Call for Comment: Best IBC SWAG

Yes, stuff. We all get it at trade shows, whether you’re a trade press editor begging for food or a real customer trying to figure out the exact status of a product set for delivery ‘real soon now,’ you’ve likely received SWAG.

Some SWAG is simple, from the little bits of sugar that must suffice when there’s no time to eat, to the hand sanitizer or mints that make booth meetings more pleasant or less likely to transmit the trade show cough and cold that always seems to go around.

What’s the most interesting bit of SWAG you’ve received at a trade show, or perhaps given out if you’re from the vendor side of the equation? Send me an e-mail at and maybe your comments will be included in a future SneakPeeks.

I’ll start the ball rolling with several items that were all within arms reach of my computer, things associated with the (non-virtual) desktop workspace.

First, Pens. Anyone who’s wandered an exhibition hall knows there’s an abundance of cheap, often colourful logo pens in a cup on every other stand. If you need a pen they are there, and the protocol on acquiring one will vary.

Can you grab one surreptitiously, or will you have to undergo the badge scan and perfunctory exchange of smiles and words with the attendant behind the desk? Perhaps a smile and nod while grabbing one will suffice.

At the opposite end of the cheap but effective orange or green or blue or purple logo pen, are nicer units. One company gave out nice Cross brand pens ----the ones with the arrow logo on the clip---- to its best customers. Some give out nicer metal pen and pencil sets. The chromed letter opener pictured on this page is part of one such set, given out by Panasonic in the mid 1990s.

I’ve long since lost the pen and pencil, and the Panasonic name has worn off the letter opener, but I remember Panasonic every time I use it.

Which brings us to the point of the logo pen, and really all SWAG. Name recognition, getting a point across, seeing a name or even a colour and having a feeling come up. In short, marketing.

Some pens go beyond the basics. The Phabrix pen pictured, for example, has an internal 15 cm double-sided scroll that taunts a user to pull it out and

glance at it. That glance says a lot. It conveys that Phabrix is a UK company (courtesy of the Union Jack) that makes both handheld and rackmount test kit (the latter learned by the images on the scroll of a hand holding a device, and rackmount kit on the reverse side). The Dolby logo says something more. Well done.

The flower pen pictured is of course from Dutch manufacturer Axon. This is a tourist pen that the vendor printed its website on, along with the words ‘Celebrating our 25th Anniversary.’ This pen conveys where the company is from and the fact that it’s been around a while.

The small, modern-looking pen from RF transmission specialist Cobham has an interesting story. I was at a trade show at a meeting with Cobham, and I laughed that the pen I had pulled from my bag that day was a Cobham pen acquired at a prior show. The Cobham rep saw me unconsciously fiddling with the squishy rubber tip on the ‘eraser side’ of the unit before telling me that he had just learned what the squishy tip was for: It works like a thin finger on tiny smartphone touchscreens----it was a stylus for touchscreens!

I had no idea, and now that pen has become very helpful when circumstances dictate that I need to type more than a few words of an e-mail via the phone.

At the opposite end of the tech spread, note the Signiant pencil. I use pencils a lot in laying out print magazines and tracking copy on paper still. A pencil with eraser is still much appreciated now and then.

Little notebooks like the one from Ross that is pictured are always helpful at a show when paper runs scarce, or after a show for all the things I still write down in an old-school manner. The flashlight keychain is from XILINX, The Programmable Logic Company. I know what XILINX does because it projects those words on the wall when the LED is lit.

The JAMPRO ruler/calculator combo doesn’t get much use as my iPhone has a nice calculator with big fat buttons. But sometimes a ruler is ideal----for measuring the scroll on that Phabrix pen for example.

What else is pictured? I must apologise to Imagine for showing the Harris logo mousepad----I think this dates from IBC2013. Maybe I have an Imagine pad from the more recent NAB show. I’m not sure, as I haven’t fully unpacked from that yet!

Apologies for anyone left out, and any perceived bias. These items really were every bit of swag I could see from my chair. Next time maybe I’ll check out my toolbox …

Once again I ask: What’s the most interesting bit of SWAG you’ve received at a trade show, or given out? Send me an e-mail at

Mark Hallinger