Exhibition stands: Retention remains key

Many exhibition stand specialists can lay claim to long-standing client relationships that have benefitted both parties. Claire Bond takes a look at four client-agency partnerships that have stood the test of time.

AGENCY: Checkland Kindleysides

CLIENT: Levi's

Leicestershire-based creative agency Checkland Kindleysides (CK) has worked with US fashion brand Levi's since 1983. Since then the CK team has helped develop all areas of consumer retail communication for Levi's, including its exhibition presence.

The Levi's brand was established in 1853, associated with the robust working clothes of miners and pioneers. Today the brand has been repositioned to represent the original jeans while also adding a modern twist. "Our message has changed while working with CK. During the mid-1980s through to the late-1990s our message was constant in delivering the 501 brand to a unisex market. Our message has now developed with the launch of new concepts such as Levi's Engineered Jeans and Levi's Red," says Sue Chidler Levi's European marketing director.

Several shows remain at the heart of the fashion retail calendar, including the Bread and Butter and Pitti Uomo tradeshows. "We often use the fashion tradeshows as a platform to announce new brands. We regularly review which shows to attend, thinking about the stories we will tell at each," adds Chidler.

The Bread and Butter show took place earlier this year in Berlin, with around 42,000 visitors attending across the exhibition's three days. CK was asked to provide a stand that would convey a key message relating to the brand's quality offering. "We try and convey the premium nature of the product. It's not just about promoting our premium lines, Levi's Red and Levi's Vintage, but also upgrading all of the brands and the way in which we present them," says John van Dorst, Levi's store design and planning manager.

Having worked together for over 20 years CK and Levi's have strengthened their relationship through shared experiences. "We work in partnership and we understand the brand development and direction which enables us to be pro-active," says CK's principal creative director Jeff Kindleysides.

CK has also worked with Levi's at Men and Boyswear (MAB), IMBEX and 40 deg.

"CK has grown up with us and we've learnt from our mistakes giving us a shared history. We feel Levi's is unique with regard to the length of tenure with our agencies," says Chidler.

AGENCY: Maxim Design and Display

CLIENT: Janssen-Cilag

Pharmaceutical specialist Janssen-Cilag has been part of the Johnson & Johnson empire since 1961. The company employs over 6,000 staff throughout Europe and develops and markets pharmaceutical products and services.

Richard Braddick, managing director of exhibition firm Maxim Design and Display, has worked with Janssen-Cilag for more than 12 years. His High Wycombe-based company provides a complete range of exhibition solutions, from desktop and banner stands through to full custom-build projects.

Janssen-Cilag markets a number of brands across the pharmaceutical industry but its most regular project is the annual stand at the British Society of Gastroenterologists (BSG) Conference which promotes, primarily, its Pariet product. "We've produced its BSG stand for the last eight years and have been appointed to build this year's stand at the ICC in Birmingham this month. Its annual exhibition presence is huge, taking in hundreds of events, including conferences," says Braddick.

Over the years Maxim has observed numerous changes within the company including a merger and internal personnel movement. Despite this Braddick maintains his team has built close ties with a number of employees. "As we've worked with them over the years our profile within their company has grown, bringing in more work and helping cement a strong and productive relationship," suggests Braddick. He cites experience and aptitude as the main reasons behind the lengthy collaboration. "Good client management boils down to understanding your clients' needs and maintaining an honest relationship at all times. Janssen-Cilag knows exactly how we work and the information we'll need to get results. As a result the time spent making design changes is dramatically reduced - increasing efficiency and cost-effectiveness across the board," he adds.

Peter Monk, medical relations manager at Janssen-Cilag agrees. "We need an agency that acts as an extension of our marketing department, understands our business needs and makes us look good. It boils down to adding value to our marketing requirements."

AGENCY: 2heads


Integrated communications agency 2heads has provided communications and marketing solutions for cable company NTL since 1991. NTL's exhibition portfolio spans the world and includes Broadcast Asia in Singapore, NAB in Las Vegas, IBC in Amsterdam and TMA in Brighton. With changing budgets and evolving marketing needs, the company has continued to alter its exhibition presence throughout this period.

2heads works primarily with the Business and Broadcast division of NTL which is split into four separate business units. Each of these call upon 2heads for event-specific requirements. By developing a deep understanding of the brand and its position within various markets 2heads feels it has grown beyond the role of exhibition suppliers. "As we know what NTL is looking to achieve, we also advise on what sort of budgets are appropriate for different shows. We are always looking for different ways to help them grow their business as this in turn will grow our own," says Tony Dykes, 2heads' senior account manager.

During the 14-year relationship 2heads has seen major changes in terms of NTL's brand and positioning. The brand style has, inevitably, evolved during this period in terms of both colours and imagery. The NTL brand has also softened its approach, offering a more consultative message; 2heads suggests that NTL's offering has moved to total service rather than just sales.

The ethos 2heads employs for its client is to understand NTL's brand objectives, and then create an environment that can position the client at the forefront of its market and deliver all of this on time, on budget and with a high level of ROI.

Incorporating all these factors has meant the relationship forged between 2heads and NTL has developed into a finely tuned partnership. "2heads always starts by understanding what our marketing objectives are and this is a great starting point. Not only do they understand the type of exhibitions we go to but they also understand what our clients are looking for," says Barry Lycett, head of marketing and PR, NTL Broadcast.

NTL has forecast an impressive out-put borne of the relationship. "Through the work that we and 2heads did to get key customers and prospects to the stand at IBC 2003 we've evaluated that potential business is something in the order of £5m per year over the next ten years," confirms Lycett.

AGENCY: Rapiergroup

CLIENT: Renault UK

Rapiergroup has worked with Renault UK for 13 years, designing and co-ordinating its exhibition presence within the UK. An essential component of Renault UK's brief is to maintain a consistency in brand identity that runs across the company's global programme. At the same time there is a need to incorporate specific design treatments that appeal to the individual domestic markets. "It is our long-term relationship with Renault that means we not only understand every element of the brand, but we also know what our clients' objectives are and the aspirations of the company," says Rob Brazier project manager at Rapiergroup.

The team's flagship event is the biennial Motor Show, most recently held at the NEC in 2004. The Renault stand measures over 2,000sq m, making it the largest exhibition for the car manufacturer in the UK. The event marks the beginning of a two-year cycle in Renault's exhibition programme with the stand, which is designed in such a way that all subsequent events can re-use the components and replicate the style and approach. "Every aspect is managed through the Rapiergroup, even the 61m-long graphic wall which was designed in house. It is this true in-house capability that continues to see Rapiergroup and Renault's relationship grow even closer," adds Brazier.

Renault's UK event marketing activity has included Motorexpo in London, BBC Proms in the Park and the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Rapiergroup maintains that it is its ongoing relationship with Renault that allows it to fully understand the client's objectives and enhance stand designs across this portfolio. "This ensures Renault's presence is specifically targeting its audience. We carry this thinking across from consumer to trade shows such as the Commercial Vehicle Show," says Brazier.

It seems understanding the client's perspective allows the exhibition company to provide insightful marketing projects. "Rapier has grown with us, learnt with us and developed with us so they understand our market, our customers and they actually understand the expectations of the customers when they walk onto the stand. A good working, personal relationship with the account team and the members of the company is invaluable for the understanding all round," says Mark Waller, brand communications manager of Renault UK.

And the secret to the success of this on-going relationship? Brazier suggests honesty. "We can be completely honest with each other. If something is not right we get straight to the point and the issue is resolved immediately," he adds.

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