The Digital Playground weekend of the Vivid Sydney Festival was financially successful for IDEA, and reviewed with varying degrees of approval by participants.
The net impression after speaking to exhibitors and attendees was that is was a good concept which would have benefitted from better organisation and implementation – and they would all return in 2014. Bad weather over the weekend contributed to reduced attendance during the day but on Saturday night in particular it was standing room only on the balcony facing the Opera House light show.
‘Connecting people to pictures is ultimately what The Digital Playground was always going to be about,’ said Maxwell International managing director, John Swainston. ‘Despite everything thrown in its way, we managed to engage a new audience, surprise people across a number of fronts and ensure that dozens of people who didn’t know about making pictures of Vivid Sydney got to find out how, and will remember those better pictures for years to come.
‘The night picture opportunities were absolutely awesome,’ he added.
Frank Filippone, director of framing trade publication Profile and a leading light in the annual Framing Show travelled up from Melbourne to gauge whether it was something the picture framers might want to get involved in next year.
‘It’s a really good concept and the organisers will have learned a lot from it, so I would probably be involved next year,’ he said. ‘It wasn’t run well, but its a good idea. Next year could be really good.’
He added that it would be even better if PMA were to be involved.
‘It was fantastic to see that many people having a good time taking photos,’ he said, and noted that photo book specialist Momento seemed to be doing a roaring trade.
‘I firmly believe The Digital Playground has 80-90 percent of its potential not yet reached, said Maxwell International’s marketing manager, Brendan Lee. ‘The short notice period would have had a lot to do with the shortcomings in promotion of the event, and also the shortcomings in attendance from the industry.
‘But I am firmly hoping that in 2014 it can come back bigger and better.’
With sales of exhibition space for The Digital Show in Melbourne rumoured to be falling short of IDEA’s goals, the Vivid event has provided a much-needed injection of funds to the wholesalers’ association.
IDEA president James Murray (Nikon) said he is waiting of a summary on the event based on exhibitor input and attendance at the various workshops and seminars over the weekend.
He said that while he was overseas for the event, he had been told that consumer engagement was strong and the event inspired the public. He confirmed it was a success ‘from a monetary point of view’.
The departure of Katherine Singson as executive director of IDEA and the IDEA board’s decision not to replace her could be seen as a factor in the apparent organisational shortcomings of the event, but James Murray disagrees:
‘The CEO’s role was more about development of IDEA ,and right now it’s about execution,’ he said.
He added that the IDEA directors were taking a more hands-on approach in the absence of a CEO and have met three times since she left.
We spoke to three participants, Epson, Maxwell International, and Ted’s Cameras for their impressions:
Epson invited guests at The Digital Playground to ‘bring their photos to life’ at Epson’s Print & Share Kiosk, giving them the chance to print photos in vibrant, high definition in 4×6, A4 or A3 formats for free, from a bank of printers on the stand.
Craig Heckenberg, Prographics business unit manager for Epson Australia, said the balcony at the Overseas Passenger Terminal was a real drawcard because it is rarely used by photographers to take uninterrupted photographs of Sydney Harbour from that angle.
‘The crowd was quite mixed – families, couples, prosumers and professional photographers – all eager to get the best shot of the spectacular Vivid Sydney scenes. They were keen to take advantage of the free prints we offered at our kiosk and we were thrilled to have the opportunity to allow photographers to see for themselves how Epson’s wide range of photo printers sets new benchmarks in high quality colour and black and white printing,” said Mr Heckenberg.
‘The big crowds were in the evenings and they really turned out in force, so it was definitely worth the investment of time and resources.
‘There are still people out there who have never seen a top quality digital print, and this was a great chance to put those prints in their hands.’
‘I think the type of visitor was extremely different to that at The Digital Show,’ said Brendan Lee, marketing manager, Maxwell International. ‘Much less enthusiast oriented, some not even interested in photography at all.
Not that I’m saying that’s a bad thing,’ he added.
He said if the industry was to run The Digital Playground again it would be important to understand that it was communicating with a different target audience and make sure the exhibition caters to their interests.
‘This means winning entirely brand new consumers to imaging, rather than trying to upgrade or invigorate sales from the existing consumer pool,’ he said.
He said there were definite busy periods where exhibition stand staff were pushed to their limits, but ‘the stream of people wasn’t steady’,
While there were opportunities missed this year, the concept of ‘taking an exhibition to a place where people are likely to want to learn more about photography makes more sense than simply holding a show which relies on being a destination in itself, ‘because the traffic then solely relies on the popularity of photography as a stand-alone hobby.
He said that Maxwell had huge interest across its brands, particularly the smaller accessory brands that require more exposure such as Lensbaby and Velbon.
‘We are very happy with the way we worked together with Ted’s on the whole project,’ he added.
We had a fantastic experience at the Digital Playground,’ said Ted’s Cameras CEO Nic Peasley.
‘Sales were good, although the inclement weather across one day and two nights possibly held us back. The rain came and the consumers disappeared.
He said there was good traffic when the weather was clear, and strong sales centered around tripods, cards and lenses.
‘We did sell some DSLRs and additional lenses which was positive, and we have created a number of leads that will generate new sales,’ he said.
‘Also the flow on into the Pitt Street store has been very good this week,mainly from people who saw us at the event and have come back to look at our range in store.
‘We would do it again – and hope for more favourable weather.’