by Justin Brown, Senior Art Director

The International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) is the premier manufacturing technology show in North America for all the latest in manufacturing technology, networking and solution providers for your current and future business needs. In other words, it’s the bi-annually show where companies from several manufacturing sectors come to unleash their latest gadgets and to shake hands and take names, competing to be “the one” who has the innovative technologies of tomorrow. They set out to woo visitors with extravagant booth setups, celebrity attractions, “booth babes”, prize giveaways, etc. – all to attract the next sell.

After coming off a less than stellar 2009 where budget cuts were the only things happening, I approached the 2010 IMTS show with an open creative-mind expectation. I was curious as to how companies would handle themselves in presentation – Would they go big? Would they go small? Extravagant? Minimal? Expensive? Cheap? What were their themes and how are they selling it? Would they even have products there? (Sadly, I did notice a few who had no products inside their large booth area.) With this my third IMTS and in comparison, the amount of creative projects that move through our agency were surprisingly pretty comparable – typical product brochures, signage, theme logos, micro-sites, direct mailers. Of course it wouldn’t be natural to be part of ginormous international show if there weren’t those last-minute-save-the-day creative fixings and shippings to heighten the excitement. I was pretty familiar with what we did so I set out with my thoughts and observed the results of what others did.

I arrived Wednesday morning eager to see how our tote bag materials turned out. Visiting our client booths was my first priority to evaluate how the 8.5×11 printout proofs turned out in full-scale. In typical dgs fashion, everything looked ridiculously awesome. Our brochures, signage, even the clients themselves all looked great and were excited about the success the first part of the week had been. One highlight for myself was the creative development of the entire OMAX Corporation’s booth for the second time, once again right down to color matching and carpet selection. Of course I’m biased in thinking this booth reeked of awesomeness. I think at one point it actually glowed. As I walked through the surrounding booths and other halls, I shifted my focus to what everyone else had done, again thinking of questions like – How did they approach IMTS? What did they do different than our clients? What printed material did they have and how did the creative look? What attractions, giveaways, colors, structure, size, events, etc. to draw in the drooling people from the aisles? (They should hand out bibs to those people…) Not from a complete marketing perspective but from a creative perspective, I worked to keep an open creative-mind in hopes something I saw would give way to ideas for our next project. Sparing all the art talk and boring dissertations, I feel most of those questions were answered. You never know, the flyer a booth babe is handing out may cause creative thoughts for something else. Of course I’m talking about a brochure or direct mail piece… sickos. Anyhow, I do feel I walked away with some new ideas and many samples of good creative. Like a builder, the more tools I have, the bigger and better the next project could be.

However, I was a little surprised that exhibitors didn’t take advantage of the ceiling height these halls offered and display more graphics promoting their company. I noticed several companies had no overhead signage which I think definitely hurt those located in the back of the halls. After all, these aisles are crazy long. It’s like riding your bike seven miles one way to the ice cream stand and then realizing they’re closed and you have to ride seven miles back. Not too many people want to do that if there’s no pot of creamy gold at the end. The ceiling is there and you should use it at least for your company logo if nothing else. I even noticed some used signage from previous shows overhead. As much as this brings a creative tear to my eye, I’m not sure if this was because of budgets, timing, or something else but at least it was something. Even though ceiling graphics are important in gaining attention from afar, and as much as I would like to be a 6’4″, 265lbs. star quarterback, I’m only 5’7″-ish and a beefy 155lbs. and nobody is 30+ foot tall, so the important signage is what’s in front of us while standing in the booth. Practically all companies had them and several were simple one sided pull-up banners which still looked great. I did see some with nice plexiglas signs that were cool. A few used standing signs to promote high profile people attending and available for pictures who use their products. Like I mentioned previously, some booths unfortunately only had signage promoting their product with nothing to show for it. Needless to say, their booths were wide open spaces in a Dixie Chicks kind of way with nobody there in the middle to fill it up.

Overall I think the creative was great and well presented, at the same time minimal in it’s presentation. Some companies went big and some went small. I walked away with ideas and pictures of brochures. Yeah, pictures. As much as I like to have physical samples, I’m getting older and I’m starting to get bad posture and chiropractors freak me out. I’ve tried cramming tons of brochures in a shoulder tote only to find the totes sit for a while because I’m ticked they hurt my shoulders. I think exhibitors should hand out backpacks so it’s easier to carry stuff, but I digress…

Do I think companies could have done better creative? Of course. Do I think some spent way too much on extravagant booth displays? Yep. Nonetheless, I think 2010 was a do-what-we-can-creatively type of IMTS. Viewing the economic glass half-full, I definitely would like to see exhibitors step it up for 2012. What do you think. What can you do better to make a future customer walk in your booth? What are your thoughts? What would you suggest companies do differently for 2012? Would you like to see less attractions and more product materials? Tell us. We’re nosey like your in-laws.

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