BOSTON — Many exhibitors questioned the Direct Marketing Association's wisdom for putting on a new show only weeks before the annual fall conference, which will bring more than 15,000 marketers to New Orleans. Light traffic and thin prospecting were how many described the Net.Marketing Conference & Exhibition, which ended here yesterday.
It was the first time the DMA held a fall show in addition to the spring conference, and the results were 500 fewer attendees and 18 fewer booths.
However, attendees said they were happy with the breakout sessions and the attention they received from the vendors, who had little else to do. The DMA put the official attendance at 1,500 but did not break down the numbers between attendees and exhibitors. In contrast, the spring show in Seattle reportedly brought in 2,000 visitors. The number of exhibit booths in Boston was 115, compared with 133 in Seattle.
“I think this show might have been a little close to the DMA [fall] show, so I think it may have been difficult for our prospects to attend both,” said Ned Shannon, director of direct e-commerce at shop2u.com, Fairfax, VA, adding that he was pleased with the Seattle show.
Floor traffic was so light in the closing hours Tuesday afternoon that one exhibitor from Dynamic Trade, Chicago, went from booth to booth distributing his company's freebies.
“Compared to Seattle, which for us was an excellent show, this was a bomb,” said Ed Ritvo, sales manager at List Technology Systems Group Inc., New York. “There was no walk-through. It looked like [the exhibitors] were all talking to each other. Annual has a lot of the traditional people. I'm not sure what the problem is here. Our list manager … got good contacts, but she had to go out and talk to the other vendors.”
Some exhibitors said they were pleased with the turnout.
“Prospecting was thin, but I think this show is more about quality than quantity,” said Deb Goldstein, president of IDG List Services, Framingham, MA. “It's also important for us to see our steadfast customers.”
Mark Warren, vice president of sales for the Southeast region at Cogit.com, Brandon, FL, said, “We've had at least 100 good, qualified discussions.”
Despite the drop in attendance, however, the DMA was happy with the show.
“We did the right thing by launching this conference,” said Amy Blankenship, director of Shop-At-Home information center. “We see it as a nice complement for people who want to have a more intensive experience with the Internet marketing issues and then come to Annual for an opportunity to cover the rest of the industry.”
Many exhibitors agreed, and focused more on the people that did attend rather than worry about those who didn't.
“I don't think the show would've necessarily been better with more people,” said Aimee Zickerman, manager of business development at Vflash.com, New York. “I think the right people were here.”
The general consensus of the exhibitors, however, was that the show was too close in time to the Annual conference.
“Two big conferences in a matter of a couple of weeks is tough,” said Robert Salta, partner at DM Group, Washington.
• Senior reporter Wil Cruz contributed to this story.