SAN FRANCISCO — The mood was upbeat at the Direct Marketing Association's 85th Annual Conference & Exhibition here last week, though many remained wary about the economy.
As at the Toronto show in 1999, privacy concerns reared their head as a crew from “60 Minutes II” videotaped background footage on the exhibit floor for a piece on financial privacy.
George E. Bardenheier Jr., senior vice president and general manager at Partners Marketing Inc., Elgin, IL, which specializes in marketing programs to new parents, perhaps best summarized the mood.
“This has been a good show, morale-wise,” he said, “and this is just what the direct marketing industry needed after the past year.”
Brett Doney, president/CEO of EnterpriseMaine.com, was particularly pleased. He was here to attend sessions and network with other catalogers as he is dropping a new catalog of Maine-based products called Maine Discoveries this week to 30,000 households. While some may think it risky to start a catalog in this less-than-stellar economy, Doney disagreed.
“This is the best time to launch a new catalog,” he said. “If it can work now, it will work anytime.”
Scott Fujan, director of sales and marketing at Meyer Associates Teleservices, St. Cloud, MN, said traffic on the exhibit floor was much better than last year.
“The people who are here are committed to building vendor relationships,” he said. “They're not just here on vacation. It's been good because people here want to talk about how they can improve their businesses.”
Vendor-wise, 527 companies exhibited between the main floor and the digital print pavilion, and a few companies even had booths in each area. The DMA does not release attendance figures.
The printing capabilities on display in the pavilion were a draw for many attendees, including Janice M. De Ryss, a marketing consultant in Novato, CA, who said she ran across several creative ideas while walking around the pavilion.
Even Lou Dobbs, anchor and producer of CNN's “Moneyline,” gave words of encouragement, saying in his keynote address that he expected the stock market will be up 15 percent a year from now.
Few exhibitors or attendees seemed concerned with the privacy segment that “60 Minutes II” might air. DMA spokesman Louis Mastria escorted two cameramen and an independent producer around the floor for several hours Monday, stopping at several booths including Instant Web Companies, Aspen Marketing Services, infoUSA, Direct Media, Firstlogic, Pulse, EDS and The Horah Group. In many cases, Mastria told exhibitors that they were shooting background footage for a story on financial privacy.
The piece apparently will focus on a California bill introduced by state Sen. Jackie Speier that would mandate opt-in consent for the sharing of financial data. Though it was defeated in the state Assembly in September, Speier vowed to reintroduce it next year.
“They explained who they were and asked about our services, and I told them,” Sam Fellows of Firstlogic said. “I had no problem talking to them.”
William J. Lay, senior vice president at Pulse, San Francisco, added, “Any press is good press.”
Others were more guarded in their comments.
“I told them they could stop and take B footage, but I would not let them into my booth,” EDS spokeswoman Mary Law said.
Aspen president/CEO Patrick O'Rahilly said the privacy issue plays to the fears of consumers and mainstream media who don't understand direct marketing.
“Your average pizza parlor has more information about their customers than most direct marketers do — address, phone number, names, credit card information, favorite pizza toppings — and when you order a pizza, you reap the benefits of that,” he said.
“60 Minutes” returned to this year's show after conducting interviews at the 1999 conference in Toronto. Correspondent Leslie Stahl narrated the 1999 piece, which focused on privacy and online issues.