That was a good show

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Maybe it was the city, maybe it was the glorious weather, maybe it was the mix of people or maybe it is direct marketing's time. But there can be little doubt that DMA•06 in San Francisco last week was unlike any Direct Marketing Association show in recent years. The air was filled with optimism, energy and positive vibes. The mood was gung-ho and the crowds all with it.

There was no single theme that stood out, except perhaps talk of multichannel marketing. The 550-plus booths were representative of the offline side of the industry (interactive is still weak) as were the thousands who attended as delegates, exhibitors and speakers.

The sessions were a potpourri of everything, for those who wanted to snack on the basics or go the whole hog with advanced tips. You name it, they discussed it - search, blogs, mail, e-mail, multichannel, printing and even branding, a smart move since direct response is generated only after a branding push.

It was also smart to invite Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson as a keynote speaker. Now Sir Richard is not your typical direct marketer, or even your average Briton. But his energy, appetite for risk and joie de vivre are infectious. Imagine if more U.S. marketers were like him. So that was a good choice.

If there was one big moan, it was about the utter isolation of the interactive marketing pavilion, banished to another, less-traipsed wing of the Moscone Convention Center. Some exhibitors may have felt they missed valuable foot falls, while others appreciated the qualified traffic that sought them out. But that problem will not exist next year. All DMA•07 exhibitors will be under one roof in Chicago's cavernous McCormick Place.

Several reports - in this issue and online at www.dmnews.com and blog.dmnews.com - from our editors and blogging partners at the DraftFCB and Wunderman agencies chronicle the mood in San Francisco.

It's also time to recognize that DMA president/CEO John A. Greco Jr.'s policies of engaging his membership may be paying off. His team too is executing. The sessions at DMA•06 were well planned, the main exhibit floor well-lit, DMA staff courteous, transportation at hand, hotels within walking distance and good restaurants in the neighborhood. This should become the template for all DMA shows, particularly the listless DM Days in New York.

That said, direct marketers must make sure they embrace the interactive side of the business if they want to stay ahead of the game. And the DMA must reflect this attitude, in its conferences, workshops, councils, membership roster and advocacy efforts with government and consumers. The industry and its association are only as good as its practitioners and members. As Plato said of Athens, "This city is what it is because our citizens are what they are."

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