In 2004, digital photography was still chiseling away at film, and smartphones with cameras their equal weren’t yet on the horizon, which means my visual record of a one-time-only first time ride is a little sparse.
With a nod towards a simpler time, when digital distractions were non-existent and Saturdays meant itching to get out of the house and on the road, this piece does a little off-roading into the unique geography that makes up the Oakhurst-Yosemite-Huntington Lake triangle in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
News of architect I.M. Pei’s passing this week at the age of 102 touched off memories of my early years spent as a commercial photographer shooting everything from rock bands to cookie-cutter real estate housing developments to a nightmarish oxy-acetylene catalytic torch that could melt concrete. One of those adventures included two days in Washington, D.C., for an assignment at the then still new National Gallery of Art East Wing.
Though usually associated with his unconventional Egyptian pyramid inspired design solution at the Louvre, my path crossed his for a very brief moment the time I photographed his landmark atrium, with its signature Calder mobile floating lazily overhead while my client’s grove of ficus trees softened the sharp angularity of the structure’s beautifully polished marble surfaces, in the nation’s capitol.
If It’s Thursday It Must Be Washington
The gallery shoot was part of an extended romp around the heartland, with previous stops on the road that week in Wichita, Milwaukee, and the still under construction Minneapolis Zoo. It was the last leg of an exhausting schedule, which perhaps explains why I failed to take advantage of the unique access I was granted to this memorable national landmark. Continue reading →
A swelteringly (and typical) Orlando, Florida evening greeted several hundred VIP guests as Ace Cafe London opened their first North American outpost celebrating legendary British food, bikes, and music just a few blocks up from Church Street Station.
Ace Cafe Orlando’s new home is a pair of century-old historic supply warehouses, the perfect environment for the fabled biker mecca that was born of industrial roots at the dawn of rock ‘n roll but couldn’t survive drowning in the soft rock and disco wave that followed.
Resurrection of An Iconic Brand
The original Ace was shuttered in 1969, a victim of changing times and tastes, before being resurrected in 2001 by Believer-In-Chief Mark Wilsmore and friends in the image of the golden era of British Twin dominance. From that rebirth the Ace has spread out internationally, now finally crossed the Atlantic to what some might think an improbable landing in Disney World’s back yard.
Although Orlando is already home to virtually every kind of entertainment concept and half-baked attraction imaginable, including Holy Land a few miles down I-4, Ace Cafe Orlando offers a distinctly different environment to a targeted community, beckoning bikers and hot rodders to get together and swap ideas over traditional British fare served in several restaurants and bars that surround the main stage and flank the museum and retail stores.
Anchoring the north edge of Orlando’s downtown redevelopment district and light years away from the homogenized banality of International Drive a few miles to the west, the Ace is a comfortable fit for this multi-ethnic Florida town that’s pulsing with energy.
That news hadn’t even completed the first lap when it was announced right before Thursday’s show opening that Columbus was a one and done, and that Las Vegas would welcome dealers in 2018 to a Mandalay Bay event, also in October.
A few select exhibitors hadn’t even finished their chorus of reliable quotes on why Columbus’ “500-mile radius” was key to attracting dealers in order to grow the event (it isn’t, given Peoples Exhibit A, DealerExpo) when the Vegas jump came out of the blue. If there was any question that MIC’s OEMs were wielding their muscle, this relocation eliminated any doubts.
Why It Matters
Why this matters involves pure marketing decisions by the show’s owners, and, like every realtor says, it’s about location, location, location. Powersports (read aftermarket) expos have been tried in Vegas before, and they’ve died in Vegas, even during the red-hot 2000s. OEM dealer meetings, on the other hand, thrive in the desert.
The move has all the earmarks of a purely strategic decision by Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha, and Kawasaki to consolidate their dealer programs closer to home and away from the proximate distraction of Daytona’s Biketoberfest.
I can’t say I’m not disappointed. Orlando remains a major international destination, and both venue and weather remain well suited to the outdoor activities which can’t be offered in a resort hotel facility.
Still, H-D was never a participant, and Kawasaki was a big hole in the lineup this year, after drawing plenty of attention with last year’s massive booth. Ducati was another no-show. Ditto BMW. And so it went.
This year’s swan song seemed almost a little melancholy, like the guy who came alone to the dance and stayed too late. Compared to the previous decade, many of the booths looked like they traveled as overhead luggage.
Warn, Pirelli, S&S, and Avon, among others, didn’t bring the A game of years previous. And speaking of others, Western Powersports, Parts Unlimited, Chrome Specialties, Tucker-Rocky, and Drag Specialties were among the major distributors whose absence, in favor of their own one-off shows for the past several years, severely hurts in the buzz building.
The Magic 8-Ball Says
It could be that the appeal of an aftermarket accessories driven trade show has passed its sell by date. Without support from manufacturers, dealers aren’t likely to make the investment in time and money to visit when much of what they’re selling is already on offer at the afore mentioned distributor sponsored shows. And without dealer support, manufacturers can’t be expected to continue their investment without a decent ROI. And this year’s announced dealer registration figure of just over 2,000 falls, to me, far short of fulfilling that expectation.
AIMExpo will in the future become a new model year bike show by the major manufacturers with some slots occupied by non-OEMs who either lack a distributor hookup, are doing okay with their own dealer direct and consumer direct programs, or just don’t want one.
Nostalgia for the way things were is notable, but unsupportable. Columbus ’17 looks to be the last real expression of the independent powersports aftermarket event.
Google Glass on left, what Google Glass sees on right.
see you see me and then some
My introduction to Google Glass came at Tampa’s 2013 Barcamp at the University of South Florida last September. I sat in on a presentation by Glass Explorer Bruce Burke, one of those 8,000 or so chosen to live with the devices on a daily basis, and watched as he recovered from a failed classroom projector by tethering his Glass to his tablet so we could see what he saw.
“If you just want to make some phone calls, send and receive some text messages, take some pictures, take some videos and get directions, it’s great.”
In the months since Google first announced their revolutionary technology, I’ve been part of the crowd that thought it was cute but lacked real application. No more. The question isn’t what’s it good for, it’s what can’t it do. Can you call up the next Mickey D’s while you’re motoring along? Yep.
“It’s real light information,” Burke said. “If you just want to make some phone calls, send and receive some text messages, take some pictures, take some videos and get directions, it’s great. If you’re looking to create documents, create films and do heavier-weight stuff, it’s not for that.”
google launches massive product release
This past week, Google Glass has unleashed a well primed info pump touting style choices for Glass frames, a precursor to the retail launch that’s rumored to take place this Fall.
Stand by. App development is well under way for the first purchasers wanting to adapt Glass to their particular niche. Surgeons? Sure. Fire and police? Of course. Also hobbyists, as in woodworkers. Service techs of all stripes. Brokers, reporters, and factory workers will also be seen sitting at their desks or at their stations, swiping at their temples and talking to themselves.
Annual Gathering Introduced Major Digital Upgrades
donuts — the key to endurance
Dawn had barely broken when the digital cognescetti began descinding on the registration desks outside the University of South Florida’s School of Business Administration for the daylong techno conference known as Barcamp. Dawn of the dead, more like it.
Veterans of previous Barcamp events came prepared to deal with the Endless Donut Buffet lest the sugar blues overtake them halfway through a .js preso. Antidote: coffee pipeline direct injection.
First timers – including a non-profit wondering where he might find technology mentors for the inner city youth he counseled – tried to interpret the deliberate disorganization that is the hallmark of Barcamp, with varying degrees of success.
The 2013 edition, while perhaps not as feature rich as previous years, nonetheless offered nearly 800 attendees a broad and varied palette of back end, front end, and outside the lines content, much of it from an entrepreneurial perspective.
apps, plugins, hardware and plenty of code
Apps were big on the agenda this year, including the primo EXMO iOS/Android event scheduler. EXMO is one of those things that having used it once now seems like an essential for any multisession event, conference or seminar.
Still in beta, the little app that could kept up with an on-the-fly schedule update that’s the hallmark of Barcamp, letting attendees focus on what was happening instead of where. It’s the digital solution to the sometimes frustrating analog scheduler Barcamp uses, a bulletin board and post-it notes for attendees to schedule and presenters to signup for sessions.
This year there were some 15 tracks in hour-long chunks that began at 9 a.m. and ended at 5 p.m., in a nearly constant state of flux. That’s a lot of speakers to try and keep track of, and EXMO did a great job without the slightest hiccup, subject only to the 10-minute window needed for updating.
Blogging seemed a popular topic this year. My first session was an introduction to SEOslides, a dandy WordPress plugin that, as the name implies, allows bloggers to create a presentation within WordPress that is SEO friendly for every page and which – bonus round – links directly to your blog.
So take that Slideshare. Frame driven, this plugin is easily shareable and that’s a big plus when it comes to stats. A/B testing? Yep, and that’s just the beginning. It easily imports your PDF presentation, so authoring can be done with a variety of applications.
Still in beta, and as might be imagined the free version comes with a few key features disabled. If presentations are a big part of your workflow, the annual buy in is $200 and comes with a ton of extras.
quadcopters ready for takeoff
I’m still not sure what quadcopters had to do with web tech, but if I didn’t know anything about them before I sure do now thanks to Greg Wilson, Adobe’s head of CC outreach.
Greg rounded up a fleet – well, two – of these four-bladed oddities from DJI for a show and tell that included in the classroom hovering and an outdoor flight well above 800 feet.
Fundamentals of flight, advantages for aerial photographers, and a look at the possibilities made for a fun session that makes owning one of these devices tempting indeed.
By the time the last speaker in the last classroom turned out the lights, you could measure the knowledge dished out in tonnage. Barcamp is a rare altruistic opportunity to sample trends and techniques in the most informal of environments while allowing developers, site opperators, and anyone with a passion for digital and a viewpoint a forum to pitch their opinion.
After years of discussion about an industry alternative to forever event producer Advanstar’s Dealernews Dealer Expo, the very first edition of the American International Motorcycle Expo opened its doors to a borrowed concept, high expectations, and fingers crossed by promoter Marketplace Events.
Orlando’s mammoth Orange County Convention Center West Concourse welcomed a brand new powersports combined trade only and consumer show that managed to attract three OEMs – Yamaha, Suzuki and Erik Buell – in addition to several scooter brands and an interesting mix of biker related goods and services.
Against the backdrop of a still sluggish economy and an industry devastated by the recession that continues to be pummeled by shifting consumer interests, AIMExpo stretched out over five days, making for an endurance event for exhibitors and a mid-week challenge for attending dealers. What rolled out over those five days will go a long way towards determining the future of domestic powersports business marketing events.
I’ve enjoyed many industry events in Vegas, Indy, Cincy before and after, and in Orlando – in both the West Building hosting AIME’s inaugural outing and the massive North South venue across the street. Considering Orlando’s in my back yard – midway between where I grew up on Merritt Island an hour south of Daytona and where I now live on the Gulf shores – it’s with some amount of satisfaction that the move I’ve long recommended to the powersports industry has now come to pass.
“We Don’t Serve Their Kind Here!”
I’m proud to identify myself as an advertising and PR professional who attended his first powersports industry event in the lobby of a long forgotten Daytona Beach hotel while studying Journalism and Communications as a PR major at the University of Florida in the late ’60s.
So yes, it comes as somewhat of a rude shock to discover that the critically important marketing professions have been explicitly excluded from the B2B portion of the event by way of a regressive, considered, exorbitant admission fee. In my own home state no less.
“Non-exhibiting manufacturers and service providers can obtain credentials to attend AIMExpo during the exclusive trade-only days on October 16, 17, & 18, 2013 by paying a mandatory $400 registration fee per person.” (Emphasis added)
This, despite the occupations’ marquee status as a major advertised component of the event’s announced educational sessions. Well that’s just stupid. Nothing like slamming the door in the face of an industry you’re only too happy to promote from a short list of insider presenters.
Unfortunately, AIME management seems content to continue to fail to grasp the critical role pr and marketing communicators play in the age of global social media or the technical nuances that go with. Note to organizers: the hot topic in mar-com these days is the merging of journo and pr as creators of much coveted retail content.
Exhibit A: Google “AIME” – discover why product and event naming is an art, not a commodity, in an SEO ruled universe.
Exhibit B: a Facebook invitation to this pr pro to “like” the event’s Spanish language page. Uh, yo no hablo español.
“Please note: Media credentials will be provided to reporters, writers, editors, videographers, photographers and producers. Advertising, sales & marketing and administrative staff are not considered working media and will not be provided with media credentials.” Ok, got it. Marketers are pariahs. Insult to injury, message received, message understood.
In the all important social media promoted message sweepstakes (including blogs), organizers have said no and no again to any WOM publicity on behalf of their aftermarket and OEM clients – the exhibitors.
For – lets say the scooter crowd, who are arguably in need of whatever exposure they can garner – this is a major missed opportunity.
As a content manager for a powersports dealer and other aftermarket clients, say so long to any professional mar-com generated event coverage or mentions. For – lets say the scooter crowd, who are arguably in need of whatever exposure they can garner – this is a major missed opportunity.
So with that not so slight slight out of the way, here’s some of what you might expect, might need to know, and might want to discover if you make the trip.
One Booth You’ve Got To Visit
For first time – and nearly all will be – powersports visitors to the massive OCCC facilities on International Drive, here’s a little insight into what you can expect compared to Indy’s mid-winter experience.
Weatherwise, October comes in as our second most active month for major storms, including hurricanes, behind September – which right now is pretty soggy. Just saying, come prepared for the occasional raindrop and although it’s early Fall for us it may still seem like the height of Summer, depending. Here’s what else you might want to know.
GoPro is an announced exhibitor, and based on past experience not only is their booth a blast, it’s the best chance you’ll (probably) have to score an on-the-house camera. They always bring game, and theirs is one of the hippest and smartest booth marketing efforts you’ll see. Free beer’s a definite possibility, but even if it weren’t the show and tell theme makes this big dog and pony a must see.
Where Ya’ At?
When it comes to a place to stay, the sky’s the limit. Metro Orlando is second only to NYC in lodging. One of Indy’s major draws was the ease of pedestrian access between downtown lodging and the convention center. OCCC? Eh, not so much.
Odds are you’ll want to stay reasonably close by on International Drive, and there’re plenty of options to choose from, from lux to how many can we cram in a room.
Nobody drove to and fro in Indy. Make that virtually nobody, as downtown parking was a sparse commodity. Whether you were holed up out by the airport or in more recent years downtown, private show shuttles and the connected airwalks were the way folks got around.
Orlando’s different. Unless you’re staying across the street from the West Building in either of the Rosen properties or the Peabody, best bring your hiking boots.
In fact, even if you did snatch a room at one of those facilities, the walking distance still might come as a shock compared to, say, Indy’s Hyatt.
If you’ve got a car, you’re in good shape. Parking’s plentiful at the OCCC – $15 at the venue lot. On street? No and no. Otherwise, you’re likely marooned and will have to depend on public transport and private taxis to get around.
What’s For Dinner?
Unlike Indy – very unlike – you won’t find a dense downtown collection of closely connected destinations reachable – weather permitting – within easy walking distance. And also unlike the business oriented downtown Indy vibe, Orlando – make that Florida – is mostly indifferent, what with close to 70 million annual visitors tracking up the front hall.
If there’s going to be one major complaint, it will be the lack of memorable and/or quick dining options. Forget anything like St. Elmo or Palomino, although Tommy Bahama offers an interesting menu – the crab bisque in particular. Orlando is home to the Darden (Olive Garden, Red Lobster) Group, and that means you’ll most likely end up at a theme inspired franchise, take a number, and wait for your server to hustle up touristy drinks and mostly mediocre fare.
If over the years spent at Indy you’d grown accustomed to making a dash, quick or otherwise, outside Expo to grab a burger at Steak and Shake, a Happy Meal at Mickey D’s or one of Palomino’s fabo pizzas, well hang on to those memories. You wish.
I can say this without equivocation: OCCC food is nothing if not expensive, considering it’s mediocrity. You’re pretty much a captive audience while at the event – $15 for the cardboard inspired All American Cheeseburger, fries and a soda may have you begging for mercy after a couple of days.
What To Do Besides
Wellllll, besides Biketoberfest, there’s Disney some miles west or Universal just up the street – where you can grab a Duff beer at the brand new Simpsons’ Springfield attraction. Just around the corner there’s Sea World and dicey off-road adventure can always be had on S. Orange Blossom Trail (not on any tourist map or ticket kiosk). Or you could head 45 minutes east and spend some time hanging out at the Lone Cabbage Fish Camp for a taste of the kind of food I grew up on, finishing up with an airboat ride around the St. John’s River fed Lake Poinsett.
Then, if you haven’t been yet, continue your journey up to NASA’s excellent Kennedy Space Center (KSC), then out to Cocoa Beach and a run through home boy Ron Jon’s original Surf Shop for a memorable dude experience before heading home.