Strategy Session: PMA@CES

Strategy Session: PMA@CES


The Photo Marketing Association’s recently announced move to integrate into the International CES in January 2012 might at first feel like a shock to the imaging system. After all, PMA has always been “our show.” It’s been a rite of passage each February to hop on the plane to Las Vegas and own our piece of the world for a few days.

But times change, often for the better, and in many ways the new PMA@CES alliance is more than just a colocation of two trade shows. It represents a sea change in the ways we’ll have to conduct our business in the future.

“If you look at the overall trend in both CE and digital photography, there’s a convergence of personal content with home entertainment systems,” said Ted Fox, executive director of the PMA. “With home media centers and wireless sharing, it’s going to be relatively seamless to go from the camera to the flat screen, and if you look down the road, that’s just going to be enhanced by improvements in smartphones, cameraphones and tablets.”

In other words, it’s not worth it to go out to Las Vegas anymore just to look at what’s new in camera-land. The ability to see the whole tableau of the interconnectivity and converging technologies in a host of industries will help retailers position themselves for the future.

Our businesses are changing, and the changing of the PMA venue just happens to coincide with our need to change with it. “Look, the dream of the industry has always been for consumers to always have a camera with them,” said Fox. “Well, now you have 5+ megapixel cameras in phones—that’s happening now. I think that combining PMA and CES allows manufacturers and retailers and the general public through the press to see and understand the full ramifications and possibilities that this convergence brings about.”

So PMA has entered into a multiyear deal with CEA (exact length not determined yet) to finally marry the photo world with the rest of the CE world (it seems like they’ve been dating forever). A few factors figured into this somewhat inevitable decision.

“I’ve been talking to PMA for the last seven years,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, which owns and operates the International CES. “Ted and I have always had a good relationship, and the International CES is obviously growing in the digital imaging category. I think it’s a service to both of our customers to have one event that serves their needs rather than two different events.”

Added Fox, “I think this is a very positive thing for the industry. We’re very excited about working together with CES; this is something that Gary and I have been talking about for a number of years. So we’re looking forward to combining the skill sets of PMA and CES to deliver a tremendous show and improved educational seminars for our attendees.”

For those familiar with the CES landscape, PMA@CES will be held in the Sands Exposition Center, which is a short bus ride to the main convention center. In some ways this is a good thing: PMA will have its own hall, and somewhat of a separation from the overwhelming nature of the CES show. But some may see it as being a sideshow. Rest assured, nothing could be further from the truth.

“The Sands is a facility that is increasingly more important to CES,” said Shapiro.  “We have a whole range of exhibitors in the Venetian and the Sands. I don’t know if we’ve announced it yet, but we’ll have the major keynotes back in the Venetian, so there will be plenty of traffic there. If you’re envisioning that PMA is going be there by itself, and no one will come, that’s not the case at all; this is just one of the many, many exciting events going on at the Venetian/Sands complex.”

Also, Shapiro said that access would be made easier to the Sands through CEA’s work with the city of Las Vegas on transportation venues. “We invest a tremendous amount in buses, and the trip back and forth will be very convenient,” he said.

Whether the major manufacturing companies will exhibit in the Sands remains to be seen, as that is up to the individual companies and their existing contracts. But PMA exhibitors will be treated as if nothing much has changed.

“Part of our arrangement with CES is that our members would receive the same offers and discounts that CEA members receive,” said Fox, “For example, differential pricing between members and nonmembers will be available to PMA members, which includes pricing for members/nonmembers for trade show space.”

I think the real advantage of this union is the opportunity for the imaging industry to once and for all embrace the world around them. Technology has changed, and pictures can now migrate throughout the home, or across the world, in a nanosecond. It’s time for our industry to break out of our own photo mold and become imaging consultants. We need to expand the product offerings in our stores so that we can teach our customers not only how to take pictures but also how to use the technology in their cameras and in our photo-ecosystem to expand their horizons.

Kudos to PMA and CEA for taking this bold step to make it happen.

So, any tips for the CES newbies out there?

“We offer many tools on our website so attendees can invest their time wisely,” said Shapiro. “They can actually look at the floor plan, see the companies that are there and request meetings; there are all sorts of applications, including mobile applications like CES Follow Me, that allow you to plan ahead of time.

“And then there are the basics: drink plenty of water, wear comfortable shoes, and plan ahead—book your travel and your hotel room soon,” Shapiro continued. “It’s a big show, so plan ahead, and figure out what you want to see and whom you want to meet. But always, always leave some time for serendipity—and to discover new items, or new categories, or even see into the future with the many prototypes of products that are on the horizon.”

“This is going to be an outstanding event that will mark the beginning of an exciting new chapter for PMA and its members,” added Fox.

I agree. Let’s embrace this move for what it should become—combining PMA and CES will allow manufacturers and retailers to see and understand the full ramifications and possibilities that the photo/CE alliance has to offer.

Time to book my flight!