Traffic Heavy, Vendors Happy As Attendees Say Show's a Hit

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Direct marketers took the Bay area by storm last week. Vendors at the DMA's 81st Annual Conference & Exhibition were pleased because the exhibit floor was busy, and dozens of companies used the show to introduce new products and announce alliances with one another.

The DMA put official attendance for the conference at 15,237. DMA president/CEO H. Robert Wientzen used his keynote speech to focus on direct marketing's clearest opportunities for growth, specifically the Internet.

"Today, there are more than 100 million Netizens around the globe. And in the year 2005, this could reach 1 billion people if forecasters are on target," he told a packed room of more than 3,000 DMers. "Of course, the really hot action today and tomorrow is in business-to-business e-marketing. The U.S. Commerce Department is projecting that BTB online sales will exceed $300 billion in four years."

Although Wientzen's speech contained little new about privacy issues, he did urge everyone to comply with the DMA Privacy Promise Guidelines as soon as possible.

"You know that either every member of this industry implements the time-honored core concepts of consumer notice and opt out, or government will regulate what we do with information, when we do it, where we do it and how we do it," he said.

Many vendors reported that floor traffic was up this year. Tim Barlow, president of The Lake Group, Rye, NY, and Michael Maguire, president of Structural Graphics Inc., Essex, CT, found the show to be quite productive.

"Traffic to our booth has been tremendous. The spirit and outlook for direct marketing is very, very good," Barlow said.

Jon Roberson, senior vice president of marketing and sales at KnowledgeBase, Chapel Hill, NC, and Laura Naylor, product manager in the New York office of Harte-Hanks, both said many decision makers had visited their booths and asked questions. Richard Hebert, CEO of Sky Alland Marketing, Columbia, MD, noted that this year's show seemed to draw many more companies whose business was outside the realm of traditional direct marketing.

Some attendees voiced disappointment with the sessions, saying that they were too basic for the level of people they were talking to and that the sessions should have been organized into beginning, intermediate and advanced levels, as in the past. However, Mike Beck, director of marketing product management at Illinois Power, Decatur, IL, and a newcomer to the industry, said the sessions and the exhibition were highly informative and he "learned quite a bit from talking to vendors on the floor."

While the final figures on foreign attendance weren't available, Brazil was expected to have the largest contingent -- 250. The Dutch delegation numbered 80. Delegates from Asia were on the sparse side with 27 delegates from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore. More than 30 attendees came from the United Kingdom, with Germany, France and Belgium also fielding sizable delegations. From Spanish-speaking Latin America, attendees came principally from Argentina, Mexico and Venezuela.

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