DM Asia Show
Regional problems were highlighted by the disclosure at the show that in the last year sales from the US to Japan for the USPS' Global Package Link (GPL) service fell by nearly 40 percent.
The loss in what had been a very successful launch - GPL now goes to more than a dozen countries - clearly demonstrates that the yen's slide against the dollar is causing major problems for US exporters to Japan.
USPS, however, is undeterred. At a gala reception, William Tay, Singapore Post's CEO, announced a link with USPS to introduce both GPL and priority mail. Both services are designed to take US mail into Singapore
Nor is Japan the only problem. "The downturn of the 'tiger' economies has hit businesses hard," Stephen Davie, the Royal Mail's international public relations manager who attended the show, said.
"Many speakers and presenters focused on the need to use exports to drive recovery - an area ideally suited to DM activity. Over the two days emphasis was given to relationship marketing, international DM and Internet use."
They also identified potential market opportunities for taking advantage of the weak Asian currencies to provide export goods for US and western markets, Davie added.
Singapore, which has not been as hard hit as some of the other tigers, is clearly positioning itself to become a regional direct marketing hub.
Indeed, B S Retnam, the chairman of Singapore's DMA, said as much in his opening speech when he predicted that Singapore will turn itself into the "direct marketing hub of Asia."
Singapore Post recently introduced a new program called USA Direct, designed to encourage companies to test market the US with new products.
Vito J. Fortuna, a staff member of USPS' International Business Unit at the show, said the program provides "a total integrated marketing solution to include strategy, research, media selection, lists, and fulfillment.
"The company enters into an agreement with the Post to pay for the services, in addition to agreeing to ship all new business through that Post for a period of two years."
Attendance, Davie said, was lower than he expected and about the same as last year. But those who attended from Europe and the US were interested in moving their print and production to Malaysia and Singapore.
If that were to happen, "access to high quality world-wide distribution networks would then be required, based in one of the key print centers," Davie said.
He termed Royal Mail's trip to the show "a scoping exercise" to find out who was interested in using another postal administration."
The Americans were clearly out to do the same thing and scored something of a coup with the GPL announcement. USPS had a booth and Fortuna and another staff member, Louise Garon, spoke about direct mail and how to market products in the US.
In addition to Royal Mail and USPS, Hong Kong and Singapore posts had booths at the show, while Australia Post and several others were in attendance.
Speakers at the show tended to be based in Asia and to focus their remarks onto regional know-how and problem solving. Chris Powell and Davie spoke for Royal Mail, while Rene Dallaire, a VP for Database America who works closely with USPS, shared a podium with Fortuna.
What the conference did demonstrate, attendees agreed, was the wealth of direct marketing know-how that is already out there in the Asia-Pacific region where all the major global agencies as well as a growing number of indigenous shops are located.