First DIMA at New Venue Seen as Success

DUESSELDORF, Germany — DIMA, the annual German direct marketing fair, closed here last night with exhibitors, attendees and organizers happy at how the new venue for the show had turned out.

“Things went much better than we could have expected,” said Holgar Albers, managing director of DDV, the German DMA, and sponsor of the annual event. “The exhibitors were happy, and that's the main thing.”

Some of the American speakers, however, were not. Kevin Kelly, editor at large for Wired magazine and one of the keynote speakers, spoke at the end of the show yesterday before a virtually empty hall, with those who were left leaving in droves.

Peter Rosenwald, vice president at Abril, Brazil's largest publisher, quickly summarized the rest of his speech and broke off the session, when only three people were left.

A group of U.S. presenters led by Charles Prescott, international vice president of the Direct Marketing Association, had a similar experience Monday, where there were only three people left in the session. One reason for sparse attendance, the Americans speculated, might be poor knowledge of English among the attendees, especially when complex technical subjects were discussed.

DIMA moved to Duesseldorf this year after calling Wiesbaden home since the 1980s. But the Rhein-Main Halle had simply run out of space, and the Duesseldorf fair grounds offered twice as much room and plenty for future expansion. Indeed, a sign written on the floor outside one stand said, “This could be your stand next year.”

Booths and stands suffered from what even exhibitors who had built them called “gigantism.” Deutsche Post put up a two-story structure with a glass-enclosed second floor that was the size of a normal house.

Call centers led the hi-tech group of exhibitors with a sprinkling of foreign-owned companies present. The Danish Call Center Europe had a stand, and so did Transcom, a Swedish-owned company with a massive presence in Indiana. Poul Dinsert, the new vice president for sales and marketing at Call Center Europe, has boosted revenues by 60 percent since he took over two years ago. The company, he said, had lost its way for a while trying to bring together the telephone and the Internet but had managed to do so now.

“We're building call center bridges across the Atlantic,” he said.

And not only virtual bridges. This November, the company is organizing a tour of U.S. hi-tech facilities in Fairfax, VA, and the Compex show in Las Vegas for 30 IT executives from Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

“We're also thinking of selling some of our excess capacity to American companies to handle their overflow,” Dinsert said. ” [Because of] the time difference, we could do that very easily.”

DIMA made the first tentative efforts this year to become more of an international show. While the focus is still heavily German, a partnership agreement with the Netherlands brought six Dutch companies to a common Holland stand. At a press conference, representatives from the Dutch and German DMAs said they were negotiating about Germany returning the favor with their own booth at the upcoming Dutch show in Maastricht.

And if time is too short — the Dutch event is in early October — the Germans definitely plan to have a booth at the 2001 exhibit in Maastricht.

If the venue of the DIMA show was a success, the surrounding social events left something to be desired, according to most of those who attended them. The annual get-together party that kicks off the social side of the show on Sunday was held at the Rhein Terrasse, a sprawling nightclub establishment near the Rhine.

A nondescript functional building with little charm, the rooms were jammed, lines for food were long and drinks hard to get. The music was loud, the light show dazzling. For many of the older DIMA attendees, this was a far cry from the staid charm of the Kurhaus in Wiesbaden with its curlicues and other 19th-century architectural detail.

Nor has the Duesseldorf show found the kind of common late-night meeting ground that the Wiesbaden event had at the Nassauerhof Hotel bar, where people stood 10 deep till 3 and 4 a.m. The Duesseldorf Hilton was not much of a substitute.

The social nadir, however, came Monday night when Deutsche Post invited a select thousand or so people — and tickets were hard to get — to an abandoned factory on the other side of the Rhine. The party fitted the setting — cold fried finger food, oversugared Sekt — the German champagne — and plenty of beer. The event had all the charm of a hoe down.

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