area in question, says Bob Polden, director of events with Mississauga, Ont.-based Solutions Network. Among the services that can be offered are company listings, chats, FAQs (frequently asked questions) and search engines.

In this way, Polden says, the Internet offers show producers the opportunity to become much more relevant to the industries that they serve.

As producers have begun venturing online, supplier companies have stepped forward, offering products and services to help facilitate their efforts.

Boston-based Eventshome.com, for example, has developed a number of interactive technology solutions designed to help trade show and conference producers bring off-line events online.

Among its offerings is Digital-Event, a package that – among other things – facilitates online registration management, and allows the creation of interactive floor plans. DigitalEvent also enables exhibitors to create online versions of their booths, where they can disseminate information, display products and even make sales, just as they do on the show floor.

‘We’re not trying to reproduce [what shows do], we’re just trying to complement existing shows,’ says Vlad Kroutik, chief executive officer of Eventshome.com. ‘We want to make the time that people spend face-to-face [at shows] more effective. By creating a destination site, you can protect and grow your show, because you’re creating that much more of a compelling experience.’

While Eventshome.com has yet to acquire any clients north of the border, Kroutik says the company’s plans do include eventual expansion into the Canadian market.

Also in this report:

- Sex show to target mainstream audience: Everything To Do With Sex event will offer a walk on the mild side p.22

- Playdium creates order from chaos: Placed-based entertainment company builds excitement with ever-changing graphic displays p.24

Corner Officer Shifts: Martin Fecko leaves Tangerine

Plus, PointsBet Canada and Thinkific name new marketing leaders as Lole gets a new ecommerce VP.
Corner Office

Martin Fecko departs Tangerine 

After roughly two years of serving as Tangerine’s chief marketing officer, Martin Fecko has a new gig. And this time, the financial services vet will apply his marketing leadership to a new sector, having been named CMO of Dentalcorp.

Fecko will lead the dental network’s end-to-end patient journey, support its overall growth, and work to maximize patient experiences across every touchpoint, the company said in a release.

“Martin’s in-depth expertise in engaging and retaining customers through a digitally enabled experience will be valuable in realizing our vision to be Canada’s most trusted healthcare network,” said Dentalcorp president Guy Amini.

Prior to joining Scotiabank’s digital-only banking brand in late-2019, Fecko was country manager for Intuit Canada and spent 10 years at American Express in consumer and digital marketing.

PointsBet Canada nabs former Bell marketer as it pursues expansion

Dave Rivers has joined PointsBet, an online gaming and sports betting operator, as Canadian VP of marketing.

Rivers joins from Bell, where he was most recently director of brand marketing and sponsorship, responsible for driving the company’s national sponsorship strategy and portfolio. He will report to PointsBet Canada chief commercial officer Nic Sulsky.

According to Sulsky, Rivers will “play a key role as we prepare to launch a business that is unique to our roots here in Canada.”

PointsBet has a significant presence in Australia, where it was founded, and in the U.S. In July, it named Scott Vanderwel, a former SVP at Rogers, as CEO of its Canadian subsidiary, one of several hires aimed at establishing the company’s presence locally.

Thinkific names first CMO among other executive appointments

Vancouver’s Thinkific, a platform for creating, marketing and selling online courses, has appointed Henk Campher as its first chief marketing officer as it invests in marketing to support its growth plans. It has also upped Chris McGuire to the role of chief technology officer and moved former CTO and co-founder Matt Payne into the new role of SVP of innovation.

Co-founder and CEO Greg Smith said Campher and McGuire “will play key roles building high-functioning teams around them and optimizing investment as we continue to carve out an increasingly prominent and differentiated position in the global market.”

Campher joins from Hootsuite, where he was VP of corporate marketing. Before that, he was VP of brand and communications at CRM giant Salesforce.

Lolë names new VP of digital omni-commerce as parent company exits bankruptcy protection

The Montreal-based athletic apparel and accessories retailer has appointed Rob French as VP of digital omni-commerce.

French will lead Lolë’s efforts in consumer insights, supply chain-to-consumer models and online customer journeys. In what is a new role for the company, he will also work to grow the company’s retail brand. He arrives with sixteen years experience in ecommerce, having spent the last few years as chief digital commerce officer at sporting goods retailer Decathlon.

In May 2020, Lolë parent Coalision Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection, citing several years of losses as a result of a downturn in the retail clothing market, increased competition and excess inventory – problems exacerbated by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time of the filing, Coalision was seeking an investor or purchaser of its assets.

It successfully exited bankruptcy protection last year and is currently rebuilding its executive team, according to a spokesperson.