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Painted Desert
To promote its new water-based paint, PPG Automotive Refinish devised the Watering Hole saloon, a rustic 2,000-square-foot exhibit featuring a desert landscape. Clever details such as cow hides and tumbleweeds provided authenticity, while PPG's paint products appeared on eye-catching objects, including everything from guitars and double basses to motorcycles and vinyl records.
Western World
By Linda Armstrong with photos by Exposures Ltd.
Client: PPG Automotive Refinish, a division of PPG Industries Inc., Strongsville, OH
Design/Fabrication: Lucarelli Designs and Displays Inc., Brunswick, OH
Size: 40-by-50 feet (2,000 square feet)
Estimated Cost: $194,000
Estimated Cost/
Square Foot:
$97
t automotive-industry events such as the Special Equipment Market Association show (SEMA), exhibitors tend to let their products — and their booth babes — do the talking, offering attendees little more than shelves full of their wares and a bit of eye candy. But at SEMA 2012, PPG Automotive Refinish, a division of PPG Industries Inc., paired one-off product displays with a western-saloon theme to create a compelling booth design capable of trumping booth babes any day.

Standing out from the competition like a Hayabusa at a Sturgis Rally, PPG's 40-by-50-foot exhibit appeared to be an Old West saloon amid an arid desert. To complement the company's eco-friendly, water-based automotive paint products, PPG and Lucarelli Designs and Displays Inc. integrated repurposed materials into the design, adding an authentic vibe in the process.

The rustic saloon (dubbed the Watering Hole to play off the paint's water-based nature) featured a front façade comprising wood from a train trestle in Utah. Additional repurposed Wild West components included everything from real tumbleweeds and old bourbon barrels, to cow hides and a ranch-entrance arch made of railroad timbers.

However, the star of the show, i.e., PPG's water-based paint, wasn't presented via mere swatches and paint chips.

Rather, prior to the trade show, PPG's customers applied the paint to a variety of objects — including guitars, cars, motorcycles, double basses, cow skulls, etc. — which were displayed throughout the space.

Pairing worn, muted materials with objects bearing PPG's brilliant hues, the Watering Hole was a desert oasis for the show's "gearheads" and a marketing coup for PPG. Attendees lingered for upwards of 15 minutes, which was spot on with objectives, and the exhibit scored coverage in multiple media outlets. It just goes to show that a clever design and some new paint can really go a long way.

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