Memos from Milan… our take on CPhI Worldwide

19th November, 2021

Earlier in November, team ramarketing travelled to Milan, Italy to attend CPhI Worldwide (for the first time in two years). The annual conference connects exhibitors and delegates by facilitating face-to-face networking, alongside showcasing innovative solutions from thousands of exhibitors covering the entire pharma supply chain.

Following the trip, our team shared their thoughts on the 2021 show…

Events are back (but with less of a bang)

ramarketers have attended CPhI for years, and we eagerly anticipated how fast paced the first day of the event would be. Rewinding back to 2019, over 45,000 attendees filled the exhibition halls in Frankfurt and our team wondered if Milan would muster up the same buzz?

Transitioning out of a lockdown, CPhI was the first global event ramarketing attended, and one of the first real chances for our industry to revert to the ‘norm’ offering up guest speakers and presentations to challenge thinking, foster innovation and promote collaboration. Whilst these elements were not completely absent, the reality was a lower key, more laid back and controlled approach. The usual extravagance was stripped back with more importance placed on quality over quantity.

From what we experienced, the event hosted at least half of the usual visitor numbers, which we presumed was down to ongoing restrictions and reluctancy/nervousness around travel.

CPhI was a great show, but definitely not the global phenomenon we’re used to.

The personal touch 

A key highlight for us, (and for many visitors) was the ability to network and socialise in person again. Despite the event being quieter, the impact open communication played was loud. People were genuinely happy to be back together again.

The event delivered great opportunities to meet people in person and for face-to-face check-ins with clients and connections, and despite having to wear face masks throughout the conference it felt personal. Being able to spend quality time with people made everyone value human interaction and the event felt worthwhile.

We missed the US & APAC 

A big USP for CPhI is its global reach. However, ongoing travel restrictions played a critical part in lower attendance numbers. Visitors from the US and APAC regions were painfully low, which played a massive part in limiting the global feel that the conference usually boasts.

Our team felt that companies seemed to be more cautious about investing in tradeshows, and there is a feeling that until more rewards can be reaped, and the world re-opens further we predict that companies may favour attending over exhibiting.

The marketing game has stepped up 

A standout feature was the positive shift in marketing tactics. The use of video, virtual reality, more creative stand designs and stronger brand identities blew our team away (compared to what we remember from 2019). It’s clear that the outsourcing space is really upping their marketing game and understanding that events cannot be used in isolation when fuelling inbound lead generation efforts.

As an agency, we’ve written a lot about how companies have shifted their attentions to digital marketing tactics over the past two years and CPhI validated that.

Does in-person & hybrid mix?

When speaking with our clients, a lot of discussions centred around the hybrid approach and its flaws. This year underlined that companies who invested a lot into their physical stands were left feeling underwhelmed with the benefits. It seemed that companies who paid to have their branding placed online, via the event app and on virtual sessions during the show gained better coverage and exposure.

The event lacked live streaming spaces to watch the talks, so it felt like in-person attendees almost missed out on some elements of the event despite physically being at the conference.

So, what are our key takeaways?

CPhI was a great event. Being able to meet people in-person again was enjoyable and worthwhile. However, for exhibitors, it’s clear that events aren’t back with a bang just yet and there is a balance between investing in a physical presence and promoting your brand online. The blend of hybrid and in-person events perhaps needs some further refinement to win back visitor numbers and encourage investment in events to pre-covid levels.