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AAPEX Gets A Facelift In 2004

By Debbie Briggs

Visual redesign helps make navigating this years aftermarket tradeshow a little easier.

If, while walking the aisles at the Automotive Aftermarket Product Exposition (AAPEX) this November, you say to yourself, The show looks different this year, it wont be your imagination. From color-coded aisle carpeting to increased signage, one of the main goals of this years show is to get you where you need to go quickly and easily.

The associations met with a few of the exhibitors (last) September to discuss ways we could improve the show, said Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA) Show Manager Arlene Davis. It was clear everyone wanted excitement.

The AAPEX show is the annual trade show representing the $250 billion North American retail and service aftermarket and features nearly 1,900 exhibitors. AAIA and the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA) jointly sponsor AAPEX, which will take place this year Nov. 2-5 at the Sand Expo Center in Las Vegas.

After scouting out a number of shows, including the International Home and Housewares Show, Davis said the general consensus was that some assistance was needed with the overall feel and look of the show. Thats when show management turned to Murray Chapple and his visual display firm Critical Aesthetics.

He streamlined the signage to cut down on the visual noise, Davis said, and created more exclusive sponsorship opportunities for our exhibitors. Chapple worked to create not only a visually appealing space, but also one that conveys information easily.

According to Chapple, the lobby areas of the Sands Expo Center, where attendees often gather, tended to be very visually busy, leading to some confusion when it came to passing along show-related information. With a two-level design and multiple points of access, the goal was to streamline the process so that attendees would immediately see where they needed to go.

When you include all the information that attendees need, the signs can crowd each other, Chapple said. So our main goal was to free up some of the space, undo some of the clutter and pass on information in as logical of a fashion as possible. We consolidated areas of schedules and events, celebrity appearances, and maps and information areas so that as attendees approach the hall, they can find most of their answers in a central area.

In addition, the New Product Showcase was moved closer to the main entrance to increase attendee viewing opportunities, and vendors were consolidated into one area. And with the amount of show floor that the many AAPEX exhibitor booths cover, its no wonder it was sometimes difficult to find a specific booth. The remedy? Splitting the upper and lower floors into four areas and assigning to each a color, used both on the aisle signs and carpeting.

If someones trying to tell someone how to find them, Chapple said (adding that maps of the show floor will also reflect the new color-coding), they can say, go to the blue carpet, and were about halfway back. Its something to make it a little bit quicker and easier recognition versus just numbers.

Other visual enhancements


  • Updated Show Logo - Chapple said since the name of the show used to rotate based on the sponsoring organization, confusion as to what to call the show resulted. Out of convenience, most people just referred to the AAPEX show as a part of SEMA [Specialty Equipment Market Association], he said. And those two shows are completely different in both focus and who attends. AAPEX needed its own identity. While the logo is relatively new, show management felt that a freshening up of the colors would reinforce the identity of AAPEX.

  • New AAPEX tagline, We Keep America On the Road - With the use of five photographic images - grandparents delivering a baby gift, a commuter leaving his SUV in a parking garage, a jogger sitting on the bumper of her car, a performance enthusiast with his import car and a soccer mom unloading equipment from her minivan - as posters around the show, Chapple said the goal is to convey the idea that I know that person, or that person is my customer, to create a direct personal connection between the campaign and the attendee.

  • AAPEX Man - Whether this cartoon character is pictured with a megaphone (to announce events, seminars and the show schedule) or if hes holding a box with a starburst (alerting attendees to new products and exhibitors), his role is to further help deliver show information in a timely fashion.


All in all, Chapple says the visual enhancements, while important, were really a secondary goal of this multi-year project.Our primary goal is to create a more significant identity for AAPEX, he said.

And he should know. Chapple has taken care of NASCARs trade show program and set up and managed its booth at AAPEX for the past six years. Chapple began his career by earning a degree in theater, which led to a varied work history: live theater, production manager for a music tour, video production, commercial film, and finally, his current niche of display work.

I was recruited out of the film business by several requests to do display work, and the display work quickly overshadowed the film business, Chapple said. My initial work was with NASCAR when they made a move from one office to another, and through NASCAR I was introduced to, and have worked for, Joe Gibbs Racing. Ive done quite a bit at their race shop and worked with their drivers on their own personal offices and homes.

Chapple feels his career has come full circle now, with the AAPEX show bringing back memories of his live performance days.The performance may be a little bit longer, but its all active time in my book, he said. It also, of course, incorporates the whole idea of visual presentation and creating a stimulating atmosphere thats entertaining in a business kind of venue.

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