CADM Show Eyes State of Industry in the Midwest

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Though the job situation for direct marketers began improving late last year in the Midwest, the area still trails the rest of the country.

Yet, the mood is upbeat as the Chicago Association of Direct Marketing prepares for its 51st Annual DM Days & Expo this week at Navy Pier.

"Yes, agencies are hiring," said Neysa Bennett, owner of DM executive search firm Bennett Wheelless, Chicago. "They're generally the first indication that the job market is improving, too. Companies often go outside to an agency as they test the water before they commit to hiring for themselves."

Delegates at the April 7-8 show will hear executives from Office Depot, JP Morgan Chase Bank, Guitar Center, Allstate, DDB Worldwide and Coolsavings comment on the state of direct and interactive marketing in the region. Bill Rancic, though no longer Donald Trump's "Apprentice," also has been invited to address attendees.

Another major show is set for this week, as the National Conference on Operations and Fulfillment began yesterday and runs to April 6 in Grapevine, TX.

In Chicago, multichannel integration is still the dominating trend.

"We're seeing a continuing convergence and integration of channels, while budgets have even become more unpredictable," CADM president Michelle R. Blechman said. "The big challenge seems to be optimizing the channel mix to maximize ROI."

Aside from leading CADM, Blechman is senior manager of consumer market research at Abbott Laboratories' pharmaceutical products division.

"I think it's a terrific time to be in direct marketing because demonstrable results are what everyone is demanding," she said. "I'm definitely hearing of more nontraditional DM users, such as consumer packaged goods and pharmaceuticals, trying DM techniques."

CADM, whose members include agencies, suppliers and advertisers, has seen many ups and downs in its half-century existence. Membership has stabilized at 1,400 through company consolidations, liquidations and launches. This year's conference will continue to offer a mix of educational content, networking chances and business resources to meet the evolving needs of Chicago-area direct marketers. The goal is to appeal to both industry newcomers and veterans.

Holly Harle, vice president of sales at Diamond Marketing Solutions and a former CADM president, said the association has shaped direct marketing in the Midwest.

"When direct mail advertising was still in its infancy, CADM was instrumental in teaching people about the importance of privacy and responsible mail advertising," she said. "Particularly throughout the '50s, '60s and '70s, the CADM helped shape the best practices and ethical guidelines that enabled direct mail to grow as a medium without infringing on the rights of the consumer."

But times have changed and so have the challenges posed by the consumer backlash and increased regulation in reaction to proliferating marketing media and messages.

Hiring demand is greater for DM executives with experience in an environment of change, or change management, as Bennett puts it. Many of her clients are becoming more customer-centric, which creates new positions beyond the traditional hires.

"It can lead to behavioral changes in their corporate culture, however slight," she said.

Agencies certainly are bellwethers of a recovering economy. Clive Maclean, president of The Marketing Store, an Oakbrook, IL-based agency, noted a 26 percent growth in business last year from existing clients, plus new wins. His shop won two clients in the first six weeks of this year. The agency also is seeing more involvement by pitch consultants with agency reviews in the promotional and direct arena, something that was not the case in previous years.

"We're also seeing more emphasis on experiential-type marketing, the use of partnerships and alliances to add value and extend programs, and increased focus in the food and quick-service restaurants categories and healthy-lifestyle issues," Maclean said.

Mickey Alam Khan covers Internet marketing campaigns and e-commerce, agency news as well as circulation for DM News and 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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