DMD Exhibitors, Attendees Upbeat About Economy

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NEW YORK -- An upbeat mood permeated the DMD Marketing Conference and Exposition as marketers hoped that the worst was over in the recent economic downturn.

"People are going to react to whatever the economy is doing," said Walter Perkowski, vice president of management at RMI Direct Marketing Inc., Danbury, CT. "When times are good, they're mailing more catalogs. And when times aren't great, they're doing less."

Ted Fortezzo of teleservices firm Dakotah Direct, Spokane, WA, described traffic at the show as "better than expected." A surprising number of prospects wanted to learn about teleservices, he said.

"Economic conditions cause people to think of other ways to sell products," he said. "Direct channels tend to be cost-effective."

However, little of the traffic on the first floor of the exposition bled up to the third floor, where many exhibitors sat idle after lunch Wednesday. Julian Parreno, senior vice president of pharmaceutical marketing at Harte-Hanks Direct Marketing, San Antonio, said he thought that layoffs and slashed travel budgets were responsible for the lower traffic.

Back on the main floor, however, some exhibitors were exuberant.

"We've been at a lot of shows recently and, believe me, we're very happy with the traffic here," said Mike Gural, senior group account manager of the e-management division at American List Counsel, Princeton, NJ, referring to ALC's prime location at the main entrance to the exhibit floor.

A multilevel exhibition floor is something marketers won't face next year, when the DMD show moves to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, June 17-19, 2002, though some said that move is not entirely good.

"Next year, the Javits Center will be great for the exhibitors, but there's nothing to do around the convention center," said Debra Goldstein, manager at Leon Henry Inc., Scarsdale, NY.

Connie LaMotta, president/CEO of LaMotta Strategic Communications, which handled public relations for the conference, said attendance figures wouldn't be released until this week, though organizers expected beforehand that it would be down 5 percent to 10 percent. There were 286 companies exhibiting at the show. When asked whether DMD would consider a third-party audit of the show to verify attendance figures, LaMotta said no.

"The marketplace is what decides whether you have an audit," she said. "The companies here aren't saying that's needed. They come back because they're happy."

Many marketers were happy with the leads they got at the show.

"You really can't say how well the conference is until it's over and you see what you've got," said Bill LeVoir, a sales representative at MacKay Envelope Co., Minneapolis. "Like everyone else here, we're trying to attract people and get some good leads."

Mike Vignola, director of sales at Mailmen Inc., Hauppauge, NY, a direct mail service, said he was not sure what to expect this year.

"We've been attending the conference for a very long time, and it seems comparable to previous shows, but I'm not sure how I would characterize it," he said. "I guess I'm taking a wait-and-see approach."

Staff writers Kristen Bremner, Janet Hines and Scott Hovanyetz contributed to this report.

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