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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

PRINT '80...THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH?

Any person who has attended DRUPA the big daddy of international printing industry exhibits, realizes the headlined question is rhetorical. Having not yet made the trip to German,  PRINT '80  was the  next best thing. Anticipation was building for the first international exhibit since 1976's DRUPA. Held in Dusseldorf, it boasted 12 huge halls (later expanded to 15) and attracted attendance topping 400,000 visitors over its two week run. There were two other worldwide exhibits, IPEX in Birmingham, England and TPG in Paris,France but they were smaller exhibits. Anticipation was building for the highly promoted PRINT '80, which was projected to draw approximately 90,000 attendees from around the world. Hotels rooms were at a premium for the seven day show  to be held at McCormick Place in Chicago The facility was divided into two areas, the North Hall which housed  heavy equipment shown, including printing presses, and the South Hall in which prepress, supplies and services were exhibited. (McCormick Place has a planned  expansion scheduled to begin sometime  in 2013.)

In March the marketing manager from Imperial Equipment in Los Angeles, called on behalf of Mr. I. Komori, who headed the printing press vendor that bore his name. He wanted me to address about 300 Japanese printers being brought to PRINT '80 as part of a junket. I had never met Komori, and I was rather surprised he even knew who I was. I was told  to write a 20 minute speech, and send it to Japan for translation, and I did. Prior to the exhibit's opening we had a staff meeting. There were 12 of us covering the event. The three editors included  Bert Chapman, Roger Ynostroza and Jeff Deaver. We brought all eight sales people and I made an even dozen. We worked with the editors so that the  scores of press conferences, most held within the first four days, would be adequately covered. I advised the sales people that they were to make dinner dates with advertisers. We kept a list in the hotel of which accounts would be eating at which restaurant. The evenings were hectic as I had appetizers with one account, entrees with a second, and desserts with the third.

On opening day, I arrived at our booth and felt a wash of disappointment. The set up was handled by our company's marketing department, but no where on the back drop was there any mention of our more than 100,000 circulation, or of our outstanding editorial coverage of the industry. I made a mental note to remedy that situation when I got back to New York. Somehow, Mr. Komori found me at the booth. He bowed, and I bowed as we introduced each to the other. His English wasn't bad,  and I asked how he knew who I was. It was another small world story. In 1959 another Japanese company, manufacturing beauty salon furniture had opened shop in Brooklyn. The firm, Takara, was named after the founder's oldest son, Takara Yoshikawa. Tak, and I became close friends. I was also his confidant and assisted him  in hiring reps, distributors and even his ad agency. Takara became one our biggest advertisers in that niche. He returned to Japan to run the company when his father died, but we kept in touch. He knew I had moved to the  printing industry, and was friendly with Komori., who had a photo of Tak and me at a beauty trade show.

I was scheduled to speak to the Japanese group at 2 p.m., and arrived at the small hotel on Michigan Avenue. It was an unusually warm day for April. I found a large sign with my picture (Tak was cropped out)
in the lobby with a posse of printers standing around looking very confused. The poster read 28th floor, but the elevator only went to 27. Like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, I waved them onto the elevator, went to 27, and walked up a spiral staircase to the 28th floor. "Arigato gozmaisu" flooded my ears. "Thanks", for the readers who know no Japanese. The room was extremely hot. From the podium I could see water and glasses in the rear, but not a drop to drink where I was. For a moment, I thought it was a mirage. Within the first ten minutes of my talk, I noticed many eyes in the audience closing and a few seconds later, everyone in the room, suffering from jet lag, dozed off. Only Mr. Komori, intent on my every word, and a woman taking notes were still awake. You may not know this, but silence always wakes up those dosing. When I ended my talk, there was silence. Yet all 300 people rose as one and applauded. Frightened by the unexpected activity, I imagined it was Pearl Harbor all over again. Mr. Komori thanked me and invited me to join the junket for dinner. To tell the truth, I couldn't wait to get out of there and into the fresh air. I declined.

Without any question, the largest benefit from PRINT'80 was the opportunity to meet so many industry bigwigs and form many friendships in the international printing community. (See Fridays' blog for more about PRINT '80 and it's long lasting footprint on the graphic arts industry.)