Busy Days, Busy Nights: Optimism is High at DMA·05

ATLANTA — Glamorous parties and late-night blogging put to rest plans for any visit to the hotel gym yesterday morning, but doing the laps of the DMAá05 exhibit hall burned a lot of calories.

The mood at DMA·05 is optimistic, the conversation more earnest — the word “leads” was heard over and over — and the frivolity scaled back. The convention floor plan made sense, the session rooms were within easy reach and the hotel bus shuttle service beyond reproach.

Atlanta designated this week “Direct Marketing Week,” and all the major hotels had signs saying, “Atlanta Welcomes DMA·05.”

Of course, show floor attendees did get to see a cheerleader at Unica's booth, a truck at QuadGraphics, a racecar at FedEx Freight and a kid's racecar a row behind at Fulcrum Velocity and a boat at CPW Group.

Then there was the take-your-chance treasure chest with iPod Nanos at Claritas' booth, ListFusion's saucy 1950s-style diner waitresses, a blackjack table at another exhibitor and more iPods elsewhere. Without doubt, the most-sought booth-bait was the iPod.

So here is feedback from delegates, speakers and exhibitors, a mix of opinions suited to a vibrant direct, database and interactive industry:

Brian Manning, national sales manager at list manager and broker Statlistics, Danbury, CT. Exhibitor

“Booth traffic has been very strong this year. Both the mailers and brokers are very optimistic about '06, and there was a high level of interest this year in new lists, new selects and new applications of data.”

Bryan Wiener, president and chief operating officer at search marketing agency 360i, New York. Speaker and exhibitor.

“This year it seems to be a good show compared to last year. The interactive marketing pavilion really has helped. It's such a big show that it's helped clients zero in. We've had some excellent leads.”

What's the No. 1 question asked?

“People are confused between paid and natural search. A gentleman I was speaking to was a direct marketer who wanted to know how you influence both sides of the page and what's the business model. So, for us, this type of audience is heavy on education.

“One of the things that is interesting is I saw last year and this year, too, there are a lot of offline direct marketers that are trying to figure out how to utilize this [search] medium to drive customers. There's a ton of money offline that's looking to come online, but the barrier really is education and comfort.”

Lynette Montgomery, general manager of e-commerce at Levenger, an e-commerce, catalog and retail brand in Delray Beach, FL. Speaker.

“I see a lot of best-of-breed vendors. I see a lot of competition in the marketplace. Here there's a lot of cross-channel stuff. There's direct mail, there's e-mail, there's search. It's not just list marketing anymore. The marketing space is getting bigger.”

What did people ask her after her search session?

“Since it was on search, a lot of people were getting into this space, but they were not sure if they were getting it right. A lot of companies are doing it inhouse. But it's a lot like direct mail: You have a list broker, a vendor. When it comes to technology, you have to have best-of-breed because you're not going to get there [yourself].

“They wanted to know what I was doing. One guy came up and said, 'Thank you for elaborating on your failures and successes.' Because a lot of companies don't want to tell you what they did wrong, they don't want people to figure it out. I'm ahead of the curve, so it was OK. I showed what was working. I think it was educating them and less about the company.”

Debbie Roth, vice president at printing firm Japs-Olson Company, St. Louis Park, MN. Exhibitor.

“So much of the success of the show depends on the work ahead of time. And that includes the exhibitor, the participant and the delegate, and it includes the DMA.”

Does creating pods like the interactive marketing pavilion at DMAá05 work?

“Go back to retail. Think McDonald's and Burger King or a mall. By having more choices out there, both Burger King's and McDonald's revenues have risen. It's the same concept as the mall. In a forum like this or an expo, you've got the synergy of the other businesses next to you. That's what the expo is all about.

“I'm a printer. My clients are coming to see a printer, list brokers and they're looking for other avenues and channels, everything that puts direct marketing together.”

Rick Fernandes, CEO of post-transaction e-commerce specialist webloyalty.com, Norwalk, CT. Exhibitor.

“A lot of people have said their booth traffic is down. It's a mixed bag.

“If you look at the DMA, it seems so schizophrenic. There's the old-time direct marketing — envelopes, premiums, paper, fulfillment — and then there's the interactive. And I don't think the DMA has figured out how to combine those two diverse elements into one configuration.

“There's nothing wrong with what's going on. It's just a missed opportunity. In my mind, having an interactive pavilion would be like having a catalog pavilion or telemarketing pavilion. And as long as the DMA looks at interactive as a separate, segmented approach, it won't provide the value it's capable of providing to the interactive players.

“The layout [of the exhibit hall] is almost symbolic of the DMA's approach to interactive distribution, that it's this separate thing. We would never go into the interactive pavilion. We don't want to go into this little thing on the side. We want people to think of interactive as another distribution channel. It's not a unique entity.”

Joe Frick, director of marketing at list broker and manager Adrea Rubin, New York. Exhibitor.

“The traffic, in my opinion, has been exceptional. It seems people are very interested in doing business. They're not scrounging around for freemiums … Next year I'm almost near the door. We've built up enough points.”

Adrea Rubin is celebrating its 15th anniversary. Tables on its clean-lined booth were laden with highlighter pens, M&Ms, miniature Champagne bottle necklaces and lime-green bags containing all these goodies. A spinning wheel offered visitors a chance to win an iPod. What purpose do the freebies serve?

“During the show, there's an almost virus-like buzz that can be generated with eye-catching freemiums. They drive traffic to our booth in the show. And, of course, they leave memories.”

Dan Hess, senior vice president at market researcher comScore Networks, Chicago. Speaker.

“It's yet another year of companies demonstrating even greater convergence across channels.”

Jim Ballengee, sales director at Beach List Direct, Nashville, TN. Exhibitor.

“As always, I wish there would be more traffic. But there was opportunity to spend more one-on-one time with people that did come by.”

Sara Holoubek, chief strategy officer of search marketing agency icrossing Inc., New York. Speaker and exhibitor.

“For me it's such a large show. There's such a positive energy with a renewed interest in direct marketing across all channels. But what I would like to see is more of the emphasis on the integration of these channels as opposed to fiefdoms.

“We need to be, first and foremost, talking to the chief marketing officer. Direct marketing is a huge channel, but to hit a home run, you need to talk to the CMO. [Also] we need more content on the agenda on how brands integrate with everything intentionally.”

Meg Bettinger, Web marketing leader, financial services firm at Genworth Financial, Richmond, VA. Delegate.

“The best thing [the DMA] did this year is put the presentations in the book … I like that there's more applicable demos, seeing more Internet vendors. Before, it was just direct mail and a couple of cutting-edge tidbits.”

Tricia Robinson, chief marketing officer of e-mail marketing services firm Accucast, Atlanta. Exhibitor.

“I don't like the pavilion environment, from a vendor perspective. I'd rather be spread around throughout the [show] floor. But I recognize it's better for the attendees. They're here to walk these aisles. So if they like it, we'll learn to like it.”

Accucast's lime-green bags and koozies — as Southerners call their coffee mug bands — had hordes of takers.

“It generates people to the booth. They see the bags and they see the koozies on the show floor and they come here. We've got over 150 leads [by Tuesday].”

Andrew Wetzler, president of search marketing firm morevisibility, Boca Raton, FL. Exhibitor

“I've been coming to the DMA annual show for 15 years, and what is impressive to me about this one is the interactive market is taking a legitimate space within the DMA. It's not thrown in the corner somewhere like it was in Orlando a couple of years ago where you could hardly find the online spot.

“The other thing is that the typical attendee of the DMA may be more receptive to learning about search than at SES [Search Engine Strategies show]. Just because at SES you typically have someone who is directly responsible for search, whereas here you have a broader audience and a greater interest level in learning. Here you have so many different swathes of individuals than at narrower, more online-specific shows.”

What did he think of this year's giveaways?

“I don't think the giveaways are quite as exciting. Why? Because the really good giveaways are quite expensive. I think companies are more conservative about that kind of stuff. I don't see a circus-like atmosphere. Once again, I don't think that's a bad thing. I don't see a lot of models walking around or magicians. People are here to do business.

“People are asking the more foundation-level questions of 'What do you guys do and how can you help us?' versus the more granular questions about specific deliverables — which is great because it presents further opportunity for dialogue.”

Mickey Alam Khan covers Internet marketing campaigns and e-commerce, agency news as well as circulation for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters

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