Maria Arnone, VP-media development for Ascend Integrated Media, said that her company has helped some clients introduce their first mobile apps for shows. Ascend has also been called in after an event company already had a less-than-satisfying experience dealing directly with an app developer. “Many developers have great technology, but they don't have the content component in their wheelhouse to associate with an app the way we do,” she said.
For example, Ascend provided the mobile and digital marketing media for the 2011 Digital Signage Expo in Las Vegas last month. The show organizer had previously worked with another vendor for its mobile app. Ascend added an important content element to the app.
“In addition to doing much of the media associated with Digital Signage Expo, we have been doing an industrywide buyers guide that's online 365 days a year,” she said. Vendors can participate in the directory whether they exhibit at the event or not, but exhibitor information is pulled into the app directly from the directory database.
Ascend outsources its mobile application development, but because Ascend is also producing and updating the buyers guide, it was able to test and make sure the two components would sync up to provide real-time updates during the crucial time the expo was in session.
The application is designed to operate with Android as well as the iPhone and iPad. Users of other devices can access all the features via a mobile website.
The Digital Signage Expo was Ascend's first customer to opt exclusively for digital media during the show. Print show dailies were eliminated in favor of online/mobile editions, the buyers guide was on the Web, and the pre- and post-event content was distributed through e-mail and the mobile app. Expo organizers also instituted a text messaging program.
Arnone said show managers generally have been slow to adopt text messaging because they are not sure how attendees will feel about having those messages appearing on a device that is considered personal. To remedy that concern, attendees must opt in to the program. Ascend works with show organizers in advance to develop a schedule of messages that are spaced over the course of the event.