Claire Davidson was socializing with colleagues at the Digestive Disease Week conference when the group realized the table they were gathered around was covered with advertisements.

Anywhere else, a table wrapped in brightly colored pharmaceutical branding might stick out, but this small table fit in amid the sea of advertising in its enormous home. McCormick Place, with its 170 meeting rooms and 2.6 million square feet of exhibit halls, is North America’s largest convention center, a small town inside the city of Chicago.

Greeting thousands of guests in the grand concourse were larger-than-life vinyl banners—one just inside the main entrance hanging 75 feet by 30 feet—and vinyl advertisements on the stairs, the stair rails, windows, and stacked cubes. Sitting areas beckoned weary conferencegoers with comfortable seats, tables, and charging stations all plastered with company colors and logos. Even the information booth was wrapped in branding.

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