Monday, October 19, 2009

2nd Place is the 1st Loser

Insomnia is such a weird word to wrap my head around. It's mostly because I work weird hours. In fact, my work schedule is such that I’m constantly asked “How do you do it?” I respond simply by re-asking the question. I know that’s not a proper way to answer a question- unless it’s one of the games you learned in high school theater class.

So while my mind continues to crank out good thoughts instead of those to put me to sleep, I decided to write about a few of the conventions coming to town this week. As you can tell, Las Vegas is a melting pot of the world’s economy. People flock here for many a-reason and one of those- conventions. But, let’s pause for a moment and think about the world’s greatest triumphs and tragedies. Like the one that happened the other day with the Patriots and Titans- the 59 to 0 route, or when Brett Favre lead the Vikings to 6 and 0. Get my drift? It’s all about competition.

While I did not get a chance to go, the World Paintball championships made a brief appearance this weekend. I’m sure it was a blast. I’m sure paint was splattered across the Las Vegas Convention Center floor. I planned to attend but at the last second- decided to hang back and spend some away from the Strip.

Later this week, the Monopoly World Championships comes to town. Yes, I said it. The MONOPOLY WORLD  CHAMPIONSHIPS! Champions from 40 different countries will battle it out in one big contest to see who can buy and sell more real estate (fake that is) than anyone else. The winner gets $20,000 and the title of Monopoly Champion. But, someone brought up a good point. The point of Monopoly is to bankrupt the other competitors. Hm.. sound familiar? Welcome to Las Vegas. The epicenter of the housing bust.

On a side note, The National Convenience Store Convention comes to Las Vegas at the back half of the week. One cool thing going on in the maze of Slurpees, 2 month old hot dog cooking machines and beer--- Operation Interdependence- a non-profit devoted to sending care packages to troops overseas-- will be collecting unused goods that the exhibitors did not give out during the length of the show. They’ll then box them up and send them to our men and women serving in the Armed Forces.

So that’s what’s going on this week. Good luck to the Monopoly Champs. Should be a showdown of showdowns.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Pain, Sacrifice, Art. Inside the “Biggest Tattoo Show on Earth.”

I’m one that admires good artwork; no matter what canvas it’s on. So when I heard about the this tattoo show coming to Las Vegas, I jumped on the opportunity to go inside the often taboo world of tattoos.

The convention was not what I was expecting. In my mind, I fully expected this to be a show full of exhibitors showing off the latest techniques, supplies and insider secrets. It was anything but. Enter the large convention center at Manadalay Bay and immediately you walk into what I believe is the largest tattoo shop in the world! Rows and rows of “booths” were set up with world-renown tattoo artists inking up their patrons. Some 1,000 exhibitors in all. On the walls of these mini-tattoo parlors are pictures of artwork the artists have done. I was more than impressed at some of their works.

Every year, tattoo artists travel from across the world to Las Vegas for this event. Show officials tell me this is a common practice as it allows customers to bypass lengthy waiting lists to meet with their favorite artists.

Here you can see a booth set up on a riser with a group of people from Japan. You can see just how open the booths were. Also, the people getting the ink had no problems with onlookers.

Among the most rare exhibitors were these folks. These are Samoans practicing the ancient art of Samoan Tattoo. If I look like I’m in a pain- it’s because it’s so painful watching this! First, the customer decides on a design, the artist then draws it on before tapping the ink into the skin. Yes, I said tapping!

The tapping noise actually drowned out the almost deafening sound of needles from every corner of the convention center. But, the work these guys produced was downright amazing.

Show officials are also ahead of the game when it comes to safety. Every booth is checked by Clark County health inspectors before the doors open.

The show was expected the bring in more than 50,000 attendees, many Southern Nevada residents. In this down economy, people are hoping to bring people into their shows by offering free admission. A $45 ticket price was waived for Locals (I.e. Nevadans with Nevada IDs). However, there were still thousands from out of state wanting to get marked.

I leave you with this quote which I think sums up the entire experience. “In a half hour, she’ll have something that will never go away.”

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Art of the Pitch

The title says it all. The only way to sell your product is to pitch it to someone who will buy it. Infomercials do it all the time. That’s why you see hours upon hours of late night sales pitches. So, I decided to seek out the makers of the infomercials AND the people who hope their inventions make them instant millionaires.

So here's the challenge. I set out the other day, heading to the 2009 Electronic Retailers Association’s D2C (Direct-to-Consumer) Convention at Paris Las Vegas.

Let me briefly explain the convention. For one, I had no idea that this convention existed. The website only provided a few clues about what I was about to walk into. I know there’s a convention for everything- including bottle cap collectors, so I shouldn’t be surprised about this. However, I was excited to learn that this was a convention for the infomercial industry!

Convention day:

First order of business, find out what this was all about. I decided to go head first walking in before reading any of the material given out at registration. The first booth was someone trying to win the product of the year award for 3 Minute Legs. Huh? You guessed it. Get legs like showgirls (yes, that was the demonstration) in ONLY 3 Minutes. Did I sell you on that?

Next stop was a rather unique one at that. I have been to the Adult Film Convention and saw many things that I hope to never see again. But, that won’t happen because here comes the pitch. A man from Spain approached me to talk about the idea of bringing his idea to the United States. His pitch, the Sex Shop Channel. This isn’t your standard “Call now and we’ll throw in an extra (insert any product name here) for 19.99.” Rather, this is a very successful company that’s been selling “products” on TV in Europe. I refrained from using the word “toys” as what was being sold were referred to only as “products.“ I asked a few questions including the challenges of coming to the United States.

I was told that this is “not porn” and there are few rules the company must abide by. Plus, you’ll receive your products in an unmarked box. The Sex Shop is close to a deal and could hit late night airwaves sometime this year or next.

The next area that I stumbled upon was where I wanted to go in the first place. A large gathering of inventors. There I was standing with a blank look on my face, on a mission, but that didn’t matter to the dozens of people glaring at me. They all hoped I was the secret to their success. Again, I wasn’t quite sure what I was about to encounter so I decided to start asking questions. This was an area where inventors displayed their ideas hoping someone would love it enough to sell on an infomercial. This is where the pitch was the most important.
I found one idea that peaked my interested and I was off to the races. I met an inventor who designed a new type of child seat. This would protect a child’s’ head should they fall asleep in the car. Interesting, yes. Practical? I don’t know because I don’t have children.
Then I spotted something out of the ordinary. It was a litter box meant for dogs. The Rascal Litter Box’s creator had the pitch down to a “T.“ It’s a litter box with turf and would allow you to leave your four legged friend at home while you went out for the day and not worry about their restroom needs. I was told that this sells for about $80. Quite interesting.
The displays ranged from quick set ups with cardboard boxes to elaborate displays complete with dark wood, working shower heads and even a trash can full of trash. But it didn’t matter too much about the display but if the inventor could sell someone on their ideas. Some of the inventors I spoke with were selling everything from hot and cold shoulder massagers to a carrier designed to carry up to four beverages.

All were interesting folks who just wanted to live off the earnings of their ideas. Despite competing against each other their message was still the same and said in a unified way: “My product is the best!”
I don’t know if any of the products will make it to the big leagues. But I do know one thing, many of the inventors that I met will not take no for an answer.