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Counselor Senior Editor Michele Bell's slanted view of the world.

Six Reasons Why I Love the Industry (& Three Reasons I Don’t)

Filed under: ASI Shows, Asia, Editorial, Fun, Personal, PSI Shows

Hi Everyone!

Hope you’re all doing well and enjoying the summer so far!

I’ve been reading about how McDonald’s yanked the Shrek glasses (thanks to the sharp, stinging crack of the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s whip) because of the minute amounts of cadmium, and found myself getting increasingly aggravated and ranty (never a good combination). Granted, I’ve always had what can be charitably described as “authority issues,” but doesn’t the CPSC  have anything better to do with its time than bring the hammer of the Gods down on McDonald’s? The amount of cadmium in the glasses was negligible — certainly less than in the glasses we all drank from as children. How, for the love of God, did we all survive (she asks sarcastically)? Really, have the CPSC, FDA, etc. ever taken a good, hard look at Circus Peanuts and maraschino cherries? Forget about cadmium: If anything’s going to be the demise of our species, I turn a suspicious, gimlet eye in their direction. No faux food like Circus Peanuts — with the consistency of a Serta memory foam mattress — or maraschino cherries, steeped in jars of radioactive-red sticky goo, can be good for you. 


So, I’d like to give a shout-out to the industry and show it some love, as I’m tired of it getting bitch-slapped by the CPSC, the FDA, PhRMA and all the other alphabet bullies. Forthwith, the top six things I love about this industry.

1. Suppliers. I’m probably a little biased because I’m the editor of ASI’s magazine, Supplier Global Resource (www.supplierglobalresource.com), which is just for them. But knowing as many suppliers as I do, I’m acutely aware of the burdens and responsibilities that rest on their shoulders. From having to be safety experts, marketing geniuses, DaVinci-esque product inventors and financial lenders to their clients, the success of this industry — in my opinion — begins with suppliers. If I could get them all together in one room and buy them drinks, I’d happily do it. In lieu of that, I’m inviting them to a free luncheon and panel discussion I’m moderating at the ASI Chicago Show on Tuesday, 7/13 (set-up day), from noon-1:30 p.m. On my panel will be four suppliers — MediaTree’s Rob Watson, iClick’s Niko Pamboukas, Custom HBC’s Larry Wilhelm and Build NY Inc.’s David Frank — all of whom had at least double-digit growth in the past two years. Suppliers, come join us, take a break from setting up and listen to your colleagues share their secrets for success. Additionally, there’s a complimentary happy hour just for suppliers at the ASI Chicago Show on Wednesday, July 14, from 5 p.m.-6 p.m. after the show closes in the Exhibitors’ Lounge. I’ll be there, so come have a cocktail with me! ; )

2. Distributors. Much as the suppliers are my beloved ones, many of my closest friends in the industry are distributors, and I stand in awe of their jaw-dropping creativity. Want to know the way to this girl’s heart? Send me a sample of a well-done, clever, funny, effective self-promo piece and I’m in. For those of you who may be attending ASI’s Chicago Show, I’m moderating a panel discussion on Tuesday, 7/13, from 4 p.m.-5 p.m. on the most effective ways to do self-promotion campaigns. And while the sum total of what I don’t know could stop a herd of buffalo in its tracks, what I do know is that people who do self-promotion campaigns make more sales. Period.  

3. Trade shows. Yes, yes — I know the sheer number of them are the bane of some people’s existence. However — even after 13 years in the industry — I still get excited exiting the plane at certain show destinations and giggly with anticipation over seeing all my industry BFFs and meeting new ones. There are many shows I love (and one I don’t… see below), but if you’ve ever been to the SAAC Show in Long Beach and engaged in “Pool Day” (set-up day) at the Hyatt with Awesome Havier the Waiter serving Greyhounds (Grey Goose and grapefruit juice) to the industry’s best characters, social butterflies, rock stars and raconteurs, you know what it is to love being with your peeps at a show.

“Pool Day” at the Hyatt in Long Beach during the SAAC Show. Anyone who’s anyone (and craves a chilled cocktail) is there!

4. The products. Oh, let me count the times I’ve been WOWED by a product so clever/creative/funny, it slays me. If you love Sexy water, pens that smell like cupcakes (thanks Harris & Karen at All in One!), light-up bunny ears and leopard-print slankets, this is the industry for you. Joe Haley, star of ASI’s The Joe Show, and I still love discovering the next Coolest Product Ever. Admittedly, we’re dorks, but we get why this industry’s product offerings rock.

5. The PSI Show. What? You’ve never been? Please come with me the next time I attend and you will see the genesis of genius design — where trends are exfoliated by other markets, booths that will leave you slack-jawed and exhibitor hospitality that will explain why attendees show up as soon as the event opens each day and stay until the very last second it closes. Offering snacks, beverages (both alcoholic and the other, less fun kind) and comfy seating, each booth is like a mini bistro. No wonder attendees often stay with an exhibitor for upwards of 45 minutes and place orders on the spot. The PSI Dusseldorf Show, held each January (next year’s show is from January 12-14), is the largest ad specialty show in the world and definitely worth a visit. In addition, this year, PSI is partnering for the first time with a competitor show organization, Pro8, to form the Pro10 Show, which will be held in Amsterdam from August 25-27. Yeah. Amsterdam. I’m assuming I don’t need to tell you that I’ll be there. (For more information on the PSI Shows, go to www.psionline.de).

PSI Show
Despite the presence of a waiters, a fully-stocked bar and chandeliers, I swear to you this was an actual booth (Macma) at the PSI Show in Düsseldorf this past January.

6. Michael Bernstein. His family started Leed’s, and for a while, he ran Counselor Top 40 supplier Polyconcept North America. And though he’s not in the industry on the level he once was (much of his time is devoted to a new business venture in the music industry — his first love), he remains on the board of Polyconcept as its vice chairman. I once flew across four states just to have pizza with him at a delightful dive in Pittsburgh called Mineo’s. To bask in his wit, wisdom and misanthropic snark (or have him talk me off the ledge), I’d fly a lot farther.  

And now, three things I could do without:

1. The cart draggers. Truly, I get why some people need carts — it can be exhausting hauling catalogs and samples around a trade show, especially if you have an injury or ailment. However, when scores of people show up (I’m looking at you, guy with the Dumbledore beard in Dallas last year dragging a wheeled trash can full of supplier offerings…) pulling various luggage contraptions in the aisles and suddenly stop, it can make one (read: Me) nearly pop a cranial vein. Mark my words: I am going to fall over one of those things sometime soon, and it will not be graceful (or quiet).

2. The bitching. Hands up: Who thinks that if people spent as much time selling, creating and marketing as they do bitching, gossiping and lamenting about inane industry nonsense that we’d be well on our way to making up the sales ground lost last year? Just sayin’… 

3. The Canton Fair. Distributors have probably never experienced this massive (120,000+ attendees; 10,000 exhibitors), unorganized, sweltering sourcing show, located in beautiful downtown Guangzhou (insert eye roll here) China, but I’m willing to bet many suppliers have. Let me just say this: For those of you who don’t believe in the existence of Hell, I challenge you to walk that show and then come talk to me.

Whew! I feel better now, and I hope you do too. Please remember, regardless of what the alphabet bullies would have you think: None of you are poisoning kids, sabotaging a doctor’s ability to offer patient care or single-handedly trashing the planet, so don’t let anyone make you feel like you are. Unless you manufacture maraschino cherries or Circus Peanuts — then you’re on your own. ; )

Cheers to all of you, and hope to see you at the ASI Chicago Show from July 13-15!

More soon,


Guest Blogger: Colin Graf, ASI’s Marketing Manager for Supplier Sales

Filed under: Travel

So, when Michele asked me to write a guest blog post I was honored, but perplexed. Basically, because many of you reading this have absolutely no idea who I am. I’m just some marketing jabroni. If you attended the most recent Counselor Awards, I was the guy in the kitchen making sure the winners didn’t get run over by the waitstaff when coming off the stage. I’m even surprised Michele trusts that I have the social skills to grace this prestigious space. THE Bellwether Blog … and me.

But, who am I kidding? This blog is like the People magazine of the advertising specialty industry. And the only instructions I received from Ms. Bell were, and I quote, “I’ll never tell you what to write or not to write, just don’t use the ‘F’ word, or any variation there of.” I figure that should be easy enough to f’ing do … OOPS!

So, being the marketing beotch that I am, I immediately started thinking about what product to promote. Should I talk about Spectrum, the new Catalog ROI Program and the benefits to both supplier and distributors?

Maybe all of the new enhancements to the Register Express Box? Digital version, upcoming Gift Box edition in October, new easier-to-use layout…

How about the importance of keeping your information and pricing up to date in ESP?  Suppliers with out-of-date info drop to the bottom of search results and distributors can easily remove any suppliers that are not “Confirmed Accurate” from the search all together. (For more information or questions about ESP, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at cgraf@asicentral.com.)

OK, now that my plugs are done, I’m running with this blog thing. I can write about anything, right? I don’t get this chance often. Let’s talk about something that has piqued my interest lately. 

Apple vs Google
The Google vs. Apple steel cage death match. Juicy stuff!.

In the interest of full disclosure, I own a cell phone with Google’s Android operating system and LOVE it. But I also own a MacBook, which I also love. What has become of Apple? It used to be the hip, cool, cutting-edge company. That was not so long ago, when I purchased my MacBook. No useless software to uninstall, no 10-minute boot-up, and NO viruses. Sweet – sold! Here’s my credit card.

But lately, Google is wiping the floor with Apple, and Apple seems more like Microsoft – the stuffy corporate company that it’s tried not to be. Here are just a few of my gripes and Apple mishaps:

  • Apple chooses AT&T as the service provider for the iPhone – a network that is ill-suited to handle the data demands. 
  • Apple shuts down music-streaming site LaLa and angers a large group of loyalists.
  • Apple iPhone and iPad will not support Adobe Flash. 
  • Speaking of updates, Apple charges for the latest software updates. Google does not.
  • Apple must give their seal of approval before allowing applications into their app store.
  • Apple launches the next generation iPhone and experiences connection problems during first press conference demo.
  • An AT&T security breach exposes 114,000 iPad 3G customer e-mail addresses.

Now on the other hand, Google …

  • Google launches Buzz, its own social network that integrates with the rest of your digital world. Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • The Android app market is wide open to developers.
  • Google’s newest Android update will support Flash. Website developers rejoice! 
  • Google cloud setup makes everything available everywhere. Mail, photos, calendar. And with the simple download of an app, I can even stream my entire music library from my home computer to my phone.
  • Complete, no-boundary integration. Maps, mail, photos, calendar, chat, social media.

Now I know I’m coming off like a blatant fanboy. And actually, after re-reading this, it seems that I am one. But, Google is churning out user-driven updates, new features and applications fast. Really, right out of the early 2000s Apple textbook. It’s really put Steve Jobs back on his heels. But, the battle has just begun and there is no doubt that we, the end-users, are going to benefit. That’s what makes this so exciting for a geek like me – what new toy will I get to play with in the coming years?

So pick your side and pray that it’s the winner. Either way, we all make out.