The Spirit Of Christmas Fair
Olympia, London

Sat 9th Nov

Arms Fair Marketing Exercise

Since Clarion events bought the Dsei arms fair, that delightful cornucopia of torture equipment and corporate cash flow, The Space Hijackers have been keen to help their marketing team inform the existing customer base of the new shopping opportunites this expansion will yield.

Now, it’s November, the nights are drawing in, and that means just one thing... Christmas is coming! And Clarion’s Spirit of Christmas fair provided another pleasantly ironic juxtaposition for us to exploit... This year, the Spirit of Christmas isn’t just about spending more than you can afford on gifts your friends don’t need and drinking yourself into a tinsel-flavoured oblivion. No! This year, the Spirit of Christmas also offers you the surely not-incompatible Spirit of War; not just gaudy pine trees and brussel sprouts but sparkly cluster bombs and decorative grenades! We took to Kensington Olympia one rainy weekend, armed with santa hats and money off vouchers for the Arms Fair to offer to the keen and festive shoppers. Our pitch went a little like this...

“Did you enjoy the Spirit of Christmas Fair sir/madam? Can we take this opportunity to tell you about some of our other fairs where you can enjoy the same level of all-under one roof consumer excitement? We have recently purchased the DSEI arms fair, where you can fulfil all your munitions needs; tanks, guns, cluster bombs, illegal torture equipment. All the money you’ve spent today goes straight into this new venture, so as a thank you, this voucher gets you in free to the next fair. Same company, different product, same great shopping experience.”

After a while the friendly security guards came out and, informing us we were on private land, told us we could move into the pen which had handily already been provided for ‘our lot’. This was the space that had been created for CAAT’s earlier visits. It was a very small sad looking space, right in the corner and full of bins. In fact some people had assumed the barriers meant it was the smoking area. We didn’t fancy that much. So we said to the representative of Group 4 (for it was they) that we thought we’d just stay where we were thanks as people were unlikely to respond well to leaflets proffered from within a cage.

Some of the organisers of the fair came out to see us, in a bit of a tizzy, with walky talkies and concerned expressions and told us they would call the police. After some consideration we decided that that would be just fine, and that police cars outside Clarion’s family friendly event would be just the ticket to convey their violent new connection to the arms trade. So we carried on our outreach, with a varied response from the chrimbo punters. Some accepted the flyers and the connection quite unquestioningly, with some disheartening responses such as ‘Oh yes I’ll tell my husband, he’ll like that.’ or “Oh but it’s at Excel; that’s too far.’ Perhaps we were being a little too helpful! However many shoppers were totally appalled that Clarion would be selling both Christmas logs and heat-seeking missiles, questioned that it must be a hoax, then agreed that this was a conflict at the heart of Clarion’s marketing strategy that was just a little bit morally dodgy, and said they would write to the marketing director of Clarion to express their shock. Agent arco-iris spoke to one lady who was waiting at the station for her son. She was horrified when she realised that the fair was linked to the arms trade, and said that she had been considering finding out the prices of the tickets but was now resolved to keep well away from the fair and tell her friends to do the same. A similar reaction came from all of the exhibitors we spoke to, several were appalled and intended to take it up with Clarion.

Soon two police cars did arrive, but much to the security team’s disappointment they conspicuously failed to drag us off the pavement and into jail. In fact after a little chat they left us to it, and we flyered and cross-promoted merrily for a while longer, handing out hundreds of leaflets and informing lots and lots of people (both shoppers and exhibitors) about the existence of the Arms Fair and Clarion’s connection to it, as well as the pressure Reed Elsevier was put under causing them to sell it off in the first place.

Then we went and celebrated with a glass or two of eggnog and mulled wine, looking forward both to the glorious spending sprees of the festive season and much more cross-promotion at Clarion’s upcoming fairs. To register your excitement at Clarion’s new expansion and your delight at the shopping opportunites offered to you and corrupt dictators the world over by the DSEi Arms Fair extravaganza, please write to the marketing director, Gordon Payne.

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