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New York Expo Now 'CREATE'; Exhibitors Skeptical

TMO Reports - New York Expo Now 'CREATE'; Exhibitors Skeptical

by , 12:10 PM EST, March 26th, 2003

In an effort to jump start a show that exhibitors admit needs a jolt of change, Macworld Expo set for this July in New York City will now be called CREATE, and will focus specifically on technology for the creative arts, from design and publishing to video and music, it was announced Wednesday. In addition to no Steve Jobs keynote and fewer vendor booths, many exhibitors are skeptical that the changes will attract attendees, and as a result, almost 100 fewer exhibitors will be at CREATE.

"The word CREATE reflects the creative arts theme, and its reach to the arts community," a statement from tradeshow organizer IDG World Expo said. "The unique technology needs of the creative community call for an event that provides comprehensive education on the latest techniques and the opportunity to network with like-minded artists. New York City's extensive creative community offers an ideal venue and ready audience for this kind of event."

Despite the new focus of the show, many things will not be as they once were. First reported on Mac rumor sites some two weeks ago, IDG World Expo and Apple have confirmed there will not be a keynote address from Apple CEO Steve Jobs, what has heretofore been a staple of opening day when Apple products are often announced. Instead, a "feature presentation" will open the show, possibly hosted by Apple executive Phil Schiller, Apple's Vice President of Worldwide Product Marketing.

Although neither company would directly address the decision to not have a keynote with Jobs, sources confirm previous reports that Jobs himself decided to break with tradition because it was getting tougher every year to produce innovative products and excitement for a keynote. As a result, it is expected that a simple press release will now be the communications vehicle of choice for new Apple product announcements at CREATE.

Much of the show's new push will be stronger and richer conferences and workshops. Much like past Expo shows, CREATE will include one- and two-day tutorials, two levels of conference sessions for beginner, intermediate and expert users, labs and various feature presentations, each with a different focus. Specific session details and pricing of the programs are available on the CREATE Web site.

Exhibitor count to be off by about 100

The biggest visual change to the show for attendees will be a substantial drop in exhibitors and smaller size booths for many companies, including Apple. From 245 exhibitors last July at Expo, Rob Scheschareg, IDG World Expo vice president of sales, marketing and product development, told The Mac Observer they are expecting around 150 for CREATE.

Despite Wednesday's announcement, many potential exhibitors have yet to fully commit and are approaching a deadline to do so. The Mac Observer has confirmed some of the large companies that have committed to attending the July show include Apple, Adobe, Avid, Canon, FileMaker, Griffin Technology, Epson, Xerox, Sony, Roxio, Harman Multimedia, Sorenson Media and Microsoft.

Companies who have not officially announced they will attend include Hewlett-Packard, Macromedia, Iomega, Nikon, Virtix, ThinkFree, VersionTracker, Smith Micro and Sonnet Technologies, to name a few.

Among the companies who have decided not to exhibit include Quark, Creo, Precision Consulting and Brother International. Quark has been a regular no-show at Expo for a number of years, but with an OS X version of QuarkXpress close to release, many had thought the company would consider exhibiting at CREATE, especially with the shows stronger emphasis on printing and publishing.

For exhibitors, a tough choice

Fewer exhibitors for the July event are all the result of three colliding factors: a weak economy, increased costs to attend and exhibit, and the decision among many exhibitors that the new focus doesn't fit their marketing strategy.

Although exhibitors are concerned the new show strategy will work, few appear to disagree that Expo had to change to survive. Sources close to the show's strategy have confirmed that exhibitors, including Apple, were becoming increasingly concerned that the New York City Expo was becoming stale and not well attended, and that a new look and feel was essential. One source, which asked not to be identified, said there was little choice. "Something had to happen. The risk that the CREATE show will not be successful is great, but the risk of not changing Expo's direction was even greater."

Regardless, exhibitor skepticism and concern of CREATE's new direction is palatable. There is much concern that fewer booths and no Jobs keynote will send the wrong message to those who have attended past Expo's that the show no longer has the same appeal which has attracted so many in the past.

"We're anxious to exhibit, but I'm somewhere between optimistic and concerned about the show's new direction," said Waldo LaTowsky, director of sales for Griffin Technology. "We understand the changes and we also understand why it had to happen, but in this economy, change is often meet with skepticism and that could affect the show."

Griffin will be exhibiting at CREATE, LaTowsky said, but will have a smaller booth.

"We're finding bigger shows are not attracting bigger audiences," said Rochelle van Halm, spokesperson for graphic arts solutions maker Creo, who has decided not to exhibit at CREATE. "We decided that the new focus doesn't fit our marketing strategy. We are still very committed to the Mac platform and that has nothing to do with our decision. It was a strictly a decision to cut costs and focus on shows that meet our marketing strategy."

"Is this change in show direction bad or good?", asked Victor Nemechek, director of marketing for El Gato Software. "We don't know. Only time will tell...We're committed to the Mac market, but we wish they were not making this change. We're kind of stuck. We've spent a lot of money on deposits to exhibit at this show. We'd lose that money if we backed out now."

El Gato will not only exhibit at CREATE, but have a 50% bigger booth than last year.

"I don't see a benefit of being at Expo as it stands," commented Adam Schechter, CEO of Mac training company Precision Consulting, who will not exhibit at CREATE. "We feel that we can impact customers better in one-on-one meetings than at Expo. We'd rather market potential customers to attend training classes through other means then spend $60,000 (as we did last year) to exhibit at Expo."

Asked if the change in show direction was an additional major factor in his decision to not exhibit, Schechter said, "It was pretty large."

Javits costs a big factor

Although the show itself is changing its stripes, show costs are not. They continue to escalate and have become an even bigger factor for vendors. Since the September 11 terrorist attacks on the US, insurance premiums at the Javits Center in New York City where CREATE will take place have soared as much as 800% and those costs have been passed on to exhibitors. Together with costs for staff accommodations, travel expenses and various other essentials, exhibitors are thinking twice about attending CREATE.

"For the dollars we spent last year on Expo, we didn't break even," said Schechter. "I can't imagine (costs are) going to get any better."

"To be blunt about it, the cost of attending in New York has become more of a factor," said LaTowsky, who admitted Griffin will send a few less people to the show to save money. "Set up and tear down charges (of our booth) are becoming more of a factor. They (Javits and the unions) charge so much and they are not easy to work with, quite frankly."

LaTowsky said one of the main reason Griffin Technology went ahead with plans to exhibit at CREATE was the importance of meeting with other companies and its international clients who attend the show.

Boston Expo a better fit?

Of the seven vendors The Mac Observer spoke to, all agreed that if the CREATE show or the original concept of Expo were to return next year to its planned new home in Boston, they would seriously consider attending because of cheaper costs compared to New York City.

"I would certainly consider attending," said Schechter. "But three things would have to happen. Show costs would have to go down, and I understand that would happen in Boston, show location would be paramount and Apple would have to exhibit as well. Apple is the key driver. We play in their world. If they aren't there, people won't attend."

"Yes, we'd consider Boston," commented LaTowsky. "Anything that saves money, we'll consider."

"I want Expo, CREATE, whatever, to succeed," said Nemechek. "Having one Expo for the entire US isn't enough. I need an east coast show and I need one in the summer to announce new products...I'd consider Boston, but Apple would need to be there as well and costs would have to be in line with what is realistic."

As to whether or not a show will still take place next July in Boston as previously planned, IDG World Expo would only say it is still too early to discuss details for the summer of 2004. Apple has previously said it would not exhibit at the new Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, which is scheduled to open next year.

The CREATE show will have no affect on the Macworld Conference & Expo, still scheduled for San Francisco, January 5-9, 2004. As for future CREATE shows in New York, an IDG World Expo spokesperson would only say that any speculation is premature.

IDG World Expo is owned by International Data Group. IDG is also owner of Macworld magazine and MacCentral.com.

[Editor's Note: Note that we originally attributed Victor Nemechek, director of marketing for El Gato Software as working for Keyspan, as noted by the poster below. We have corrected the article, and appreciate the note. - Editor]

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