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Trade show ads must appeal to savvy readers

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There's a certain sameness to the pages of an industry journal. For the readers, that's usually OK. They're getting the kind of information and imagery that appeals to their professional interests. The Chasers have long advocated that the type of job a reader has should dictate the selection of the illustrated material.

For example, design engineers like to look at drawings, construction engineers like to see products at work and trade show or corporate event managers like to see what a booth looks like, as well as related products. But when advertisers are all appealing to essentially the same set of interests with essentially the same set of images, there's the enormous risk that their ads will fail to break through the clutter. And when an ad fails to stop readers when they're scanning their trade journal, lots of money has been left on the table.

We turn our attention in this column to ads for companies in the trade show industry. These companies' audience of convention, marketing communications and marketing services managers is savvy about advertising.

That's why we suspect an ad for AVW-TELAV will be easily bypassed by the target readership. There's nothing breakthrough about it. In workmanlike fashion, the ad conveys the breadth of AV services the company can provide an exhibitor. But the art director made the mistake of making the ad's photos all the same size. The overall image merely washes past readers and may never stop them. The reverse copy looks uninviting. A discerning audience of marketing professionals will keep moving.

An ad for Tricel Honeycomb has a more focused look to it. It features a lively looking booth the company crafted for Gatorade. But the burnt orange backdrop of the ad is unfortunate because it provides little contrast with the yellow booth depicted in the photo. And, in what appears to be some type of production snafu, a smaller version of the company's Web site address is superimposed over a larger version of the address in the upper-right-hand corner of the ad. The flaws in this ad will encourage readers to keep scanning.

Smarter use of color works in favor of Nomadic Display. Set against a bold red background is a bespectacled woman locking eyes with the reader. Not only does the vibrant color draw readers into the page but so does the image of the woman's face. Readers are innately curious about their fellow humans. We took the bait and learned that Nomadic is offering a free interactive planning guide on a CD-ROM. Nomadic wisely emphasizes the word "free." Thumbnail images of its different booth designs stripped across the bottom of the page will further attract target readers.

Exhibitgroup/Giltspur gracefully breaks through the clutter with the engaging image of Kimbra A. Fracalossi, the company's president-CEO. The dramatic use of white space is especially effective in an environment where there's too little of it. A colorful ribbon of trade show images stretches across the page, reminding readers that they've come to the right place. The copy includes a quote from Fracalossi and a message commending the company's own team for winning an award at this year's Exhibitor trade show. The ad's tone is too self-congratulatory for our tastes, but its design had a ton of stopping power.

Another favorite of ours was done by Matrix Exhibits. The art director deftly illustrates the evolution of a booth from concept to execution. On the left side of the page is a blueprint. A colorful illustration of what the booth actually looks like appears on the right. The headline reads, "We EXhibit staying power ... ... from concept to reality." The image reinforced a key copy point: "It's the EX Factor ... our special fusion of analysis, creativity, strategy and experience that ensures your exhibit investment will perform." Aside from an overuse of ellipses, the ad does a nice job of showing and telling readers what Matrix can do for them.

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