With its fifth edition on March 22, 2017 in Bonn, the HAPTICA® live definitely firmly established itself on the market. A growing number of exhibitors and visitors show the acceptance for this form of event, which aims to improve the standing of haptic advertising within the marketing sector. eppi magazine spoke to Michael Scherer, managing partner of the organisers, WA Media, and the Project Manager, Brit München, about ice lollies, the location Bonn and the decision against different coloured lanyards.
Growth in the number of exhibitors and visitors, a lot of positive feedback from the participants – it seems that the “Experience of Haptic Advertising” has got its finger on the pulse of time. In your capacity as the organisers of the event, how do you explain the keen interest in the HAPTICA® live?
Michael Scherer: We launched the HAPTICA® live in 2013 in order to create a platform that primarily enables industry users, but also the employees of advertising agencies and promotional products distributors to experience the fascination of haptic advertising in all its facets. This concept is similar to the principle behind our magazine HAPTICA®. Promotional products have an enormous impact, can be implemented in a very targeted and target group-specific manner and they also enhance popularity. However, within the marketing circles they often don’t enjoy the same standing as other marketing disciplines. Many creative directors and decision-makers don’t know enough about them and occupy themselves far too little with their possibilities so that a lot of potential is lost. In the course of the efficiency assessment of all marketing measures the market players are evidently rethinking the matter and haptic advertising is being attributed more relevance, so that the users are increasingly seeing the need to inform themselves and let themselves be inspired.
Brit München: The fact that according to this year’s visitor survey 93% of the visitors intend to attend the event again next year is also a good indication that the standing of haptic advertising is improving. In times of ever tighter time schedules this is a clear sign that the event offers the participants added value for their daily business. Furthermore, we were particularly happy about the many reactions that underline the positive, communicative and creative atmosphere. We want to convey that haptic advertising is fun and together with the exhibitors arouse enthusiasm for our theme. Not least thanks to several experiential elements – from exceptional best practice examples from all over the world, to branded ice lollies, through to numerous give-aways – we apparently succeeded in doing so.
175 exhibitors, 1,946 visitors – for the fifth time in succession the exhibitor and attendance figures have increased: Are you striving to achieve further growth?
Michael Scherer: Up until now the HAPTICA® live has developed its own momentum so that we weren’t able to curb a certain amount of growth due to the high demand on the exhibitor side. We have also always had to turn down exhibitor requests in the past because the exhibition halls were fully-booked or because otherwise specific product groups would have been over-represented. At the WCCB in Bonn we do have the option of occupying further space and we know that many visitors would appreciate a larger selection of exhibitors – but it is not our intention to expand at any price.
Brit München: It is important that the lively and compact character of the HAPTICA® live is retained. And the growth in the number of visitors has to keep pace with that of the exhibitors. So far this has been successful, indeed having achieved a 30% growth in attendance this year, the increase was higher than the 23% rise in the number of exhibitors. Incidentally, three quarters of the visitors are users, the rest are industry players.
How do you go about motivating the users to visit the HAPTICA® live?
Michael Scherer: For the majority of executives from the marketing sector, visiting promotional products shows doesn’t fall under their obligatory dates. Which makes it all the more important on the one hand to accentuate the appeal of such an event and on the other hand to intensely communicate it to arouse interest. We invest high sums in the marketing, the event guide of the HAPTICA® live alone is sent to 50,000 target addresses in the run-up to the show. And without having the opportunity to inform the relevant target groups via the trade publications of WA Media, it would be much more difficult for us to attract the corresponding amount of visitors.
Are you thinking about expanding the event format to a two-day event?
Brit München: Even if several exhibitors and visitors would be delighted if this were the case, this is not planned for 2018. Staging the event over two days would not automatically lead to double the amount of people attending. The rush of visitors would simply be distributed, which would detract from the vivacity and momentum of the event. It would also lead to higher costs for the exhibitors. And what’s more many of the visitors appreciate the compactness of the HAPTICA® live. Since we offer different elements – product presentations, the Promotional Gift Award exhibition and award ceremony, the Best Practice special show and the lecture programme, everyone can put together their individual programme, so that they can spend the day exploring haptic advertising as efficiently as possible in line with their own priorities.
After three years in Cologne, the HAPTICA® live relocated to the WCCB in Bonn in 2016. Will it stay there for the time being?
Brit München: As a Cologne-based company we were initially rather sad to have to move out of Cologne: But the Palladium had become too small and there is no comparably attractive, yet larger location in the Cologne city centre, which is suitable for us. However, opting for the WCCB has proven to be a stroke of luck. The congress centre is new, but thanks to several high-calibre political events already very well-known in the media which arouses curiosity and its light-flooded foyer provides a wonderful ambiance. Bonn is additionally very attractive as a location: Many authorities and big groups are based here, all of whom were represented at this year’s HAPTICA® live by several employees. Bonn has a very central location and is easy to reach. And one notices when collaborating with the municipal institutions that they are very interested in establishing an event like the HAPTICA® live in Bonn – the number of our cooperation partners has increased significantly. We have in any case made many good experiences and are holding open an option on the WCCB for the next editions of the HAPTICA® live.
The admission policy of the HAPTICA® live is rather different: Distributors, agencies and industry customers can attend the trade fair without being identifiable. The HAPTICA® live is thus the only event in the industry where the users don’t have to register via the industry – how does this go down on the market?
Michael Scherer: Of course, discussions always crop up, but we are pleased to observe that every year more and more distributors bring their customers with them to the event as VIP guests. Basically we don’t lay down whether the users have to register via certain distributors or whether they register themselves. If one wants to achieve the most widespread effect possible for haptic advertising, one shouldn’t exclude anyone, who has a professional interest in promotional products from the outset. Ultimately, the entire market profits if the interest in promotional products increases. For the exhibitors this means that they meet up with different target groups and they have to decide in advance how they want to address the respective customer groups – distributors, agencies and industry customers. However, for most of them this has in the meantime become a routine matter.
Wouldn’t different coloured lanyards or badges as a form of identification be a useful orientation aid?
Brit München: We have often discussed this internally, but always decided against it, because it wouldn’t really be feasible. Of course we ask every visitor on registering whether they are suppliers, distributors, agencies or users, but the error rate is extremely high. I estimate that every third entry is incorrect, in some cases writing instrument manufacturers describe themselves as being agencies or industry customers as distributors and vice versa. We can partly correct this, but for example with the last-minute registrations at the latest we have no chance of checking it. Those people, who would receive the wrong lanyard due to the false allocation, would then also be incorrectly advised at the stands and would be cited the wrong prices. That would have fatal results and would cause much more chaos. So, we prefer to rely on the communication at the stand: If the exhibitors aren’t sure where the visitor comes from, they are advised to ask. Many users are pleased to be asked if they work together with a specific distributor – this has also become apparent from our visitor survey. To ensure a more efficient identification at the next edition of the HAPTICA® live, we are also going to improve the legibility of the company names on the badges.
What happens if the exhibitors don’t stick to the traditional distribution channels and for instance offer distributors and industry customers the same prices?
Michael Scherer: It doesn’t make sense as the organiser to threaten people with sanctions if the rules are broken, when one is not in a position to check that the rules are observed. We have completely no idea how the deals that are initiated at the show are ultimately wound up. Each exhibitor has his own sales philosophy and carries out his business accordingly. Personally, I think that the majority of the suppliers are reliant on the distributors as multipliers and so to speak sales representatives. Therefore I find it would be rather illogical to alienate this clientele by failing to plan profit margins for them. But we are not in a position to demand this. The market regulates this itself.
Are any new features planned for 2018?
Brit München: One edition of the HAPTICA® follows the next. We are currently busy examining the numerous suggestions from the visitor and exhibitor surveys and integrating them into the organisation of next year’s event – these range from optimising the assembly schedule, to proposals for making the afternoon programme even more attractive. Primarily we want to prove to the exhibitors and visitors once again on March 21, 2018 just how inspiring our form of advertising is.
// Dr. Mischa Delbrouck spoke with Brit München and Michael Scherer.