MediaLive Gives Comdex ‘After Dark’ Image

LOS ANGELES The attempted comeback of fallen-giant trade show Comdex continues with IT-buyer-specific print ads in an “After Dark” campaign breaking this month.

Created by MediaLive, the mostly verbal-and-viral “After Dark” ads beckon attendees to loosen their ties after the show floor closes for “7 soirees” at “7 exclusive lounges”—one for each aspect of IT, the expo’s new focus, said MediaLive creative director Missy Miller. “It’s unconventional, a ‘whisper’ campaign,” said Miller. “We want to build relationships with partners, and have the partners do the marketing for us.”

The high-tech downturn mostly led to Key3Media’s Chapter 11 filing from which it emerged last June as the restructured MediaLive International, Foster City, Calif. Comdex had taken the unusual step—if not unprecedented for a trade show—of an image campaign through Gardner Geary Coll in San Francisco that ran on national television [, May 2] and in print. “It had enormous impact,” said Eric Fourot, Comdex vice president and general manager. “It’s hard to gauge perception when you’ve gone through a bankruptcy, but clearly we had heavy lifting to do.”

GGC’s “Take Charge” campaign continues under MediaLive vice president of marketing Greg Kerwin. “We’ve evolved it from brand awareness to the segmented IT buyer, using e-mail, direct mail and print,” Kerwin said. A multimillion dollar “mostly trade-out” deal breaks in CRN, VARBusiness, InformationWeek and The Economist.

Both ad components reinforce Fourot’s strategy of eliminating creeping consumer orientation and streamlining the show to seven key areas of the $879 billion IT market. The show’s traditional orientation has been general computing. The “After Dark” ads, tagged “It hardly seems fair to call it business,” will feature low-tech seductions such as zippers lowering and shirts unbuttoning.

Comdex attendance nearly reached its historic peak in 2000, with 211,625 visitors and 2,337 exhibitors. But after Sept. 11, 2001, attendance plummeted more than 40 percent to 124,613 and 1,685 booths; exhibition eroded further (1,100) in 2002 and attendance flat lined, despite continued free admission.

David Simpson, editor of InfoStor, a storage publication for IT managers, attributes Comdex’s troubles in part to the technology it promoted. “The Web enabled erstwhile show attendees to shop more quickly, easily and cheaply,” said Simpson. “Then, exhibitors realized that the quality, as well as quantity, of attendees was diminishing as the cost of exhibiting continued to go up.” Simpson said there are now alternate, targeted shows like CeBit in New York. “It is unclear whether large shows like Comdex will be able to make a comeback, given all those factors,” he said.