HOW "BIGGEST" COMDEX SHRANK

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Comdex/Fall is the biggest show on earth. Or at least the biggest U.S. trade show. How big? "More than 220,000 resellers and corporate decision-makers [and] 2,400 exhibitors" in the "largest crowd ever," said a press release issued by show owner Ziff-Davis as the Las Vegas computer show wrapped up last November. But ZD tells a different story in SEC documents filed for stock offerings. "In 1998, Comdex/Fall had approximately 1,500 exhibiting companies occupying 1.2 million net square feet of exhibit space and 200,000 attendees," according to filings, with show space dropping 11.9%, exhibitors falling 14.3% and attendance unchanged from 1997. Comdex/Fall revenues fell 11.6% last year to $86.4 million. Even with the decline, Comdex managed to reel in more than $2 million an hour for every hour the exhibit floor was open. What about the numbers discrepancy? ZD Events' Sue Lonergan says the press release was based on preliminary data. Lonergan says the show rented space (at $49.95 a square foot) to 1,522 exhibitors, but some, such as a Canadian-sponsored pavilion, turned over space to other vendors -- creating a total of nearly 2,400 exhibitors. Lonergan says she anticipates this fall's show will break records in attendance and square footage. "Overall, what you're going to see is a growth in the show," she says. Perhaps ZD shareholders, some of whom have sued over alleged misstatements made in last spring's IPO filings, will find good news ahead in the halls of Comdex.

Donny sells the Brits short

The Donny packed the hall at the Western States Advertising Agencies Assoc.'s Leader of the Year dinner in Beverly Hills with 500 attendees. That's about 50 more than the draw for last year's award winner, TBWA/Chiat/Day's Lee Clow. Deutsch, whose NY shop has built a booming LA branch, thanked the crowd for offering a more civilized, "caring" ad community than that in NY. Is Ad Age's Agency of the Year ready to sell? Selling is for those who are tired of the business, says Deutsch. He isn't tired, nor, he says, does he "want to answer to a short Brit."

Brainiacs and brain dead in NYC

A team from Ad Store and AAR/Bob Wolf Partners tied with a troupe from Bozell for first place at The Brain Game, the Ad Club of NY's trivia competition (AA, March 1). Ad Store/AAR had it nailed -- until Bozell appealed an answer to the emcee and gained back a needed point to tie. Last place among 20 tables went to a brain-dead team from TBWA/Chiat/Day. The T/C/D team, made up mainly of sexily dressed young women who seemed to have more in common with the Spice Girls than Mensa, celebrated their defeat. "They were proud of it," says one observer, "running around at the end of the night in a drunken oblivion saying, 'We're about creative, who cares about brains?' "

Rebates . . . oral hijinks & hygiene

Might George Murphy, Ford division's new gen'l mktg. mgr., take a closer look at how Ford does rebates and incentives? "What astounded me is the lack of analytics looking at this," says the ex-GE lightbulb man. "It's not as sophisticated as I thought." . . . One of ABC's advertisers on Barbara Walters tell-all on oral sex in the Oval Office: Oral B.

Got an Adage? Tell Brad by phone, (323) 651-3710, ext. 111; fax, (323) 655-8157;

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