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  • Industry Comment: PacPrint shows the way… again – Garry Muratore

    In an age when there is more information at our fingertips than we could possibly need, the role of the industry trade show has come under heavy scrutiny. Is there still a place for these showcase events? Industry veteran of numerous past expos, Garry Muratore (pictured) says that when it comes to PacPrint, the event can still deliver.

    It’s no secret I entered this industry as a wide-eyed boy in the mid-70s. The shop I was indentured to was run by two ex-servicemen who employed sales guys who were also ex-army selling repro services to printers who, in turn, were ex-army mates. It was, in many ways, the end of an era. Watching Mad Men recently with my wife, I remarked how much the office where I started my career looked like Sterling Cooper with secretaries hammering out quotes on IBM Selectrics, glass ashtrays on every desk and sales guys with the main tool of trade, a bottle of Johnny Walker.

    In the production department where I resided we had a huge folder full of technical brochures. This was our ‘internet’ although, at the time, we did not know it. Suppliers’ sales staff were allowed to visit us in the afternoons and drop off the latest catalogue (and the occasional bottle of JW). The catalogues would find their way into the folder and become essential reading when work slowed.

    There was no PowerPoint, nor videos, although I do recall a very young Ian Bain giving a presentation on daylight film using an overhead projector to a room full of chain-smoking combiners (Sydney readers: strippers). Good technical information was like gold dust, very valuable and hard to come by.

    One day our boss, Arthur, stuck his head into the darkroom and announced, “See you in three weeks, I’m off to drupa Germany.” This would have been in 1978. I had no idea what he was talking about and assumed drupa was some sort of Bavarian village that he once viewed from the cockpit of a Lancaster. “Why are you going there?” we asked. “So I can find a machine where artwork goes in one end and a plate comes out the other, that way I won’t need you bastards anymore,” he replied. (Arthur did not know it but he had just invented computer-to-plate 17 years prior to Creo.)

    A month later Arthur was back with beer steins and three inches of brochures destined for the folder. It appeared that to get such technical gold dust, one had to have a passport and a love of international travel.

    Along comes PacPrint

    A year or so after that I got to go to my first PacPrint at the old exhibition buildings. My company made an outing of it, knocking off early with a dinner planned at a Carlton pub. “It’s everything drupa had here in Melbourne,” the boss claimed. It would be another decade before I could really evaluate the drupa/PacPrint comparison, but at the time I had to assume drupa had indeed come to Melbourne. We got to walk around the show floor half full of beer, we got to meet friends, competitors and suppliers, and, of course, most importantly, we got to collect more brochures for the famous technical folder.

    In the 80s I moved from production to the supplier’s side of the fence and, for the next 25 years, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend three Ipex shows, three Imprintas, a couple of Seybolds, several Print Chicago shows, numerous regional print shows across Asia and six drupas. My tradeshow evaluation skills became finely calibrated. PacPrint, in my opinion, was a show that over the years managed to punch above its weight.

    When drupa gave the world PostScript in 1990, it was mainstream technology two years later in Melbourne. Ipex 93 gave the world digital print with Indigo and Xeikon and those technologies also found their way down under soon after. PacPrint had become the show where the technology was proven and viable.

    PacPrint has still got it

    With the news filtering out of the UK that many vendors are not planning to be at the next Ipex, and with drupa 2012’s numbers down for the first time ever, many expected this year’s PacPrint to follow suit. However, my opinion is that this PacPrint maintained its relevance.

    Whilst the numbers may have been down, those who came had purpose. Most of the suppliers I spoke to had similar thoughts; numbers down but quality up. Gone are the brochure collectors as that function is now covered by the internet. Instead we had people wanting to talk, question and network.

    Globally, not all tradeshows are in trouble. Sure there will be consolidation, just as Imprinta disappeared in the mid-90s. Other shows continue because they remain relevant. Relevance is PacPrint’s strength, and co-locating with Visual Impact strengthened that relevance. The technologies from drupa and Fespa were right on our doorstep here in Melbourne.

    It also remains a great show to look at the big companies, such as HP, Xerox, FujiFilm, Canon, Konica Minolta, Agfa, Kodak, Epson etc. They all had stands that were local representations of what they showed at drupa, reinforcing their brand. As to the question, “Will PacPrint still maintain its relevance in another four years?” I am sure it will.

    Garry Muratore has spent his entire life in prepress (aka making printers look good) and related technologies. He can remember what a dot-etcher was and is a partisan of the digital revolution. He has worked with multi-nationals, regional and local organisations. These days he is the GMG product manager at Kayell Australia, a leading supplier of colour management technologies. <garry@kayell.com.au>.