- Expensive Exposure
- by URSULA SAUTTER Hanover
...The reluctance of corporate
sponsors to invest, says Sebastian Turner, managing partner of
Berlin-based marketing firm Scholz & Friends, is because
"the organizers have failed to convey to the public a clear
image of what Expo 2000 is going to be: an entertainment park,
a blown-up museum, or a nature reserve." The fair's green
motto has also confused some participants. "For a long time,
companies were unsure if they would be putting money in an eco-show
or a showcase for their latest inventions," says Ralf Strobach,
secretary of Hanover's Citizens' Initiative for Environment Protection.
Breuel [Expo commissioner-general
Birgit Breuel] believes the fair's "holistic experience
of all the senses" and the treatment of "topics which
are extremely important to man" will make people flock to
Expo 2000 from all over the globe. German taxpayers -- and some
nail-biting accountants -- hope she is right.
- Time Europe
- June 12, 2000, Vol. 122 No.
The publicity aspect of World's Fairs seems
lost on today's expositions. Many people in the United States
are unaware that World's Fairs are still held or seem to believe
that they are held, like the Olympic Games, at regular intervals
-- every few years or so.
In 1968, lack of publicity was actually
blamed for the poor attendance at HemisFair '68, San Antonio's
World's Fair, and again in 1984 when New Orleans hosted their
World's Fair. Oh? You say you didn't know San Antonio and New
Orleans hosted World's Fairs? More often than not, lately,
the finger of blame for low attendance is pointed elsewhere,
usually at the notion that World's Fairs are passe'.
The stated goal of every World's Fair is
to showcase new ideas and advances in technology and civilization.
The technocrats argue that television and the internet bring
new ideas and advances in civilization to us instantly so why
go to a Fair to see them? Such is the pronouncement of a chorus
of critics who claim that Hanover, Germany's disastrous attendance
figures for Expo 2000 are surely the result of the internet and
should spell, once and for all, the end of World's Fairs! This
argument certainly doesn't take into account the social and entertainment
aspect of expositions, probably the real reason why people
attend modern World's Fairs. But can the internet actually be
blamed for a lack of interest in them?
The real reason for declining attendance
is probably less technical. It's doubtful that most people surf
the net to become technologically enlightened. Might it be that
the Fairs themselves are to blame because they simply have not
let the world know that they exist? Does their publicity promote
the sort of thing that draws crowds? And, do they tend to emphasize
the high-brow and forget the showmanship?
Publicity for Expo 2000 has been almost
non-existent in the US - long a major draw for international
visitors. The biggest publicity boost the Fair got in the States
was the minor negative press received for not hosting a pavilion
at Hanover. If anyone chanced to miss those few articles, it
is a good bet they were still unaware that a major international
exposition was underway when Expo 2000 opened in June. News about
the Expo picked up after the press smelled a disaster-in-the-making
as low attendance caused financial concerns for the Fair. (Things
haven't changed much in 35 years, have they?) And, as New York
learned 35 years earlier, negative press doesn't sell tickets.
"Holistic experience of all the senses"
and "topics which are extremely important to man" were
quotes attributed to Expo 2000 Commissioner, Brigit Breuel in
describing the Fair. Is that how it was sold to Europe? Sounds
like something one could find in any science museum in any large
city on the Continent. Where's "Something for Everyone"
where's the showmanship and where is the effort to present something
that makes people want to come to the Fair?
As promised, we are trying honestly
and with high purpose to avoid the vulgarity, lingo and ballyhoo
of the circus and carnival and the come-ons of the conventional
shills, pitchmen and barkers; but a Fair can be too subliminated
to attract visitors, too intellectual for all but bluestockings,
too noble for the earthy and too mature to be shared with junior
members of the family. It must indeed have a worthy theme and
central purpose but there must also be something exciting in
it for everybody.
A Fair is a Fair is a Fair. Local
or global, its function is to enlighten, stimulate and amuse.
It marks red letter days on the calendars of millions, days of
eager anticipation, prolonged enjoyment and long remembrance.
- Robert Moses, excerpted,
- Only the Brave Deserve
- New York World's Fair 1964/1965
- Progress Report #6, September 12, 1962
Of course, one might also argue that Universal
and International Expositions, of the sort that New York, Montreal,
Osaka, Seville and Hanover hosted, are simply so expensive to
mount that no realistic attendance projection can possibly
cover the costs. So staggering monetary losses are guaranteed
as inflated attendance targets are not met. Things haven't changed
much on that front in 35 years either, have they?
Don't blame the internet for the debacle
in Hanover. And don't bring the curtain down on World's Fairs
just yet. The internet will never replace the experience of a
good time if a good time is to be had! Fairs may
be ailing. But a good understanding of what the crowd wants and
a simple course in marketing can go a long way for finding a
cure. The 1964/1965 New York World's Fair, in spite of its warts
and wrinkles, remains the shining example of what showmanship
and skillful publicity can accomplish.
- Expo 2000 in Hanover provides global
exchange of ideas
- by CLARE SAIN-LEY-BERRY
What implications are there for
future world expositions? Beyond admitting that "perhaps
we were too ambitious" in visitor estimates, the commissioner
general has no other answers beyond indicating that the past
two world expositions have also received less visitors than hoped
for. She "hasn't a clue" about the themes that world
expositions might hold in future years and says she would not
advise any modifications to future expositions that might make
them more relevant and attractive to the public.
Her affirmation that Expo 2000
is already "very relevant and attractive" signals a
belief that to the commissioner general at least, the concept
of Expo is not in decline, despite what the statistics would
The figures, however, do suggest
a scenario to the contrary. This is the third successive world
exposition to fail to reach its visitor targets. Despite satisfaction
of those who make repeated visits, first-time visitors remain
elusive. It is hard to know what more exposition organizers can
do to attract visitors. Expo 2000 represents a chance to meet
and interact with representatives from more than 90 percent of
the world's nations plus the opportunity to share their visions
of the future and witness any number of cultural festivities
and events -- all for less than the price of a day out at EuroDisney.
If this does not attract visitors it is hard to say what will.
Solutions may lie in lower admissions
prices, more commercial sponsorship, more promotion by each individual
nation or perhaps a complete rethink of the whole world exposition
format. Commissioner General Breuel may have been unwilling to
speculate on modifications to the world exposition format but
this is a luxury that will not be afforded to the next world
exposition host. Unless solutions can be found to increase public
interest and participation in these events, the world expositions
of the future -- in their current format -- may well be on their
way to becoming a thing of the past.
- Earth Times/Europe