Although it was announced several months ago that Canon was not going to make its annual appearance at PMA, the lack of presence by the camera giant caught many attendees off guard and scratching their heads. How can such a major player in the world of photography not show for the biggest show in the country? Back in September, Eliott Peck, Canon USA’s Vice President and General Manager, told PDN Gear Guide that
“We find that product life cycles are moving so much faster and that product introductions are happening in such shorter time frame that we needed to be much more agile and we find that trade shows are very locked into specific times which somewhat limits what we want to do.”
Of course, Canon was present at the Consumer Electronics Show back in January. One reason for this is the crossing over of Canon cameras from just photography to the new hybrid DSLR/Video cameras. Since CES attracts a much larger audience than PMA, it’s easy to see why Canon would put their marketing eggs into the much larger CES basket. This is due in part to the sheer number of attendees that each show attracts or does not. CES attendees number in the 100,000 range whereas PMA has only been drawing visitors in the low 20,000 range. It only makes sense for Canon to try and reach the larger audience, especially in lean times.
There was a time of course when PMA was the big boy on the block. I attended my first show way back in 1984 and it was huge on a scale that you would never believe. Of course this was back in the day when people were shooting film and half the show floor was dedicated to processing and printing equipment. Kodak always had the largest booth on the show floor and there was a company called Polaroid that still had a booth dedicated to photography, not digital frames and portable DVD players. Over the years I have seen the show shrink ever smaller is it struggles to remain relevant in the world of photography. Part of the problem is the evolution of the photographic process itself. The development of digital technology has literally shrunk the market in terms of processing and printing. No longer is there a need for film processors and enlargers and printers. Many of the companies that used to be industry giants are now just small divisions of larger conglomerates. Even Kodak, the Grand Daddy of them all, is making most of their money from patent royalties, not products that they produce.
Another big reason for Canon and others to pull back from exhibiting can be summed up in two words, the Internet. Companies like Canon and Nikon don’t need to announce new cameras at big trade shows because the have already gone viral through all the rumor sites weeks before a press release. Add to that all of the review sites, blogs, and company websites and you have more information available than you could ever hope to get in just a few short minutes walking through a crowded booth. Of course, PMA is not about you or me (the photographer). They are however about the corporates suits. It’s all about the deals to be made with the Walgreens and Targets of the World and for this, they hardly need a huge, expensive trade show. On the other hand, maybe the folks at PMA and their exhibitors should stop paying so much attention to the people in the suits and more to the people that actually buy their products.