Twenty years ago David Ross ran Australia’s first Sexpo at the Carlton Crest Hotel. He did want it to be at the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre, but they knocked him back.
Next week one of Melbourne’s longest running expos – the 20th Melbourne Sexpo – will be held at the MCEC, as it has been for the past 19 years. Just over 40,000 people will attend the four-day event making it one of the city’s most attended expos.
As a Public Relations Consultant, David was approached by the Club X chain of adult retail stores in 1995 with the brief, make the Club X stores more appealing to women.
David, Sexpo’s International Licensing Manager, says, “I was doing a story with a freelance journalist,” he recalls, “and we went to a trade-day lunch. There was a woman standing at a lectern giving a really professional presentation to industry representatives about products and equipment. I looked around at the wine, the white tablecloths, and audience – largely women – and the products, which were laid out on the table for people to pick up and play with, and I thought, ‘You know, this is what we have to do’.
“My intention became then, and remains today, to bring all things sex-related out of adult stores and present them in a welcoming, comfortable, educational, entirely entertaining, safe and fun way,” says David, who is now the International Licensing Manager for Sexpo, while Bentleigh Gibson, Australian Event Manager, has taken over from David running the local events.
From just 20 stands at his inaugural “touch and feel” expo at the Carlton Crest, to a global success story, David’s well-timed smarts took him from an impressive 8000 curious visitors, to a current-rolling total, worldwide, with the 3 millionth (Australian) visitor expected to come through the doors next week.
“To this day, I don’t know whether we lost money or made money from that first event,” he says. “In the early days writing press releases, folding invites and running every aspect of marketing Sexpo Australia fell to David alone. “Still, the level of interest was sufficient to convince us that we were onto something,” he adds. Two decades later and the world is clearly up for more of the same.
Ambitious, brave, and just the right amount of cheeky, very quickly took Sexpo from its humble beginnings to South Africa and beyond, all within a few years. “There is a very clear and growing demand from the public, in every market we go to,” he says. Sexpo UK launched in 2015, with South Africa – which recently held its 10th Sexpo – coming in second behind Australia’s home base of Melbourne with regard to visitor numbers.
“The true catalyst to our success has been to know who to appeal to first,” David explains of his brand’s global appeal and core strategy. “Sexpo is female-focused. They bring their men along, but the former are the braver of the sexes when it comes to confronting curiosity and embracing it.
“From the beginning, it was important for everything to be carefully worded, free from anything remotely graphic or gratuitous,” he recalls. “For men, all we’d need to say would be ‘bare breasts inside’ and we’d be inundated, but for women the marketing had to be smarter.”
With a fun-first related atmosphere, Sexpo visitors can expect to be spoilt for choice. Between its solid mix of local and international performers, from all aspects of the adult entertainment industry (including burlesque, male and female exotic dancing), Sexpo is lauded for colliding the best of all worlds into one extra-special experience for serious shoppers and the oddly curious too.
Sexpo is trademarked around the world and Ross is now actively looking for partners globally, particularly in the US and Russia. “We have shown through our success in South Africa that the format works, but we need to find the right partners to ensure our brand is protected and not tarnished – which in our industry you could imagine how quickly that could happen.”
SEXPO MELBOURNE FAST FACTS
Thursday November 24: 4.00 PM – 10.00 PM
Friday November 25: 11.00 am – 12.00 am (Midnight)
Saturday November 26: 11.00 am – 12.00 am (Midnight)
Sunday November 27: 11.00 am – 8.00 pm
Venue: Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre
For details on the international aspect of the Sexpo business please contact Grant Titmus on 0419 3881 61
For details on the Melbourne event please contact Brian Johnson on 0409 650 834