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PrintEx opens - Spandex ambushes - Andy McCourt

It's four years since the last PrintEx in Sydney and so much has changed in our industry since then. After the official opening, early visitors were treated to a feast of vibrancy, colour, technology and imagery staged by over 120 exhibitors inside the Dome and halls 2 and 3 at the showgrounds, Olympic Park, Sydney. What a pity some suppliers resort to dirty tactics to undermine it.

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(LtoR) Walter Kuhn,President of PIAA, Alister Henskens MP, VIP opener and Andrew Macaulay, CEO of PIAA

As NSW State Cabinet Secretary Alister Henskens MP, member for Ku-Ring-Gai, cut the ribbon to officially declare PrintEx and allied shows open, a more sinister campaign was sneaking into industry inboxes via an advertising campaign from supplier Spandex exhorting recipients "Don't buy at Printex!" This is in relation to its selling HP wide format printers and claims to 'beat any written quote' free media etc etc.

Spandex is not an exhibitor at PrintEx and HP is, along with several HP resellers such as Neopost, Konica Minolta and Celmac who have invested hundreds of thousands, if not millions combined, to exhibit at the industry-associations backed event and make it the fantastic showcase that is has turned out to be. HP knew nothing of this upcoming attack on PrintEx and HP's passionate industry advocate Jeremy Brew is Chair of the PrintEx board. Spandex's ambush marketing campaign is tawdry, undignified, spiteful and tends to bring shame on the great Spandex name - a company that claims to be: 'the world's largest dedicated supplier to the sign industry.'

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Spandex's tawdry ambush marketing campaign

Not just this, it may possibly also be illegal. In Australia, there are a number of laws that are relevant to, or restrict the practice of, ambush marketing, including: sections 18 and 29 of the Australian Consumer Law (contained in Schedule 2 of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010). These laws had their genesis around the Sydney Olympics to prevent non-sponsor/supporting companies 'passing off' and trying to associate themselves with the event. They have subsequently broadened into any event, sporting or non-sporting.

According to Intellectual Property lawyers Watermark, definitions of ambush marketing include:

a) A planned campaign by an organisation to associate itself indirectly with an event in order to gain at least some of the recognition and benefits that are associated with being an official sponsor.

b) Non-sponsoring companies deflecting attention to themselves and away from the sponsor.

c) Any attempt by an individual or entity to create an unauthorised or false association (whether or not commercial) with an event, thereby interfering with the legitimate contractual rights of official marketing partners of the event.

The PrintEx organisers have yet to release an official response but it appears to me that Spandex has passed-off on the PrintEx brand name and IP; deflected commercial attention to themselves and away from the 'sponsor' and potentially caused commercial loss to bona-fide PrintEx exhibitors. Trade shows have every right to ban hawkers, 'suitcasers' and others who would seek to surruptitionsly benefit from events without being a part of them - even more so those who advocate a boycott in favour of their own commercial ends.

It's up to any company to decide if they exhibit at a trade event, some prefer not to but don't try to use the hard work and investments of others for the greater good of the industry to seek gain from such a tawdry campaign as this. I know the global Spandex organisation well and it has a great reputation but someone locally has made a very poor decision here and should consider withdrawing the campaign, contacting all recipients and apologising.

To more pleasant matters - PrintEx looks marvelous! The creativity, demonstrations, visual appeal and organisation is a credit to our industry and something even the political-centric opening VIP marvelled at. The overall printing industry isn't normally great at promoting itself but this PrintEx could be a watershed where we all realise - and act on - the fact that the wonderful products we create for businesses from small to global, can be used to promote print in a positive, fun and environmentally-responsible light.

So, get on down to PrintEx and shop - there are great show specials on! And ignore any spurious attempts to persuade you to do otherwise.

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THIS is the welcome sight you get as you walk into PrintEx, with more as you go deeper. Go there!

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