Janet Jackson and the RSNA

February 11, 2004

By Greg Freiherr, Editor, gfreiherr@cmp.comThe exhibit floor at the RSNA meeting is about as risque as a high school rendition of Our Town. Sunday night's Super Bowl started

By Greg Freiherr, Editor, gfreiherr@cmp.com

The exhibit floor at the RSNA meeting is about as risque as a high school rendition of Our Town. Sunday night's Super Bowl started me thinking about how it got that way.

Super Bowls generate about $12 billion in revenue. The imaging industry does way more than that, although it takes a bit longer. So it's not so much the money that's at stake.

The venue isn't all that different. Chicago has McCormick Place and Soldier Field. The RSNA meeting and the Super Bowl are both held indoors. It's more difficult to rally around a company than a pro football team, but it's done-and rather effectively by most of the vendors on the exhibit floor. Which brings us to the products themselves and how they're promoted.

It's hard to imagine companies that have more hanging in the balance than those that make high-performance imaging equipment. Anheiser Busch won't sweat losing a couple hundred beer drinkers, but if Siemens or GE lost as many MR or CT customers, they would be on injured reserve.

So why doesn't the imaging industry seek the least common denominator of taste and class as did the vendors that advertised during the Super Bowl? Actually, the industry at one point was headed in exactly that direction.

Twenty years ago it was common to see spandex-clad models on the RSNA floor, usually supine on a patient table. Mammography vendors routinely showed videotapes of breast exams featuring women who were years away from needing such a study.

Were they effective? You bet they were. Meeting attendees lined up three deep to watch a mock MR scan of a young woman's pelvis as the resolution of the images slowly improved on computer screens that lined the perimeter of a vendor's booth.

Such demonstrations are no longer in evidence. Mannequins now lie upon patient tables. And if human models are present, they are attired professionally.

In short, the Super Bowl of radiology has become respectful. Prurient interests have been sublimated. Each act contains a requisite amount of class. The reason has a lot to do with the institution that runs it. MTV produced the halftime show (enough said there). CBS managed the advertising, echewing ads aimed at sparking political debate, while approving one with a flatulent horse.

I've heard it said that the RSNA is too conservative, too restrictive. But after seeing Sunday night's performance on national TV, it's clear we have reason to be grateful.