Let’s Talk About IPEX 2017



Pat McGrew

We know it wasn’t the 11-hall extravaganza of shiny hardware we have seen in the Birmingham National Exhibition Center in the past. It wasn’t even the show we saw mounted at the ExCel center in London. The return of the IPEX brand to the print industry trade show market was half of hall 5 at the Birmingham NEC. And that is OK. It’s a new start on a rebuilding campaign for one of the oldest Print trade shows, so why not give it a fair shake?

Let’s start with what it was. IPEX was four days of exhibition that included on-floor education in three theatres curated by top people. The DSCOOP theatre had some brilliant presentations that walked printers through the Art of Possibilities. Curious about label printing or how to build your product offerings? The DSCOOP team had a presentation with an amazing array of samples there for you to look at, touch, and feel. And they could tell you how they were made. The Future Skills theatre brought key educational topics. It could have been a conference on its own and attracted a respectable audience.

And there was the Centre Stage Print in Action theatre curated by James Matthews-Paul, Karis Copp and the Rogue Agency team, who attracted key note speakers like Francois Martin (ex-HP) and Deborah Corn (Print Media Centr), along with more than 30 other presenters as diverse as Martyn C James, a PR expert with expertise in the economics of business, and Marko Waschke, lecturer in Costume and Performance at the London School of Fashion. Full disclosure, I was part of the program offering workflow insight each day on topics ranging from Internet of Things and Market Trends for our industry, as well as new ways to integrate newspapers into marketing plans. In each case our theatre was at least 3/4 full and the questions after were always interesting and enlightening. I learned as much as I taught!

So let’s talk about the elephant in the room, the exhibit area. Yes, it was only part of hall 5 and yes there was a refreshment island in the middle. Yes, if you were part of the 30% of attendees who came from a far you might have been surprised, but I am not sure. Who would get on a plane or train to Birmingham without checking out the website? The website clearly identified the exhibitors and the stand plan was clearly evident. This is how I discovered that Ricoh had decided to join the program, even bringing hardware and some great print examples of their garment printing as well as books and marketing work with that great new neon pink! The website was how I knew to go find Beanstalk/ GG Web and Thartern to ask workflow questions, and how I knew I would have a chance to talk to a variety of finishing equipment manufacturers. And, printers! Earth Island Publishing brought their A Team to talk about their array of publications, and their services. Talking Print brought some thought provoking examples that combined video screens and print.

As we often say when we attend a smaller show, vendors told us they had quality conversations and felt they had the return on their investment they needed. With that out of the way, was IPEX worth attending? I think that any printer would have walked away with ideas for ways to grow their business. Was it worth the price of a ticket from Lagos or Delhi or Jakarta? It’s hard to say. It depends on what you saw and how you take it back to your home base.

What does IPEX have to do to move forward? Take a stand, carve a niche, give printers a reason to come back. IPEX is taking the harder road by announcing a 2019 show. The year before drupa is notoriously constrained for vendor marketing budgets. It will be hard to attract those who are already looking at the drupa spending for 2020. But that doesn’t make it impossible. Market early. Find the reason for printers to come, and that could be the path to filling hall 5 with vendors of all types who support the print industry. Build the story that lets printers know you will be the place to learn about new opportunities in direct-to-garment printing, soft signage printing, and wide format as well as traditional commercial and transactional print options. Regardless of the direction, the IPEX team will have to begin now to create the reason to believe that IPEX is here to stay.