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Comdex launches major brand effort

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Key3Media Group Inc., Los Angeles, this month will launch its first major branding campaign for Comdex: The Global Technology Marketplace. The campaign, developed by ad agency Gardner Geary Coll Inc., San Francisco, is designed to build awareness of Comdex as the leading information technology trade show and appeal directly to the needs of technology buyers.

While Key3Media has made heavy use of print and other advertising in the past to promote specific Comdex shows, this is the first global branding effort for Comdex. The budget was not disclosed, but Mike Millikin, senior VP of Comdex Worldwide, said it is a multimillion-dollar effort. The total spend is less than $10 million, he said.

"We haven’t been doing a good job articulating the brand value of Comdex," Millikin said.

Beyond positioning the show as a leading technology event, the campaign is designed to allay concerns about the long-term viability of Comdex. At last year’s fall show, there was speculation among attendees about whether Comdex would be able to survive, given the technology slump.

"The whole purpose of the ad campaign is to take the message out that the event is healthy and alive," said Jane Welch, a Key3Media spokeswoman. She pointed to support by Microsoft Corp., Computer Associates International Inc. and more than 150 exhibitors that have signed up for Fall Comdex, which will be Nov. 15-20 in Las Vegas.

There has been confusion between Comdex and the Consumer Electronics Show, Millikin said. CES is more consumer-focused and features a wide array of technology, from automotive products to personal audio systems. Comdex is a b-to-b show aimed at corporate buyers of information technology products.

Research from the Comdex 2001 show found the event resulted in approximately $5 billion in sales.

"They really needed to do this," Harriet Donnelly, president of Technovative Marketing Inc., a Peapack, N.J., technology consulting firm, said of the branding campaign. "They were trying to be everything to everybody. Now, they are changing the show so it interests people with specific needs. They need to get out there and tell people."

"For Comdex 2003, we’re taking a new approach [to the show]," Millikin said. "Everything we are doing addresses the purchasing and educational needs of the buying audience."

Comdex 2003 will feature seven new tracks on specific technologies: Data centers, open source, security, Windows.Net, wireless, Web services and the digital enterprise. Conference sessions and educational seminars will address the technology buying needs for each sector, and an "interoperability" area on the show floor will be available to demonstrate various technologies.

Extensive media placement

The ad campaign includes broadcast, print, online and outdoor. Television ads break in early May on cable TV channels including CNN Headline News, CNBC, Fox News and Bloomberg. Print ads will run in newspapers and business publications including The Wall Street Journal, Economic Daily News and The Economist Europe.

One print ad shows a busy executive hurrying down a corridor; the headline reads: "Take Command, Take Control and Take Charge." The copy reads: "In the past 23 years, the most important product debuts in the tech industry have been made by exhibitors at Comdex."

The campaign includes outdoor ads in Las Vegas and Silicon Valley.

Comdex is expected to attract approximately 125,000 attendees, about the same as last year. Millikin said it’s too soon to tell if the war in Iraq will have an impact on the conference, although other Key3Media events have been affected.

For example, Key3Media had to postpone its Comdex Saudi Arabia show, which was scheduled to take place in April in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

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