Lessons From The Hollywood Trade Shows

It’s trade show season in Hollywood, which is to say that a lot of egos are being pumped and deflated, libations are freely flowing, and awards are being handed out like salted peanuts — all in the interests of acting the part more than bumping sales, although that can happen, too — say, if the flick happens to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. 

“You can't escape it,” said Kevin Spacey while doing his Johnny Carson schtick at the Producer's Guild Awards at the Beverly Hilton on Sunday. "Every night there's an award show. Every afternoon there's an award show. Tomorrow morning there's going to be an award show at Art's Deli,” he joked and Marshall Heyman reports in the Wall Street Journal. Spacey went on to suggest ending “all this awards hell” by scheduling “one really long award show over an entire weekend.”



But that would be hell on the Los Angeles economy, for one thing, not to mention marketers of red carpets, wherever they hail from, and a legion of not-always-gentlemanly entertainment industry writers, editors, gossip columnists and advertisers, as the Hollywood Reporter’s coverage and aggregation of the events more than amply demonstrates. 

“Hundreds of millions of dollars are funneled into hotels, restaurants and limousine companies as Los Angeles hosts the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the Academy Awards and related events,” writes Hugo Martin in the Los Angeles Times this morning. Occupancy rates are as much as 10% greater than in other top destinations in the U.S. with revenue per room up to $16 higher, Martin reports. 

“It's lots of people, doing lots of stuff, including visiting Disneyland and Universal Studios,” Harvey Weinstein, managing director of the research firm Micronomics, tells Martin. “We all benefit.”

The Academy Awards show “has an annual economic effect of $67 million, including $2 million in limousine rentals, at least $2 million in wardrobe spending for female attendees and $6 million for major Oscar parties, according to a Micronomics study released this month,” Martin reports. 

The halo effect impacts folks in the heartland who, while watching all the earnest, instructive and heartfelt programming and speeches at these shows, can’t help but notice “televised pictures of Southern California's blue skies and palm trees shot from a blimp” and saying, “Let's plan a week or two in Los Angeles,” Weinstein maintains. 

Producers of the top-tier movies of the year get to trot out clips, of course, although they have limited value after, say, the first showing.

“Why do we — and we refers to the Royal Hollywood We — have to keep seeing these clips and be reminded over and over again what all these movies are about?” asks the WSJ’s Heyman. “If you haven't heard of ‘Gravity,’ you would have changed the channel a long time ago.”

That is presumably opposed to actors and actresses showing off their usually stunning — but sometimes hideous — raiments and enhanced body parts in an effort to make a future sale for themselves. 

But eye candy is not all that effective at closing the deal at “normal” trade shows, as Spencer Chen, who has led market development for a bunch of enterprises, writes in Tech Crunch. He was able to validate his belief that “‘marketing events consultants’ (Pro tip: It’s frowned upon when you actually put ‘booth babes’ as a line item in your budget)” don’t convert would-be customers as effectively as grandmotherly types with sales skills.

A few years ago, Chen did a split test at a trade show where the organizer offered his organization additional booth space at a different location on the floor. 

“So for one booth I flew in professional booth babe talent, and for the other booth I had asked another local agency for a couple of show contractors that knew the local area and had established people skills. I actually had to stress a couple of times that I was not looking for contractors whose only attribute was “smokin’,” he writes.

The results: ”The booth that was staffed with the booth babes generated a third of the foot traffic (as measured by conversations or demos with our reps) and less than half the leads (as measured by a badge swipe or a completed contact form) while the other team — staffed by two grandmotherly types — had a consistently packed booth that ultimately generated over 550 leads, over triple from the previous year.” 

Chen says the results were replicated — and even proved better — in subsequent tests, and he offers several reasons why. They may be worth reading if you’re selling anything other than pure sizzle.

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