Like client, like supplier.
Those were the thoughts of Exhibit Works when it followed its key client, Lincoln Mercury, to Southern California. The 20-year old Livonia, Mich., company, which specializes in auto show exhibits, opened its West Coast operation last fall, its first expansion outside of Michigan.
'Clients like to see the sawdust and smell the paint. You can't e-mail an exhibit,' says Mike Lockard, vice president and general manager of Exhibit Works.
Exhibit Works is the main exhibit supplier for 70 or so auto shows at which Lincoln Mercury appears. It also has done major projects for Lincoln Mercury's parent company, Ford Motor Co. Exhibit Works took center stage with its Ford Motor exhibit at the 1999 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The exhibit combined all of the company's brands into one massive, multitiered, 100,000-square-foot display. The exhibit expanded to nearly 120,000 square feet at the same show this year, with the addition of Volvo.
The company's new 100,000-square-foot facility in Foothill Ranch houses a staff of 20 and will offer the same range of exhibit services - design, engineering production and field support.
One big change
A Lincoln Mercury employee, Valerie Jay McMahon, is permanently housed at the new office. This in-house client situation is unprecedented for the company. 'It's been done in the reverse, but not the other way around,' Lockard says.
McMahon is the displays and exhibits manager in Lincoln Mercury's marketing communications department. She oversees all Lincoln Mercury auto show programs throughout the country and is responsible for ensuring that all of the brand strategies are communicating a consistent message. She says having an on-site office at Exhibit Works has helped her productivity. 'I'm right here with the designers; they can show me color and trim, and I can give them an answer immediately,' she says.
McMahon also works closely with Lincoln Mercury's advertising agency, Young & Rubicam. 'We make sure our marketing efforts link with the logos and images (Exhibit Works) is creating for us,' McMahon says.
Exhibit Works doubled its revenues to $100 million from 1997 to 1998 and is projecting about $100 million for 1999. And Lockard sees enormous opportunities for new business on the West Coast. 'There's not a lot of (exhibit) expertise in the West,' he says. 'We're primarily going after other auto companies, but we plan to pursue industries such as high-technology, entertainment and sporting goods.' Sixty percent of the company's business comes from automotive exhibits, 30 percent from trade shows and 10 percent from museum exhibits.
Lockard believes interactive exhibits at trade shows will grow, as companies attempt to develop one-to-one relationships, adding that exhibits also allow for tangible product contact. Says Lockard: 'You can't kick tires on the Internet.'