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And now…’The Digital Show’

September 28, 2011: Dave Marshall, chairman of PICA and managing director, Fujifilm Australia, this week outlined plans for an expanded technology exhibition next year geared to attract up to 60,000 consumers.

The sort of discussions we’ve been having is we would like to see 50 – 60,000 consumers at the show,’ Mr Marshall, (pictured right, courtesy of John Ralph) told the well-attended, PMA-organised industry meeting at the North Ryde RSL on Tuesday, September 28. ‘We might not get that the first year. ‘

The new-look show will also have a new title, ‘The Digital Show’, following several earlier name changes over the past five years.

Mr Marshall also flagged changes at PICA, including a name change (reported exclusively in Photo Counter in July ) and the appointment of a general manager to replace veteran executive director, Paul Curtis.

‘…too much competing retail activity would lead to a “completely confrontational show”.’

He prefaced his wide-ranging outline of PICA’s vision for the new Digital Show by noting; ‘There’s probably been a fair bit of differentiation, depending on which parts of the media you listen to and you believe in, about what’s actually happened between PMA and PICA and how the show is going forward.’

He said there were several factors leading to significant recent changes, the first of which was dissolving the partnership with PMA in running the show, and the subsequent re-shaping of the event to include a broader array of digital lifestyle options and participants.

He noted that there has been a falling away of retailer attendance at the annual show in recent years, which was a manifestation of the ‘massive transitional change’ the industry was going through.’ – This could be interpreted as meaning there are less retailers attending as, due to industry changes, there are less retailers still operating.

‘I think the most massive transitional change we are going to see will be within the next two years. The next two years will be like the last five. And we’re trying to work out how to manage that,’ he added.

He said that prior to ending the partnership with PMA, PICA had been watching the fortunes of the PMA show in the US. Suppliers globally had held concerns when the show was switched to September from early in the year, not least because of the potential clash with Photokina.

He queried the ultimate success of the subsequent change to the US-based PMA show, now an adjunct to the CES show.

He noted that the PMA show had been on diminishing returns over the past 5 years ‘now it’s part of CES.’

‘It’s going to be challenging to get the people who go to CES to the PMA part of the show.

‘We as a brand [Fujifilm] are going to have a major display in the CES show. Will we have a display in the PMA show? I don’t know.

‘Will the other brands tell you openly and honestly what that actually means internationally? Probably not.’

Mr Marshall appeared to be making the point that while the fortunes of PMA International may be uncertain, as they are inextricably linked with the financial success or failure of the PMA@CES initiative, the future of PMA in Australia is more secure, provided the expanded local show PICA is organising is a success:

‘We believe that the major brands on supply side of the industry were in a much better position to run the [Australia] show, and let PMA manage the content and the conference.

‘The first important message I can deliver for the PMA is, the way we’ve structured and managed the process to the future is, as long as we can run a successful show, PMA will be successful in Australia.

‘That’s how we’ve structured the arrangements with PMA internationally.’

‘The Digital Show’

Mr Marshall said that the show has been renamed The Digital Show following feedback from suppliers.

‘We know the most successful shows in Australia are The Motor Show, The Boat Show The Easter Show….

‘So we believe “The Digital Show” is a good answer to a combination of Imaging, Entertainment…

‘And Imaging isn’t just about photography – it’s about flat panels, and there’s so many things in the past we haven’t brought into the show because we’ve been holistically trying to keep it so photographic.’

He said that had created distance between photography and the broader industry of which it’s a part.

‘Hands up consumer electronics retailers in the room? Hands up mass merchants in the room?’ he asked, to a display of no hands. (In the interest of balance, it needs to be said there wasn’t a majority of retailers of any kind in the room, with around two-thirds of those present being distributors and associated industry people.)

‘Whether we like it or not,’ he continued, ‘Industries are industries. Consumer and mass accounts for probably 77 percent of the industry so we have 23 percent represented in the room. (He later revised the contribution of the specialty channel down to around 15 percent, a figure he said was based on discussions with PMA International.)

‘It’s [the photo specialty channel] not going to grow our industry and get more consumer dollars away from travel or other industries which are sucking up money we need poured back into our industry.

‘So that’s why we are very passionate about trying to extend it [the annual technology show] – to make sure the consumer electronics suppliers and the imaging suppliers and the people with the horsepower to help drive our industry, get back involved.’

He mentioned Samsung, LG and Apple as the kinds of brands he would like to see participating.

Generational change

From a personnel point of view, he said that long-term PICA administrator, Paul Curtis, will manage the show in 2012 and then hand over to a new general manager for 2013 and beyond.

‘We’ve allocated a lot of money into bringing in a new general manager in transition so Paul Curtis will only manage the 2012 show. After that we will transition to a much younger….general manager to run the show, because one of the things you don’t realise is the average age here [attending the meeting] is probably more than 18. It’s probably more than 30. ‘

He said that a lot of people the photo industry sends to ‘go and visit the market’ are dealing with people who are aged around 35 ‘and running as fast as they can in middle of their careers.

‘And we’re sending out people even older than me!’

‘”Hands up consumer electronics retailers in the room? Hands up mass merchants in the room?” he asked, to a display of no hands.’

He told the group the new general manager will have particular strengths in smart technology and in particular QR (‘Quick Response’) codes and would be applying those skills to upgrading the technology supporting the 2012 show.

‘Visitors who bring smart phones along can see exactly what’s happening at any time through the show,’ he explained, and there would also be benefits for exhibitors.

‘We are going to try and step up the technology quite a bit.’

He said the goal of the new show would be to demonstrate true technological convergence, something he said was not available in Australia in the retail channels.

‘How audio integrates with imaging, and integrates with photographic…how they [consumers] manage that full convergence.’

Key to fulfilling that goal is recruiting the ‘major, major brands’ to be involved.

‘All the brands you are used to seeing at the show – the imaging-type brands – are pretty much committed. The problem is, we need to bring the next level of brand to the show, like the Korean organisations which we haven’t had in the past, and we believe will engage them far more than they’ve been engaged before.

He said he had written to all the major brands the previous week inviting them to be involved, and offering incentives for early and long-term commitment.

‘There are definitely incentives for the brands to sign up early and also incentives for the brands to stay long term.

‘If you want to commit to three years we will offer you much better opportunities in how you will engage with your consumer and your retailer at the show.

‘We are not hoping to get major brands there,’ he latter responded to an audience question. ‘We’ve had many discussions in the last couple of years where there’s been significant frustration over the old structure.’

However, he avoided a direct response to another audience question on whether there was a date by which the big CE brands would need to respond to his invitation to commit to the show, instead asking the questioner why they asked the question.

‘I’m not going to try and sell you on the show, he said.

‘What I suggest is next year’s show will be significantly better than the last show – which was a pretty reasonable show.’

Supplier-to-consumer, business-to-business

Mr Marshall elaborated on an earlier announcement that there would be retailing at the 2012 Digital Show.

‘If a supplier wants to retail at the show – which has always been a heavy argument within PICA – absolutely they can retail. Preferably with a retailer, but that’s their brand, their ownership, their decision,’ he said.

Retailers would not be able to take a stand on their own behalf – only suppliers who ‘have a right to distribute’ would be welcome. There would be no overseas retailers like B&H and its Asian counterparts.

‘We want people to see complete convergence. We want people to see the power of our industry when you put it all together,’ he said. ‘If we over-retail at the show we won’t get that message across.’

He said that too much competing retail activity would lead to a ‘completely confrontational show.’

‘If you don’t have the rights as a supplier to exhibit at the show, you can’t exhibit.’

But while retail chains like Ted’s or Camera House can’t exhibit, they can work with a supplier to have their staff at the exhibition.

He felt that the majority of suppliers exhibiting would want to retail from their stands.

For suppliers who prefer to deal with their retail partners rather than consumers, there will be business-to-business, trade-only areas.

So for instance, ‘Raleru, as a wholesaler, could have a B2B area but as a retailer, as Camera House, they would have to be off the consumer space.

‘We’ll have areas which are trade-pass-only areas – a little bit like Photokina…You can get an access pass to go and talk to the people you want to talk to.’

The business-to-business area would also include lounges for smaller suppliers who only want ‘three chairs and a table and a coffee area.’

Friday would be a trade-only day, with no promotion to attract consumers, while Saturday and Sunday would be ‘totally and absolutely consumer’.

‘We absolutely believe the people we need to empower if the industry is to grow and be healthy long term is the consumers to fully understand what imaging means.

‘As opposed to just a trade show where we leave consumers hanging, trying to work out what’s next.’

He said that PMA’s biggest challenge in its back-to-the-future role as conference organiser would be to ‘come up with the right program or ideas that bring those people [CE and mass merchant retailing staff] to the table.’

PMA executive director Peter Rose mentioned earlier in the meeting that the accompanying PMA conference would be a one-day event held on the Thursday, with an additional keynote address on Friday.

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