Show Traffic Is Strong, DMA Exhibitors Say

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ORLANDO, FL -- The distractions of Orlando evaporated in the Florida heat yesterday as people at the DMA's fall show got down to business.

"My sales staff has said that traffic at the booth is better than it has been for the past few years," said Jeff Quick, vice president of marketing services at Alliance Data Systems, Gahanna, OH.

Quick said that the people coming by were a good mix of potential clients and vendors. He said the Direct Marketing Association had to move his company's booth location several times before the show to accommodate more exhibitors, which was a promising sign.

Al DiBlasi, vice president at MetaResponse Group, Deerfield Beach, FL, said he was pleased with the show, though he added that some attendees were expressing concern about the new California spam legislation that was passed last month.

"Not that e-mail isn't a great channel, but some of the e-mail-only companies out there should give some tried-and-true direct mail a try," he said.

This year, 570 companies are exhibiting on the main floor and in the new direct response broadcast pavilion and digital print pavilion. That's up nearly 10 percent from 2002, when 527 companies exhibited on the main floor and in the digital print pavilion. Attendance at this year's show, however, is a mystery since the DMA does not release those figures.

Randy Grimm of printer Lauterbach Group, Waukesha, WI, was upbeat about the show.

"I've gotten twice the leads so far compared to last year at the same time," he said. "I didn't know what to expect. I thought I'd have repeat leads, but I've met quite a few new companies. The location of the show helps. Most of our customer base is based on the East Coast. The East Coast is more direct marketing focused."

However, many in the DMA's DR broadcast pavilion had another story to tell because of light traffic through the newest pavilion.

"I think they shouldn't separate this area with a wall. We want to be with the show, not separate," said Steven Feinberg, president of SF Video, San Francisco. "We don't see ourselves as a separate industry."

Dalton Mangin, vice president of business development at DRTV agency Warren Direct, Austin, TX, was similarly worried.

"The traffic has been coming here in cycles," he said. "Some of the conference sessions will end and people will come."

That said, Mangin was satisfied with the leads, most of which were at the director and vice president levels.

"We're seeing a lot more interest from larger corporations that have a very strong focus on brand now looking at DRTV," he said. "A lot of companies want to know how to build an infrastructure to get a DR campaign set up."

Paul Soltoff, CEO of DRTV agency SendTec, also said traffic to the pavilion was in spurts.

"They hit the general area first and then filter here," he said. "But we've had high-value contacts, Fortune 50 companies. The traffic's been light, but based on the contacts I'd like to do this again next year."

His agency gave away more than 815 foot pad premiums to visitors to the SendTec booth. That souvenir competed for popularity with a T-shirt from Teletime Media Inc., Jericho, NY. The T-shirt says, "I went to the DMA conference and all I got was this lousy T-shirt."

The Teletime booth was opposite Premier Solutions, a DRTV company that had Miss Universe 1996 Alicia Machado sign autographs. She has been promoting a fat reduction product on TV. But attired in jeans and shirt, one would not have guessed her status.

"I think Miss Universe is wearing too much clothing," Teletime senior account executive Robert Weinstock said.


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