Exhibition News October 2017 - Page 25

COVER FEATURE Flying the fl ag Left and below: Best of British and Ideal Home Show take on China; inset: Media 10 CEO and counder, Lee Newton “ “ We were offered a fairly unique deal where we can operate our own off ice out there” ” ” “ " over-confi dent Newton left his potential employers unimpressed and the interview was terminated. Ever resourceful, he spied another job ad in the building’s reception as he was leaving. Omitting the real reason he was there, he called from a nearby phone box and said he was just passing, and was there any chance of meeting? “I got an interview and did the complete opposite to what I’d done in that last one! I just had to succeed at this – If I don’t make this work, I’ll be outside again, working in the cold!” This fi rst job was on What’s New in Interiors and thus a salesman, and an affi liation with design, was born. Media 10 itself came about when Newton and nine other disillusioned friends and colleagues jumped ship to set up their own company. The ten original partners are still all on board, although “the fi nance director, who’d been trying to for years, has retired.” The company identifi ed Channel 4’s homes and interior improvements programme Grand Designs as a potential print project. “It was growing in popularity so we approached Channel 4 and bought the licence to launch the magazine.” Proposing a live event was not far behind. “Within a year we thought: ‘let’s do an event!’ it had no real competitor, not even the Ideal Home Show given the way it was then.” “We told Channel 4 we were experts at this stuff, and gave ourselves seven months to launch it – and we did it! When we ‘fell into’ events.” With a relative newbie’s enthusiasm, the team threw themselves into the mission. Did their lack of experience when it came to exhibitions help to propel them? “Seven months sounded ages... defi nitely some of our naivety helped. We were unencumbered by industry norms; naïve and uninformed meant we weren’t scared. We probably wouldn’t do it now!” They initially regarded the event as a supplement to Grand Designs magazine, “something to stick on the side,” as Newton puts it. “We had 10am doors and not one of us had thought to have a look outside to see if ayone had turned up. At 9:45am we had a peek outside and a crowd had formed!” Acquisition of The Ideal Home Show followed in 2009. Despite being a household name, the event had become lacklustre. “We were the last people to come to it. Everyone turned it down. But the word from the public was still: ‘It’s famous – everyone’s heard of it!’ We took control of it and brought our savvy from Grand Designs, and redesigned it for the visitor – as opposed to the exhibitor, which is what it had become.” Change, as is inevitable, brought its challenges, since exhibitors felt things has always been done a certain way. “On the fi rst day of our fi rst Ideal Home Show, we had complaining exhibitors and I was prepared to give them their money back. At the end of the last day, we were applauded.” The acquisition of 100% Design from Reed in 2012 further enhanced the portfolio and is now a fl agship event and a cornerstone of the London Design Festival in September. Rob Nathan, group marketing director, continues the story, “100% Design has attracted really big names – 25,000 people from the design trade. Those are big numbers. Something like this needs to be vibrant and not stuffy (which trade can sometimes be) for people to be engaged. It encaptures everything, design of all aspects. The UK needs to be seen as the design hub of the world and The London Design Festival regarded as forefront of design.” In 2013, Media 10 looked East. “It's a growing and exciting market. It’s like the UK in the ’80s.” says Newton. “Services are in demand in China, although in some respects it’s like the Wild West. You’ve gotta be able to take the knocks.” And knocks there were. “When we launched Design Shanghai, we were told, by everyone, ‘if you work in China, you have to have a partner’. In brief, it didn't work too well, but we were in too deep.” Now at some distance, Newton can recall the experience with a certain amount of wry humour, “At one point, we and the exhibitors were locked out of the exhibition hall! Entry had been publicised as free – which it wasn’t, so I had to defend the ticket price on local Chinese news. I was asked on camera ‘It was free yesterday, why are you charging today?’ To which I replied: 'Yesterday was yesterday. Today is today.’ I didn’t know it, but that resembles a Chinese proverb, so I became known after my TV appearance as The Man who Quotes Chinese Proverbs!” This, though, was more than enough to deter Newton, and by this time he had sworn off ever returning to the region. continued ➞ “Ultimately, it was terrifying exhibitionnews.co.uk | October 2017 25