The Direct Marketing Association will debut several new features at this year’s 85th Annual Conference & Exhibition, including several new session tracks and its first-ever digital print pavilion. Still, it seems that the economy has caught up with the show, resulting in a drop of 15 percent in exhibiting companies.
The conference, which runs Oct. 20-23 at San Francisco’s Moscone Center, had 464 exhibitors signed up as of Oct. 7 with another 20 or so expected to commit before the show’s start.
“It’s a reflection of the economy,” said Christina Duffney, director of corporate communications at the DMA. “Despite everything that has gone on in the past year, it isn’t down that much. I think it’s mostly companies that have downsized, merged with other companies or gone out of business.”
Last year’s show had 550 exhibitors but most had signed up a year in advance before 9/11 and what has happened in the economy.
The DMA’s largest fall conference was the 2000 show in New Orleans with 600 exhibitors at the peak of the economic boom and the dot-com craze. However, exhibitors are only half of the equation. It’s the attendees whom the exhibitors are interested in.
While the DMA does not release attendee registration figures, this year’s conference-goers have been given some new choices as incentive to attend.
The pre-conference weekend from Oct. 19-20 was totally revamped this year. There are eight new session tracks this year, including agency, financial services, list, pharmaceutical marketing, publishing, technology marketing, teleservices and travel marketing. The only holdovers are the business-to-business and catalog tracks.
“It’s more targeted, more specific and more segmented,” Duffney said.
The actual conference itself has new tracks as well. A new track called segment marketing that covers niche markets such as Hispanics, seniors, women and gay/lesbian was added. Three other new tracks are direct mail, direct response television and teleservices.
“These topics were always covered in the past but now they are their own tracks,” Duffney said.
In all, there are 125 sessions in 12 programming tracks with 200 speakers.
This year, the DMA also is introducing the digital print pavilion, which Duffney described as a mini-conference within the conference with its own sessions and exhibitors. The pavilion, hosted by Hewlett-Packard, Nexpress and Xerox, was created in partnership with The Digital Printing Council of Printing Industries of America Inc. It will feature informational and how-to sessions, live demonstrations and case studies from companies that have used digital
The pavilion will be located across the concourse from the exhibit hall and will be open Oct. 21-22.
The main exhibit hall will open with a reception at 4 p.m. Oct. 20. It closes at 6 p.m. Oct. 22. This is different from the past two years, when the exhibit floor opened at 1 p.m. Sunday. Duffney said the DMA wanted to keep the focus on the expanded weekend sessions, so officials decided to delay the opening of the floor. Before that, the exhibit floor was open Wednesday mornings, but traffic was always light.