News of the cancellation of the Digital Signage Expo East, previously scheduled for September in Washington, DC, comes as a welcome non-surprise. The paucity of activity at the inaugural fall event last year in Philadelphia has been well documented, as has the seeming glut of shows trying to leverage the growth of our industry. We will proudly wear our 7-years lapel pins next year at the DSE show in Las Vegas, which remains as the de facto big show in this side of the pond. We shed no tears for the euthanasia performed on DSE East.

It is easy to assume that the show organizers simply read the tea leaves and determined that it was not going to be a success, and to be sure those signs were probably quite evident. Many exhibitors simply did not reserve space; others committed to smaller spaces; the economy points toward less travel budget for potential attendees; and no doubt a payment deadline loomed from the convention center. On that level it seems like an easy business decision for Chris Gibbs and his team. On another level, it is actually a strategic decision to protect their brand.

DSE has become an acronym with meaning to everyone associated with the digital signage industry. The mention of those letters evokes images of a bustling, buzzing, busy exhibit hall and packed session rooms. The fact that a name can evoke an image and even an emotional response makes it a strong brand. The foray into a second show was essentially a brand extension for Exponation, and it can only be compared to Starbuck’s soon-to-be-failed attempt at instant coffee. It degrades the image of the flagship brand and big breadwinner… never a good thing. By shuttering the DSE East show and rethinking its strategy, Exponation is able to create a bit more scarcity and urgency around the big show, and should expect further growth in 2010. It is a very good decision for their company and for the industry.

Exponation’s comments on the cancellation indicate that they are noodling over a second show with a different format for 2010, and Dave Haynes’ reliable spidey sense has indicated that a show around content may be the ticket. I can hear the groans of my fellow technology vendors as they contemplate an exhibit hall stalked by creatives and not technology buyers. My two cents worth is that a five-city autumn road show of focused (and possibly varied) seminar content coupled with a limited vendor/sponsor area would be useful, and would leverage the DSE brand beyond giant expo hall venues. Just a thought.