Having drupa Every Three Years Is a Bad Idea

Jim Hamilton
Oct 16, 2012

A recent PrintWeek article reveals that Messe Dusseldorf, the organizers of the drupa trade show, are proposing a change in the frequency of the show from once every four years to once every three years. This is a bad idea. Perhaps to offset the proposed more frequent occurrence of drupa, Messe Dusseldorf is also recommending that the length of the show be reduced from fourteen to eleven days. This is a good idea.

Exhibitors have been asking for a shorter show, not a more frequent one. The most obvious benefit of going to a three-year cycle is not for exhibitors, but for the drupa organizers. Over a 12-year period the math works out like this: four 11-day drupas on a three-year cycle equals 44 days. Three 14-day drupas works out to 42 days. In the end there are more days on the show floor with the new proposal.

drupa 2016? Or maybe 2015...

The other benefit for the organizers is that a three-year cycle puts additional pressure on other shows such as IPEX, which are struggling to keep marquee exhibitors (Agfa, Heidelberg, and HP have already bowed out of IPEX 2014). The bad side (for exhibitors) of a three-year cycle is the level of preparation required. I can already hear the groans of trade show coordinators around the world. The dissatisfaction also extends to the research & development departments who already struggle to come up with next-generation products and technology demonstrations on a four-year cycle. I also think that a three-year cycle devalues drupa’s brand. drupa has a special feel, in part because of its scope, scale, and reputation, but also because it only happens once every four years.

The bigger question to consider, and one that is out of the scope of Messe Dusseldorf’s current proposal, is whether the center of interest for large graphic arts trade shows is moving out of North America and Western Europe entirely. Declining attendance at drupa 2012 is one indication of that. The growing influence of shows in Asia Pacific is another important bellwether.

The move to a shorter drupa makes sense and will appeal to exhibitors who have to staff the show for long periods at significant expense. It will also appeal to workers spending the entire show on the stand. But the move to a three-year cycle is only to the advantage of Messe Dusseldorf and should be seen as self-preservation rather than innovation. Whether Messe Dusseldorf’s proposal is accepted won’t be known until mid-November once the 22-member board has had a chance to assess the proposal’s merits following a November 2nd meeting. Let’s hope the board considers the needs of exhibitors in their decision.

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