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triking the right balance can be crucial. Whether you're a gymnast flipping along a balance beam or a Buddhist looking for that middle path, finding your core and sticking to it can be a source of
success, health, and happiness.

Unfortunately for Procter & Gamble Pet Care (P&G), a division of Procter & Gamble Co., the company had veered from its center over the past few years. "We had a lull time where we weren't focused on product innovation like we should have been," says Bud Most, national events manager for P&G. As a result, the company, known for its Iams Veterinary Formula pet foods, which include the Iams and Eukanuba brands, felt veterinarians did not see P&G in the same innovative light they had in the past.

P&G believed its new line of pet foods, Iams ProActive Health Formulas, along with its probiotic supplement
ProStora, would help reassert its position as a leader in pet nutrition. Most says ProActive dog and cat foods take advantage of prebiotics, natural ingredients that promote healthy digestion by nourishing the good bacteria in the digestive tract, which then crowds out the bad bacteria. With its ProStora and ProActive lines, the company hoped to demonstrate it had raised the bar on pet nutrition, but it needed to sniff out the right marketing arena in which it could showcase its new product.

The pet-food maker felt the 2010 North American Veterinary Conference (NAVC), held Jan. 16 - 20 in Orlando, FL, would be the perfect place to show off its new balanced diet for cats and dogs. After all, the show would be swamped with veterinarians and support staff of veterinary clinics, and P&G knew those animal caregivers have a big influence on what pet foods their clients purchase for their little Fido or Fluffy. But simply showing up with a booth and a bag of puppy kibble wasn't likely to attract much attention
- and certainly not the kind of brand- positioning buzz P&G hoped to reap from the launch of its scientifically developed ProActive Health line.
Exhibitor: Procter & Gamble Pet Care
Creative/Production: Global Experience Specialists Inc., Dallas, 972-538-3000, www.ges.com
Production: Sonalysts Inc., Waterford, CT,
860-326-3848, www.sonalysts.com
Show: North American Veterinary Conference, 2010
Budget: $225,000
 Capture 900 total leads.
 Collect at least 200 more qualified leads than in 2009.
 Get attendees to spend more than a few minutes in the booth.
 Collected 1,619 unique leads.
 Gathered 209 more qualified leads than at the 2009 NAVC.
 Kept attendees in the booth at least 10 minutes, while targeted leads spent upwards of 20 minutes inside P&G's exhibit.

While most veterinarians were familiar with Iams pet foods and products, P&G felt that attendees at NAVC needed a reintroduction to the brand and its new line of animal nutrition - something that would help P&G regain its innovator credibility among this important group of pet-product influencers. So with visions of a buzz-building integrated program dancing in its head, P&G turned to Global Experience Specialists Inc. (GES) of Dallas to help the company spread the word about ProActive Health at NAVC.

But spreading the word wasn't going to be easy. Complicating matters, attendance at the 2010 show was likely to be down from the previous year. But P&G still hoped to capture 900 new leads. And from that total, it set the ambitious objective of gathering 200 more qualified leads than it had brought home from the 2009 NAVC show. On top of that, the company wanted attendees to spend more time in the P&G exhibit than they had in the past. Previously, folks tended to stay just long enough to have their badges scanned and collect a giveaway. This year, P&G wanted visitors to linger longer, soaking up key messages and allowing staffers to obtain enough information to qualify them as viable sales leads.

GES felt the best way to attract a crowd, keep them in the booth for longer durations, and educate them on P&G's new products was to create an entertaining and informative presentation that attendees would remember long after the show. So what the company ultimately prescribed was an integrated program designed to educate and amuse
attendees with "The Art & Science of Balance." The objective of the balance campaign was to engage attendees at multiple points before, during, and after the show in ways that drew attendees' attention and presented basic information on how Iams ProActive Health, with its prebiotics formula and line of ProStora supplements, represented a veritable revolution in pet nutrition and health.

Shadow Dancing

With less than two months until the show, GES teamed up with the Pilobolus Dance Co. and video-production firm Sonalysts Inc. of Waterford, CT, to produce a video that would be presented in P&G's exhibit. The video content was designed to educate and entertain attendees in a more memorable way than, say, a traditional PowerPoint presentation. With help from P&G and GES, Pilobolus, which specializes in creating artistic shadow formations using the human body, began crafting an intriguing routine that would tell the story of how prebiotics help an animal's digestion. Wearing form-fitting outfits and lit from behind, the dancers positioned themselves so their bodies cast shadows upon a blank screen. Much like shadow puppets created via hands casting shadows on a wall, the dancers moved to form silhouettes of dogs, cats, a science lab, and nature scenes in a five-minute, ever-changing performance. As the dancers moved to create the images, a narrator explained the basics of prebiotics. See the exhibit video here.

GES and P&G then worked with The Eastpoint Group, a Dayton, OH-based marketing firm, to create a second video that served a more educational role. This shorter, three-minute presentation used veterinary scientists to explain in greater detail how prebiotics work in a dog or cat's gastrointestinal tract.

The plan was to show both videos in the booth as a single eight-minute presentation, with the first video providing entertainment and some basics of prebiotics while the second video broke down the science behind the ProStora and ProActive lines. "If you can capture someone's attention, entertain them, and then teach them something at the same time, they are much more likely to remember the presentation," says Mark Rogers, vice president of new business for GES.

GES then helped the P&G staff focus on the goals for the show - collecting leads and qualifying them by asking the right questions. GES worked with Jerry Gerson, a corporate training associate at exhibit and event staff-training company Marketech Inc., to develop a staff-training session that focused on running through different scenarios that were likely to occur on the show floor. "The approach at a show is different than a sales call at a clinic," Most says. "We wanted staffers to understand how to approach an attendee and ask questions that would qualify those leads quickly and effectively."

Starting off on the Right Foot

Following a theater presentation, staffers invited attendees to visit one of four engagement stations to learn more about Procter & Gamble Pet Care products.

But long before anyone arrived at the booth, GES set about delivering P&G's message to attendees via pre-show communications. By reaching out to prospective attendees early, P&G hoped to earn a spot on their must-see lists, while introducing the key message that its new line of pet foods represented a scientific leap forward in pet nutrition. Furthermore, the company wanted to jump-start the qualifying process before attendees arrived on site, allowing more focused and personalized conversations.

Qualifying attendees was vital to P&G's success since those veterinary-clinic workers - people who have influence over pet owners and often make recommendations regarding pet foods and products - were potential evangelists for the brand, and their clinics could all become retail outlets for P&G's line of pet-care products. To better target these potential evangelists, the company wanted to start the qualifying process before the show. Unfortunately, NAVC did not provide e-mail addresses for pre-registered attendees. So P&G needed to take a more direct approach to reach those pet-care professionals prior to the show. Opting for a direct-mail campaign, the company began the qualifying process via a duo of pet-themed direct
mailers, creating a pair of address lists.

The first mailing list comprised 2,500 veterinarians who had pre-registered for the show. Regional P&G sales representatives, who were asked to list the top five clinics in their region they would like to add as clients, compiled the second list of 500 VIP prospects.

P&G sent two separate pre-show mailers to attendees and prospects on those two mailing lists. The first mailer, sent roughly eight weeks before NAVC, included the message "Balance is everything. Especially where GI (gastrointestinal) health is concerned," and encouraged attendees to visit booth 1533 at the show. While that mailer went out to all 3,000 veterinarians on the mailing list, the VIP prospects received mailers that contained an added incentive: If they visited the P&G exhibit at NAVC, they would receive a $50 digital picture frame as a gift.

The second mailer, sent three weeks before NAVC, asked recipients to consider "what 'The Art & Science of Balance' can offer your patients." The mailer also mentioned the special Pilobolus performance, and directed recipients to a P&G microsite where they could watch a preview of the five-minute shadow video and fill out a brief survey on their pet-care practice. Again, the VIP mailers included a mention of the free digital picture frame.

Visitors to the P&G microsite were asked to describe their job function at their veterinary clinics, explain the veterinary practice at which they worked, and rate its involvement in prescribing prebiotics for patients as a treatment. According to Most, the microsite's pre-show survey helped qualify potential prospects, collect attendee contact information, and identify core areas of concern, which in turn helped further prepare the sales staff for conversations at the show.

P&G then entered the information into a database to be used at the show. When an attendee who visited the microsite had his or her badge scanned, booth staffers saw a profile on a monitor that became populated with the information that attendee provided online. "By the time those vets visited our booth, we already knew an awful lot about them individually," Most says. "That allowed us to segue directly into conversations about the benefits of our products and services, without asking a lot of qualifying questions in the booth and making the clients feel like they were being interrogated."

With overhead signage drawing the crowd from aisles away, the Procter & Gamble Pet Care booth included branded signage, a theater for its eight-minute video presentation, and four engagement stations where staffers could further qualify attendees.

Pre-show mailers directed recipients to a microsite where the lead-qualification
process began.

The exterior of the exhibit was branded with logos and images of the company's featured products.

Acrobats working with a pair of herding dogs served as traffic builders, emphasizing the importance of balance, a key part of the Procter & Gamble Pet Care message.

The exhibit included branded signage, a theater for its eight- minute video presentation, and four engagement stations where staffers qualified potential sales leads.

Attendees who did not ask for more information after the video presentation were directed to the reception desk, where they received branded exercise balls on which to practice their balance.

Members of the Pilobolus Dance Co. created shadow images for the Procter & Gamble Pet Care video on "The Art & Science of Balance," which was shown to attendees in the exhibit's presentation theater.

Hold That Pose

With the booth staff trained and ready, and attendees on the lookout for some "balanced" information, P&G's exhibit was set for the show. A branded circular banner hung over the P&G space, making the booth hard to miss on the show floor. The 20-by-40-foot exhibit featured a 24-seat presentation theater (each chair branded with the Iams paw-print logo), four engagement stations (where attendees could learn more about prebiotics and be further qualified following each presentation),a back wall that was branded with "P&G Pet Care" and supported the 124-inch video monitor, and a branded reception desk.

When attendees approached the booth, they encountered a series of acrobats positioned along the perimeter of the exhibit space. Dressed in P&G green, the acrobats performed balancing feats, sometimes using live animals in the act, to draw attendees into the space. For example, the acrobats balanced themselves horizontally in a sort of pushup position but with their feet raised off of the ground, and then called on dogs to jump upon their backs and hold a pose.

Once inside the space, staffers encouraged attendees to take a seat in the theater to watch the video presentations. Most says that after the seats were filled, additional attendees gathered behind them and stood to watch the presentation, creating quite a crowd. Then the sight of that crowd attracted attendees interested in taking a seat for the next showing. "It was obvious our pre-show marketing and at-show spectacle were successful when we started hearing reports from other exhibitors that we were the buzz of the show," Most says.

When the videos ended, attendees were encouraged to visit one of the four engagement stations, which were each equipped with a 42-inch plasma and a computer loaded with information about P&G Pet Care products. Here, staff members swiped badges and completed the information needed to qualify leads for post-show follow-up.

"The Art & Science of Balance" exhibit-marketing campaign combined education and entertainment, and kept attendees in the booth for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, attendees who were not interested in more information were directed to the reception desk to have their badges scanned and receive a free branded exercise ball on which to practice their own balancing acts. Then everything started all over again: As attendees moved on to the engagement stations or the reception desk, crowd gatherers started seating a new set of attendees for the next performance. "We timed it so the presentation cycle went pretty much nonstop," Most says.

That timing not only kept the booth buzzing throughout the five-day show; it also kept visitors intrigued and engaged. Those that walked past and stopped midway through a presentation could easily stay to catch the beginning of the next showing. And those that were waiting to meet with a staffer were entertained by a repeat of the engaging Pilobolus video. In the end, the timing and ongoing engagement also helped P&G achieve its goal of keeping attendees inside its exhibit for longer durations. Attendees who sat through the video presentation and moved along to one of the engagement stations spent a minimum of 20 minutes in the booth, compared to the previous year, when most visitors only stayed in P&G's space for a few minutes.

According to Sizzle Awards judges, that success was due - at least in part - to the appropriate balance of education and entertainment, and the direct connection between the balance theme and the brand itself. "It's not easy to create both an eye-catching video and booth theme that's also tied closely to a brand or brand message," said one judge. "P&G found the perfect way to relay its 'balance' message in a memorable, entertaining manner, and the execution was spot on."

Best in Show

By the time the last acrobatic pose was struck, and the final few attendees meandered toward the exits, the company had collected 1,619 new leads at the show, nearly 80 percent more than its goal of 900. It also gathered 209 qualified leads more than it gathered in 2009, bettering its pre-show objective of 200. With so many potential sales to cash in on, the company wasted no time getting those leads out to its sales force.

Most says there were a few hot leads - veterinarians who told P&G they were ready to buy immediately - so those leads were promptly forwarded on to P&G sales representatives and were quickly closed following the show. The rest of the qualified leads received sales calls within a week from a third-party telephone service that verified prospects' interest in the products and let them know a P&G sales rep would be calling within a few days to follow up. And every visitor received a post-show e-mail thanking him or her for stopping by the exhibit, and directing recipients to the P&G website for additional information.

By April 2010, three months after the show, P&G tallied 160 new clinics purchasing Iams products, a two-fold increase over all of 2009. "When you consider that this little strategy enticed 160 new clinics to purchase something, you just can't argue with these results," one Sizzle Awards judge said. "That ability to take a trade show exhibit and turn it into a serious sales opportunity is huge whether you're a large company like Procter & Gamble or a mom-and-pop operation."

In addition to hundreds of qualified sales leads and new clinic retailers, P&G also took home a trio of honors with its exhibit experience, including a Stevie Award for the Pilobolus video, and a pair of awards from NAVC including "Best Booth Experience" award, and the show's "Exhibit of the Year" award.

According to Most, P&G's balanced approach was the most successful promotion the company has ever executed, and it generated the most significant bottom-line benefits of any veterinary conference in the company's history. "Our employees, customers, and prospects loved it," Most says. "Our booth was busy during the entire conference. We effectively doubled our quality leads. Bottom line, the show completely exceeded our expectations." And that kind of success has translated to a whole new sense of balance for P&G - a healthy balance sheet. E

Brian Todd, staff writer; btodd@exhibitormagazine.com

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