Online Events Can’t Beat Fun of the Fair

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Technology companies may win a few geek credibility points for running customer events online, but it seems the trade fair float is unbeatable for brand awareness. When CeBIT Australia threw open its doors to its 600-odd exhibitors’ stands yesterday, it was clear that some were prepared to show more than a little cheek to achieve their ends. The show caters for everything from national science agencies showcasing cutting-edge automated stevedoring technology to micro-exhibitors touting the latest in USB cables.

“It’s just about getting the brand out there,” said Gavin Collins, head of Perth domain name company Crazy Domains. To say Crazy Domains’ strategy for making an impact at the show was out there would be an understatement. Making the gender of its intended market clear, it displayed a highly suggestive television ad featuring Pamela Anderson – altered to appease the Advertising Standards Bureau – continuously on video screens towering over its stand. The company also posted its logo on a dozen lime green lycra outfits that strained to cover the female models hired to hand out flyers at the stand. Mr Collins’s goal is shared across the conference.

The Australian has been showing of its new iPad application, which launches on May 28, at the CeBIT show. The app will deliver the newspaper in electronic form for $4.99 monthly. Advertising project manager Sophie Wilcox said interest had been high. “Most of the people we’ve been talking to have already ordered their iPad or they know that they’re getting one, so for them to hear that we’re going to be launching with an app has been very interesting.”

Ian Oppermann, director of the CSIRO’s new ICT centre, said that even the nation’s top science agency couldn’t afford to wait for the market to take notice. “Part of what we do is to generate science with impact, and impact means reaching out to people…there’s an awareness within the industry that we’re looking to support” Dr Oppermann said. “CSIRO represents a substantial amount of the research done in the ICT space, but if we hide our light under a bushel then we don’t have the impact that we’re looking for.” For some technology developers, shows like CeBIT offer a chance to develop branding for more practical reasons.

Vidyo sales representative Ami Barzelay said the company’s video-conferencing brand was too dependent on its visual credentials to be entrusted to low-resolution online marketing events, known as webinars.

But knowing whether intangibles like brand are adding to the bottom line may be harder. “I hear it, but I don’t know it. But I’ve been doing this for eight years and the more I do it the more I hear people recognise it,” Matt Bullock, chief executive of online payments provider eWAY, said. “When I go to another function people recognise us as those yellow people.”