Frankly Speaking: IPEX 2014

My first Ipex was in 1971. I was the marcom manager and in charge of the Compugraphic exhibit. The show was at Olympia and Earl’s Court. I will always remember (until senility sets in) entering the Victorian glass-domed Olympia and seeing the vast array of new printing technology. Phototypesetting was just coming into widespread use. I was in awe.

I attended every Ipex over the years (along with every Drupa, Graph Expo, Print, etc.). Ipex moved to the exhibition center in Birmingham and kept growing and growing. The 1993 event was probably the one most people remember because that is where Benny Landa introduced Indigo, Xeikon introduced the Agfa Chromapress, and Komori introduced automatic plate loading. The 1998 edition was probably the peak in terms of exhibitors and attendance.

Like most shows, there has been a decline in the acreage the exhibitors booked and the number of attendees. After 1998, the Internet took its toll on the printing industry and lost some printing companies and some suppliers.

As I walked through the un-carpeted aisles of Ipex, the preponderance of exhibitors were small companies. Some really big companies chose not to exhibit; yet, a few of them had off-site customer events for attendees.

That is the rub: the really big companies have invested in extensive demo centers and find it more effective to pay a prospect’s travel than to suffer the high costs of exhibition and drayage. It makes perfect sense. But without the big exhibitors the small exhibitors are at a loss.

The big exhibitors say they must either have a big booth or none at all. I argue that a hospitality booth would be more than acceptable. It would make the big exhibitors part of the show, not lurkers in dark corners.

We are told that the big exhibitors will be at Drupa 2016. They will probably have lots of new stuff in a veritable orgy of press conferences, briefings, junkets, and meals based on carbohydrates.

I empathize with the suppliers. There are so many shows it is hard to budget for all of them. Wide format inkjet has created many new venues. Asia events are growing in number and size. Then, the folks who organize the shows create regional or vertical market versions. And user groups like Dscoop and the planned Canon-Océ group have substantial display areas.

At Ipex 2014 Konica, Xeikon, LumeJet, and MGI press conferences had a fairly large contingent of international press to themselves. Fujifilm had a major customer event at their stand and sold a considerable amount. I spoke at their event and the 60 or so prospects were among the largest printers in the UK.

Our industry is made up of suppliers and users, big and small. We need to rationalize the events that support them all. If we do not support the “industry,” there will not be an “industry” to support any of us, big or small.

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