In conversation: WRG’s Mark Jackson Expert Opinion

The World Exhibition Stand Awards are a new set of awards designed to celebrate the very best in exhibition stand design and experience – whatever the show, wherever in the world, and whoever the client.

The awards will be taking place in The International Pavilion at International Confex, on 28 February. Read more about the WESAs here.

Ahead of the awards, EW spoke to Mark Jackson, Head of Environments at WRG, a division of The Creative Engagement Group.

 

What are the big trends in exhibition stand design? 

Experiential activations, carefully integrated into well thought-out delegate journeys, quite rightly play a central role in exhibition stand design right now.  Pretty architecture is still important, but it’s a given.

 

How international is the exhibition industry becoming?

Very. Our clients are increasingly looking for agencies that can deliver global programmes and offer brand consistency and cost savings across the globe.

 

What is driving this internationalisation?

Lower travel costs, a more global mindset and a recognition that even the smallest of businesses needs to think globally in order to be a success are all contributing factors driving that change.

 

What has been the best innovation of the past 5 years? 

I’m not sure if you would class this as an innovation per se, but the increasing quality and reduction in cost of LED has undoubtedly transformed our industry over the past five years. Combining these large format screens with innovative ways of interacting with them is enabling us to endlessly create innovative ways to powerfully deliver messages.

 

What are clients currently asking for in stand and experience design? 

ROI.  This conundrum has been hanging around for years and up until recently has been the Achilles heel of exhibitions.  Data protection and the fact that nobody wants to stand there and answer a 10-minute survey has made this a very difficult issue to resolve.

More recently, technology developed for the retail industry is on the verge of solving this issue.  A combination of camera-based heat mapping, overlaid with usage statistics on interactives, united with old school qualitative feedback is giving a much better insight into how effective stands are performing.

 

How are exhibitions and stand design staying relevant in a digital world?

I remember somebody telling me that the PC was going to make paper a thing of the past. As I’m sat here now, I look around our office and it’s clearly still an essential. In a similar vein I was once told that with the rise of digital platforms, exhibitions would be a thing of the past.

In reality, individuals are getting bombarded with screen-based content. It’s becoming a white noise scenario in which brands are struggling to differentiate themselves.  Brands are waking up to the fact that the best way they can communicate a message is to provide an immersive, hands-on experience. Exhibitions are the perfect vehicle for that.

 

What do you expect the next 5 years will hold for exhibition stand design?

Innovations in manufacturing techniques are going to provide us with some huge opportunities to innovate. Large-scale 3D printing is clearly one of the most exciting areas for us.  The prospect of being able to print 3D forms which would have been previously unimaginable is really exciting. It’s feasible to imagine a future where we are 3D printing entire stands on site.

 

If you could change one thing about the world of exhibitions, what would it be?

The cost of exhibiting in the US. In comparison to every other region, the cost of exhibiting in the US stands out. I won’t get into the politics around how and why these costs are incurred, but the outcome of this is that these high costs greatly inhibit the ability of brands to effectively market themselves on the exhibition hall floor, and it deters talent from getting involved in the industry.

Stuart Wood


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