*Floor Traffic Busy at London ShowLONDON -- The British DM industry shed a few tears -- very few -- this week as it said goodbye to the Wembley exhibition and conference center in North London, where the annual International Direct Marketing Fair has been held for the last decade. It moves to the docks of the East End next year.
Colin Lloyd, CEO of the U.K. Direct Marketing Association, and chair Judith Donovan were scathing, caustic and sarcastic in the tradition of satirist Evelyn Waugh as they took leave of the somewhat seedy and run-down venue next to the Wembley soccer stadium, which is being torn down and rebuilt.
Donovan told attendees at the DMA's "farewell to Wembley" cocktail party that she was reminded of the American astronaut who was asked what went through his head as he blasted off: "The contract went to the lowest bidder."
Most exhibitors agreed. "Wembley? It's not a nice place," said Claritas group account director Lindsey Sandom-Brown, while Laura Appleyard, a Mardev marketing executive, said with a shrug, "We have no sentiment for Wembley at all."
One of Wembley's few defenders was Equifax managing director Peter Edgar, who said, "Wembley is our spiritual home. When people talk about DM they think of Wembley. It's kind of a brand name."
Reed Exhibition Cos., which stages the show, has rebranded it for next year, when it will be known as London Marketing Expo and will be held March 13-15, 2001 at ExCel, London's newest - and still unfinished - exhibition center. ExCel is being built in London's East End, across a curve in the Thames from the Millennium Dome, a children and family-type entertainment venue that was seven months behind schedule when it opened.
The glass ExCel structure will have two exhibition halls with 78,000 square yards of available floor space. The Jubilee underground line will have a station in the complex, and trains can handle 65,000 passengers an hour, according to show director Malcolm Whitmarsh.
Whitmarsh has been named director of the Reed Marketing Group, which will stage the expo and two other marketing shows - one in the fall in Birmingham, England, and Incentive World, a sales promotion show the first week of March in Earls Court in London.
The expo itself will actually comprise four shows next year - the International Direct Marketing Fair; New Media Marketing, an Internet show held for the first time this month as a separate part of IDMF; Marketing IT - Technology for Marketers; and TelecomercExpo, devoted to business done on the phone.
Exhibitors at both shows agreed that traffic was brisk, lead-generation productive and the quality of visitors higher than in years past. The international presence also appears to have been greater, though figures won't be available until later this week.
Equifax's Edgar said that he saw "a lot more Americans and Europeans" - German, Dutch and French - and that during the show's last morning he had talked to a Lebanese direct marketer.
As if to underscore that presence, an American company, Kroll International, won a DM Business magazine award in the business lists and databases category for its Publibase product - which has the names of 2.5 million subscribers to 150 trade magazines. The database was designed by Data Services Inc., a Maryland-based computer services company.
Exhibitors at the Internet show - which was heavily American, with DoubleClick, 24/7, Exactis and others represented - said traffic was brisk as well, though they noted that most passers-by were still wearing infant shoes.
"A lot of people are thinking about their Web site and gathering information so that they know what they are doing when they launch, say, six months from now," said Jo Denton of Intermail, an e-commerce fulfillment house.
One of the more intriguing products introduced at the show was a service to monitor compliance with the Telephone and Fax Preference Service. The United Kingdom has had a law since last May that companies may not call individuals who have registered with the service. U.K. Data It Ltd. has a system to block calls to TPS and FPS numbers, which it sells on a subscription basis to companies, with price depending on the number of lines a company uses.
Final attendance figures were not available, but 9,704 people had registered and visited both shows at the end of the first two days, compared with 8,540 for 1999. Organizers attributed the increase to the new-media show, which drew 1,286 registrants. But they noted that almost 5,000 IDMF visitors crossed over to the Internet show. The Web, clearly, was the star attraction.