Canadian Rental Service

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Editorial: Bridging the digital divide

My daughter is 15, which means her default location is in her room with the door closed and earbuds in. Calling her for dinner, or for any other reason, is a challenge even to my abilities to project my voice – keeping in mind that I’m told I can be heard all over our office when I’m not careful to keep it down.


February 14, 2017
By Patrick Flannery


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So rather than turn our house into an auditory facsimile of a stock exchange floor, my wife and I have taken to texting her when it’s time to come downstairs. Yes, it’s come to that. Teenagers are now easier to communicate with electronically than verbally, even when they are only 30 feet away.

Stories like this have created a concern among some of us who remember when the Walkman was a startling innovation in mobile entertainment. To wit, we worry if the younger generation is losing the ability to interact face-to-face; to present themselves in public and engage in a conversation using their mouths instead of keyboards and their faces instead of emojis. Voice calls are already viewed by millennials and younger as almost rude intrusions into someone’s personal space and time, requiring far too much investment of attention and effort to be appropriate in anything less than an emergency. Emails are viewed the way letter-writing was in the pre-Internet era: reserved for longer and more serious communications that should become part of a record. Are we approaching a state where people keep track of each other with GPS-linked software and communicate from distant rooms linked only by digital messages beamed instantly via satellite?

It looks like a funny thing has happened on the way to this electronically enabled Armageddon of personal interaction. Events and physical get-togethers are more popular than ever, and getting more popular all the time. I posted a video recently of a Christmas celebration that WestJet threw for the residents of Fort McMurray, Alta., (several Alberta rental companies were involved). The ultimate purpose of the event was to produce the video and promote WestJet, of course, but the choice of how to do that is the interesting part. Getting people together for something is probably the most popular and trendy marketing tool around right now. Take it from someone who depends on media sales for a living: nothing sells like events.

But the events have to be done right. WestJet certainly did, with a massive splash complete with a huge tent shaped like an airport hanger and gifts dropping from parachutes out of the night sky. (I was mildly scandalized by the Santa in a WestJet blue suit instead of the traditional red, but I guess he who pays the piper gets to call the tune). Few have WestJet’s marketing budget, but any event can attract a lot of buzz and generate positive feelings in the target audience with some attention to flair, creativity and the audience’s real interests.

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That’s where you come in. This is our annual issue for the party and event side of the Canadian rental industry, so our cover profile is on A&B Rentals, an event store in Vancouver with a great story to tell. Also, you’ll find great new party supplies on page 26. We hope you’ll find something that helps you put on the next great event for your customers.

It is a great time to be in the event rentals sector. After all, it looks like you are on the crest of a wave bringing people back together across the digital divide.