The Direct Marketing Association canceled its conference devoted to interactive marketing yesterday, choosing to incorporate the show into larger ones touching on Internet marketing issues.
The DMA will not produce net.marketing next year, ending the trade show it began seven years ago. Instead, it plans to develop additional sessions that appeal to interactive marketers for its Annual Catalog Conference, DM Days New York and the DMA fall annual conference. The fall show, which will be held in Atlanta next October, also will feature an Interactive Marketing Pavilion on the exhibit floor.
“So many DMA members are incorporating interactive into their strategies,” DMA spokeswoman Laura Colona said. “By incorporating net.marketing into bigger shows, we can leverage the membership.”
The DMA made other changes to its conference schedule for 2005. It will stop running its Pharmaceutical Marketing Conference. Colona said the decision to end the show, which the association began in 1998, also was driven by a strategy of exposing pharmaceutical marketing executives to a range of DM issues available at its larger trade shows.
The DMA also will scrap its Governmental Affairs Conference. The trade group instead will produce one-day events in Washington, DC, that focus on specific legislative and regulatory issues. The association will hold the shows on an ad-hoc basis, choosing topics as they arise.
The DMA created net.marketing in 1997, part of an effort by the 87-year-old organization to participate in the Internet boom. After four successful years, net.marketing saw light attendance at its March 2001 show in Seattle, which was cut short by a severe earthquake. Subsequent shows saw decreased attendance and exhibitors. The DMA does not release attendance figures for its trade shows.
The DMA's relationship with interactive marketers has been rocky. Many e-mail marketers objected to the trade group's refusal to come out against unsolicited commercial e-mail, choosing instead to define spam as fraudulent e-mail.
The association mostly has ignored other areas of direct response Internet advertising. Search marketing, which has grown to account for 40 percent of all interactive ad spending, was virtually ignored at the DMA Annual in New Orleans two months ago. The conference featured two sessions related to the topic.
“There will be a significant increase in the search engine marketing sessions,” Colona said.
The DMA also will add sessions exploring new interactive direct response methods, such as pay-for-call systems.
“The DMA Annual has traditionally not had nearly enough focus on online stuff,” said Andrew Wetzler, president of MoreVisibility, a Boca Raton, FL, search marketing firm. “If they're going to merge the online show into the Annual, I think that's a great idea.”
Wetzler, who attended the fall show in New Orleans this year, has focused MoreVisibility's trade show promotions on ad:tech and Shop.org. He endorsed the DMA's move to increase the focus on Internet marketing at its larger shows.
“I think it's time the traditional direct marketers open up to the fact that the online marketing channels are gaining momentum,” he said.
In contrast to net.marketing's fate, other Internet advertising trade shows are booming. Ad:tech drew 7,000 attendees and 150 exhibitors to its show in New York last month. In 2005, it will hold conferences in five cities after adding events in London and Shanghai. Jupitermedia's Search Engine Strategies also has thrived and now runs in seven cities worldwide.
The DMA hopes to create a chance for interactive marketing exhibitors to reach traditional direct marketers by creating an Interactive Marketing Pavilion at the DMA Annual. Colona said the set-up would be modeled on the “Creative Carnivale & Agency Area” at this year's annual show.
By incorporating its vertical trade shows with its larger events, Colona said, the DMA can leverage the breadth of its organization of traditional DMers in a way specialized shows like ad:tech and SES cannot.
“They're just appealing to interactive marketers,” she said. “We have the entire world of direct marketing at our shows.”