Land of the Lost (Message)

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A year ago, we asked what George Bush was doing addressing a room full of direct marketers at the DMDNY show. It seems we're asking a similar question this year.

Nothing against guest speaker Tim Russert's credentials. They're impressive: moderator of NBC's "Meet the Press," political analyst, Washington insider. Ditto for former White House adviser George Stephanopoulos, who added more political insight at the catalog show in Boston. But it seems that when you're talking to thousands of direct marketers, you ought to at least say something about direct marketing.

Russert gave a fine speech, detailing his interview with Pope John Paul II, President Clinton's predicament, the escalating nuclear problem overseas and the fact that we're not doing enough for the nation's children. Likewise, Stephanopoulos made guesses as to who will run for president in the next election.

Is this what you want to hear at two of direct marketing's biggest shows? Organizers say they need a big name to draw a crowd. I say all you need is a free lunch. It's a shame that more people didn't attend the talks by DMDNY's keynote speakers Daniel Burrus and Tony Alessandra -- both were better and had far more to say about our industry. If we must have a celebrity, can he or she at least be someone whom attendees can talk about back home? Who knows, maybe Clinton will be free next year.

Conference Lite

Here's one instance where light isn't a good thing ... as in light attendance, light traffic on the exhibit floors and light numbers at the speeches. Though the DMA claimed 6,000 were at the catalog show and DMDNY organizers said 5,500 were in New York, others said attendance was way down at both.

"Things have been really slow," Paul Ercolino, director of sales at U.S. Monitor, New City, NY, told DM News. Turnout even was light at the Columbia House booth, always a popular destination because of the CDs they give away, added JoAnna DeGennaro, director of sales, list rental and ride-alongs.

Let's hope someone learned a lesson.

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