Another Trade Show Beats Low Expectations

NEW YORK — Want to make sure your trade show is well received? Just be certain people's expectations are in the basement. In fact, putting the show in the basement isn't such a bad idea, either.

As floor traffic slowed to a predictable trickle yesterday and attendees at the @d:tech New York trade show prepared to head home, the consensus was that the show was small — very small — but not bad overall.

“I was pleasantly surprised,” said David Riemer, chief marketing officer for online video production firm The Feedroom, New York. “I was fearing the worst.”

The sentiment was similar to that of people who attended the Direct Marketing Association's fall conference in Chicago Oct. 28-31. Only people who were considered business essential attended. They arrived expecting the worst, and for the most part left pleasantly surprised.

However, one @d:tech exhibitor expressed dismay over the quality of attendees. About half the attendees showed up at his booth trying to sell something, he said, asking not to be named.

Overall, though, people gave the show reasonably high marks. “There could have been more agency people and more clients, but you can always use more of those,” Riemer said.

And, as usual, there were the vendors hoping to snag that one big fish.

“I connected with the American Express online media buyer, which is huge for us,” said Michael J. Lennon, CEO of Boston Media Corp., parent company to Shoxygen Sports Marketing, a network of 150 sports sites. “All we need is one or two good leads and we consider the show a success.”

The @d:tech exhibit hall consisted of 70 companies in a small corner of the basement of the sprawling Jacob K. Javits Convention Center here, leading some attendees to wonder if the show would move to a smaller venue.

And indeed, show organizer Imark Communications announced that @d:tech Los Angeles will be held in the Westin Bonaventure Hotel June 19-21 and that next year's @d:tech New York will be Nov. 18-20 in the Hilton New York and Towers.

“This way, at least you won't have to be in the basement of the Javits Center,” quipped an Imark representative from the podium before introducing the day's keynoter: Jeffrey Mahl, president media sales group, TV Guide Media Sales Inc., New York.

Meanwhile, to many who have attended previous @d:tech events, there were a lot of familiar companies and faces, leading some show goers to lament the lack of newness. However, it gave others a sense of comfort that the Internet industry is apparently beginning to mature.

“There's no question that it's becoming a legitimate industry,” Riemer said.

Boston Media's Lennon added, “It makes you think that these companies are going to be around for the long term. They're the ones who are still aggressively marketing and still have show budgets.”

Another sign of maturity was the presence of a decidedly non-new-economy company: Fulfillment America, a Wilmington, MA fulfillment outsourcer.

“We feel we have an edge at shows like this,” said John Barry, president of Fulfillment America, noting that his firm was the only fulfillment outsourcer exhibiting.

Show goers seemed more educated about the crucial role fulfillment plays in their businesses. Fulfillment is commonly referred to as a company's back end, and defined as everything that happens after an order is placed. In the late 90s as dot-coms became infamous for lavish spending on advertising, or the front-end activities, many Internet executives did not necessarily have a reputation for having a lot of fulfillment savvy.

“A lot of people were surprised we're here,” Barry said. “Several people have come by saying, 'Hey, we're looking for a backend,' and here it is right in front of their faces.”

As for lead quality, Barry said, “It appears to be good, but we won't know until we get home.”

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