CETW: Why I’m Not Going, And Reasons To Go

March 19, 2012 by Dave Haynes

A few people have sent me notes recently asking if I was going to CETW and could we meet up?

Unfortunately, I’m not. And I think that’s the case for a lot of people in the pure-play (if there is such a thing) digital signage sector.

I like the show and think the JD Events people do a really nice job for the exhibitors and attendees. Lawrence Dvorchik, who runs the show, always talks about the quality of the people coming through the entrance, and how the crowd consists of people there to actually there to research and find vendors. He argues DSE – which he competes with for exhibitors and foot traffic – has a high percentage of industry people there to network with other industry people.

I’m not going for three key reasons:

1 – I just got back from DSE, and this one is next week. If you live out east, and you are destroyed by red-eye flights, committing to this is pretty much committing to a week away from the desk. I don’t understand why the shows are so close together, but assume there are sound reasons.

2 – It’s in San Francisco, which is a freaking awesome place but expensive to get to and expensive to stay in, particularly after staying in luxury in Vegas for way south of $100/night, coming off a cheap, direct flight there (and back). Two such trips in one month is a budget buster whether you work out of a spare bedroom (like me) or the offices of some SMB. Being in the Silicon Valley area might make a ton of sense long-term if the company is able to transition this event further and further away from digital signage and kiosks and something gels around the Customer Engagement Technology handle, or some other handle like it.

3 – I could walk that floor in maybe two hours. Eyeballing and then clicking my way through the exhibitor list reveals some interesting companies I might want to check out, but a lot of the show – owing to its kiosk roots – consists of guys selling bar code readers and  thermal printers, coin dispensers and payment solutions.  In a tight economy, only the big companies like NEC have the budgets to do show after show. Nanonation, Symon and NCR will pretty much have the digital signage software crowd to themselves, save for a startup called WiFi Displays. That could work out very well. Or not. We’ll know in a week.

Dvorchik has made some interesting partnerships this year, for this show, that have made the conference look pretty attractive and strong. The show partners now include Adweek, the Mobile Marketing Research Association (MMRA) and the Connected TV Marketing Association (CTVMA). Were reasons #1 and #2 not genuine, some of the sessions would alone be enough to get me to go.

Possibly because of those media and mobile ties, or not, some of the speakers and sessions look really interesting and different. Though there are the usual suspects who are never far from an available microphone, there are numerous people I’d actually want to hear who actually might not just pitch their pots and pans or say profound things they read in business books.

For example: Brian Solis, a “world-renowned author on new media” and Principal at Altimeter Group, is doing the keynote – Engage or Die, and Brandon Berger, the Chief Digital Officer, Worldwide, for Ogilvy & Mather is talking about the not so standard rules for engagement.

Also: Chris Erb, the VP Brand Marketing for EA SPORTS; Dave Knox, CMO of Rockfish Interactive; and Tricia Nichols, the Global Lead of Consumer Engagement, Media & Partnerships, Gap Inc. Nichols is, I assume, a cab ride away,which helps.

If you are thinking about going, it’s March 28-29 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. If you have the $$$, stay at the Drisco in Pacific Heights. Out of the way, but seriously great spot. I hope CETW gets a decent crowd of buyers that makes the investment and effort all pay off.

The show is and always has been different from the bigger, splashier DSE show. But my guess is the digital signage industry doesn’t quite see them as sufficiently different to make a this and that decision. For many, it seems to be a this or that. Somehow or other, for both shows to really thrive my view from the bleachers is they have to get even more different – and cutting ties with the Digital Screenmedia Association and getting closer to these other ones would be smart. The industry doesn’t need two shows perceived to be about and for digital signage anymore than it needs two associations.

Safe travels.

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