September/October 2014
Volume 34 No. 6

Sept Oct 2014
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The market bags of yesteryear were practical and useful. Today’s bags get discarded in hotel rooms as soon as the content is emptied.

By Dom Serafini

Since the start of VideoAge in 1981, I must have received a total of at least 350 trade show market bags of all sizes and shapes. I used to take them because they were nice-looking, practical and — most of all — useful even after the markets.

No more! I stopped collecting them after the one distributed at NATPE 2006 in Las Vegas. That particular messenger-style bag is very practical and I still use it, unlike those found at today’s markets.

My favorite of all were the bags given at SPORTELMonaco 1999 and the identical twin, given at SPORTELAmerica 2000 in Miami Beach, Florida. They both lasted for 14 years, but unfortunately, wear and tear reduced them to something that not even a bag lady would carry around, so earlier this year I was forced to leave them in the memorabilia cabinet and begin using the NATPE 2006 bag instead.

But the SPORTEL bags are sorrowfully missed. Each bag featured four compartments with three zippers: one in front to keep business cards, pens, sunglasses, napkins and, due to the long walks, necessary Band-Aids. Plus, Aspirin to cope both with headaches caused by our reporters and to prevent heart attacks caused by our printers, along with mints and a granola bar.

The main pocket was perfect for carrying a Mac laptop, copies of VideoAge Monthly and Daily, which being of a tabloid format require extra space — a tradition carried over from the days with my former boss Sol Paul, publisher of the now-defunct Television/Radio Age, who used to remind all of us in the editorial staff that our magazine was like the American Express card, and that we should “never leave home without it.”

The main zipped compartment could also hold a camera for me to take photos when our photographer could not make it to a particular event; the necessary notebook, assorted computer wires, the market floorplan and several pens, considering that you will inevitably run out of ink when you’re about to take notes. Inside the main pocket there was another zipped pocket, a sort of secret compartment useful for keeping documents and other important papers that should not be mixed with other stuff.

Finally, in the back of the bag, there was a small unzipped exterior slot for a cellular phone (that was easy to retrieve — imagine looking for a ringing phone in the midst of so much junk!), my hotel key, the car key (if in Los Angeles), the Internet USB key and a comb. Yes, a comb needed when, being out all day with no time to groom, the least you can do before going to a meeting or to an evening party is to comb your hair!

Those were the perfect market bag days! Of course, all along, prior to 2006, there were markets that gave similarly fantastic bags, but, unfortunately, they were strongly branded. Imagine walking inside a major U.S. studio stand or hotel suite carrying a bag from a competing studio! Those studio bags were and still are great, but must be reserved only for events where no other studios are present (while making a big impression on civilians).

Unfortunately, since 2006 most market bags have not been worth taking back home or even carrying at the trade shows where they’re given. They tend to be too rigid, too small or too bulky overall, not to mention mono-compartmental.

Yes, these may all seem like insignificant details, but nevertheless they’re important for people like me who have to look at the practical aspect of each market.

Now back to the NATPE 2006 bag, which by default has now become my official all-around market bag. It’s nice, though the fact that the front flap has two clips (buckles), means that it’s a big production to flip it over to reach the inside compartment and have all the stuff inside the zipped front pocket noisily turned upside down.

It’s not as flexible as the SPORTEL bags, but still thin enough to fit inside luggage and it has several small pockets outside the front interior to serve as an organizer. It will do for now.