Ipex Not Dead Says Organizer

Andy McCourt
February 22, 2015
By Andy McCourt
IPEX organizers, Informa, react to last week's annoucement that drupa will begin a 3-year show cycle.
IPEX organizers, Informa, react to last week's annoucement that drupa will begin a 3-year show cycle.
“Ipex is not dead and Informa has every intention of running it again and is committed to working with the industry to ensure the next Ipex is both relevant and successful,” explains Peter Hall, Managing Director Informa Exhibitions.

Following the trade-show turmoil created by drupa’s announcement that it will switch to a three-year frequency cycle, Peter Hall, managing director of Ipex owner Informa Exhibitions has countered reports emanating from drupa’s global media conference that ‘Ipex is dead’ and is ‘unlikely to take place again.’

Informa Exhibitions, who purchased Ipex from owners Picon (formerly the British Federation of Printing Machinery Manufacturers), in 2006 having organized the two previous successful Ipex exhibitions, is part of Informa plc, a London stock exchange-listed company specializing in B2B knowledge, business intelligence and transfer using publications, conferences, events, training, websites and trade shows. Its financial year 2014 gross revenues were equivalent in Australian dollars to $2.24 billion. Within this, Informa’s stellar performing division was its Global Exhibitions division, which recorded a 25 percent increase in revenue under the leadership of Peter Hall.

A company of such substance and success, whose current share price is on a 45-degree upward trajectory, is unlikely to be fazed by one mediocre showing, which Ipex 2014 undoubtedly was. Rather, it is likely to apply all of its considerable resources to go back to the drawing board and come up with creative, innovative and new ways of delivering an event that the printing and graphic arts world wants and needs. Added to this is the recruitment of Patrick Martell, former CEO of one of the UK’s largest printers, the St Ives group, in a business intelligence role.

 Ipex 2014 suffered from several major exhibitor withdrawals including the employer of the then Ipex President, Canon. Still reeling from post-GFC effects, slashed budgets and industry consolidation, first Heidelberg, then HP followed by Canon, Kodak, Xerox and others pulled out of the show. Of the major digital suppliers, only Konica Minolta kept the faith and by all accounts had a very successful show. Companies such as Dainippon Screen, Fujifilm and EFI also stayed in and reported positive results.

Perhaps Ipex 2014 also suffered from the change principle. It was the first time in 34 years that the show had been held in London, having been domiciled at the National Exhibition Centre, near Birmingham since 1980. Even that move was initially described as ‘disastrous’ as the dominant paradigm was that all big shows had to be in London. However, Ipex at the NEC grew to cultivate a loyal constituency, endeared to the semi-rural surrounds where friendly pubs abound and Bed-and-Breakfast accommodation could be enjoyed cheaply in places like Stratford, Warwick, Leamington Spa and smaller villages of Warwickshire while more elaborate hotels were also plentiful in Birmingham, Coventry and Solihull.

Ipex is of course renowned for premiering digital printing to the world, with both Indigo and Xeikon choosing Ipex 1993 as their respective launching pads. While always more compact than drupa, it has consistently delivered an excellent programme of innovation, relevance and convenience, with English as the language for communication. Its traditional equilibrium, balanced at two-yearly intervals between drupas, has worked very well despite the 2014 hiccups. Until last year, visitors would always see drupa promoting at Ipex and Ipex promoting at drupa, by mutual consent.

Now it seems that genteel understandings between trade show organizers have been subjugated by ‘Cry havoc and let the dogs loose.’ Drupa’s position regarding its triennial move, is that there may be some ‘irritation’ amongst trade show organizers in other countries who have always respected the Düsseldorf cycle. I think it is more than irritation; it’s anger at not being consulted.

That drupa is an important and influential event on the printing and graphic arts calendar can not be disputed; it works superbly but it has ignored, or has just been blind to, the market stimuli that have allowed LabelExpo to become a global force in narrow-web packaging exhibitions, and FESPA to become a multi-edition and highly successful series of events for the burgeoning digital signage and display sector. Labels and wide format are the two highest growth rate sectors in the graphic arts.

Drupa 2016 is already sandwiched between LabelExpo Europe in September 2015 and LabelExpo Americas in September 2016. It is also girt by FESPA Digital in Amsterdam in March 2016, just two months before drupa. It is likely that these two market events will impact on labelling and wide format presence at drupa.

Back to Ipex; its smaller footprint and digital focus has always been an advantage. Because of the dearth of British print machinery manufacturing (Timson’s the last British press maker has just gone into receivership), the lobbying has tended to be more international. German and Swiss print manufacturing powerhouses such as Heidelberg, KBA, manroland, Kolbus, Goebel and Muller Martini have traditionally called the shots at drupa but the reality today is that Germany has almost no digital press manufacturing of its own origination and this vital growth sector is dominated by US, Japanese, Belgian, Israeli and even UK companies.

Since its inception, drupa has had Presidents that have been associated with Heidelberg, Goebel or KBA.

With a declining manufacturing base to support, this leaves drupa with the dominant function as a trade show organiser; much in the same way that Photokina has remained a popular photographic biennial event in Cologne despite once great brands such as Zeiss, Rollei, Leica, Voigtlander, Braun and Linhof having been steamrollered by the Japanese Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Panasonic and Sony.

This means that the task for Ipex is one of developing a compelling new format that, as Peter Hall says, ensures both relevance and success. It is quite apparent that the resolve at Informa is to do just this and sources indicate that the company is already working closely again with Picon.

This completely debunks the scuttlebutt that the show is dead and will not take place again. Informa is a major player in global exhibitions and growing fast. It has the resources to correct any aberrations that the 2014 event may have suffered from.

Andy McCourt is freelance consultant editor to Print21, the official journal of the Printing Industries Association of Australia.

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