Internet Takes Larger Role at Catalog Conference

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A larger Internet presence at next week's Annual Catalog Conference compared with the event in prior years reflects not only an overall strategy by the Direct Marketing Association to incorporate the world of interactive into the organization, but also the way the DM industry is headed.

In December, the DMA canceled, its trade show devoted to interactive marketing. It said it would develop additional sessions that appeal to interactive marketers for the ACC, DM Days New York and the DMA fall annual conference. Created by the DMA in 1997, had seen light attendance since the 2001 show in Seattle was cut short by an earthquake.

The DMA has been faulted by some in the industry for not paying enough attention to interactive's role in direct marketing. This year's catalog conference, set for May 23-25 at Gaylord Palms Resort in Orlando, FL, will have more than 40 Internet-related exhibitors, DMA spokeswoman Laura Colona said. These include e-commerce service-related companies, online service-related firms and search engine companies.

"A lot more of the exhibitors are Internet-related than before, which makes sense as the industry moves toward online and interactive," she said.

As of May 17, 261 firms occupying 419 booths had registered for this year's show. Last year saw 231 firms and 382 booths.

Also, "more attendees that are responsible for Internet functions" have signed up for this year's show, according to Colona. However, attendance will remain a mystery because, as usual, the DMA chooses not to release attendance figures for its trade shows.

The ACC also has more Internet content this year than ever, including 14 Web and e-mail marketing seminars.

New this year are Web Site Critiques, where attendees get one-on-one feedback regarding their Web sites from seasoned professionals. The 15-minute sessions from 1 to 4 p.m. May 23 resemble the popular Catalog Critiques that the ACC has offered in the past and that again are on the schedule.

Also returning this year is the Web Site Usability Lab, where companies can learn what customers experience when visiting selected sites and observe what works and what doesn't. The Search Engine Marketing Labs make a return visit as well. Here, catalogers meet with search marketing experts to learn how to optimize their sites and pay-per-click campaigns.

The conference's education program also boasts the largest pool of retail merchants ever, with 103 catalogers, Internet and brick-and-mortar retailers involved.

"Merchants serve as the best resource for new ideas," which is why attendees like to see them on the schedule, Colona said. The total number of speakers at this year's conference is 245.

Of 219 speakers last year, 108 worked for catalog companies. Two years ago only 55 catalogers were represented among the list of 149 speakers.

There will be four executive forums this year, up from two last year. The May 23 forum will discuss the results of a new multichannel survey. On May 24, one forum will cover the effect of catalog acquisitions while another will deal with creating an annual strategic plan. Merchandising is the topic for the May 25 forum.

This year's speakers include Todd Simon, senior vice president at Omaha Steaks, and Robyn Waters, founder/president at RW Trend LLC. Simon speaks May 24, and Waters delivers her address May 25.

Chantal Todé covers catalog and retail news and BTB marketing for DM News and DM To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting

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