Forum on QE2 Has Attendees Swimming in Contacts

Exhibitors love a captive audience, so it is no surprise that the Marketing Forum 2002 held May 9-11 on board the Queen Elizabeth 2 off the coast of New Jersey was popular with exhibitors.

The ship departed from New York Harbor with 120 exhibitors, 225 delegates, 12 press members and a few guests.

Delegates included executive vice presidents, senior vice presidents, vice presidents and senior marketing managers at companies like Bank of America, R.J. Reynolds, Daffy's, DaimlerChrysler, BMW of North America, Outrigger Hotels and Resorts, American Honda Motor Co., Allied Domecq Importers, AT&T, Coca-Cola and Bulova.

Picking up the tab for them were exhibiting companies that paid $30,000 per person to attend. Exhibitors included suppliers and agencies like Leo Burnett Customer Group, the magazine group, The Integer Group, Starcom MediaVest Group, Marc USA, Hill & Knowlton and Bezos/Nathanson Marketing Group.

The show was configured to have about two delegates per exhibitor. Delegates, all senior marketing decision-makers, had to commit to a one-on-one meeting with at least 15 exhibitors.

Most of the issues delegates needed addressed were related to direct marketing. Underlying problems with the customer database was one. The improved ability to use data intelligence or overlays for solving acquisition, retention, cross-selling, attrition management and customer win-back was another.

John F. Brady, vice president of partner development at data intelligence and advertising agency 360 Group, San Rafael, CA, met with 38 prospects and said his company was the No. 2 most requested firm on the QE2. Among those who met with him were marketing executives from fashion retailers like Donna Karan, Tommy Hilfiger and Prada.

“We have a number of follow-up meetings over the next week, summer and six months, in person and at conferences,” Brady said, “and some of them are related to permanent agency relationships and some of them project work.

“We set the bar as one solid lead would be a valuable return on investment, and we exceeded that bar by far,” he said. “We intend to return.”

Brian Lanahan, director of strategy at The Character Development Lab, Portland, OR, echoed that sentiment. He and his colleague, David Altschul, were there to rope in clients for their company, which uses storytelling online to build brands.

“Aggregation always seems to be a fiction of the Internet,” Lanahan said, “but now I realize it can happen on a cruise ship. You've gotten everyone together in one place and lots of interesting conversations, lots of seeds planted.”

Lanahan and his colleague saw 50 people in 25-minute sessions, plus dinners. Six projects might result from exhibiting at the forum, the fourth since 1998.

“It's helped me because I'm able to reach out and touch a wide, diverse group of potential business partners with a relatively low cost and in a relatively short amount of time,” said Alan Brown, executive vice president of worldwide media at Active International, a New York corporate trade barter firm.

Some subjects discussed at the sessions were mature brands case studies, the future of technology and marketing, agency compensation, Madison Avenue meets Hollywood, the rise of the Hispanic market, creating and managing alliances and the mood of marketing.

Madeleine Albright, former U.S. secretary of state, gave the opening address.

“I think it's an interesting structure,” said Michael Kassan, a Los Angeles-based independent media consultant who was a speaker at the forum. “They do force people to tune in. In a place like this, you always tend to hear new ideas.”

On the whole, delegates were seen to enjoy the sessions, dress in black tie and gown on two nights, engage in the odd flutter in the casino and partake of multiple-course meals served on Wedgwood china and sterling silver cutlery. Restaurant staff was courteous and friendly, but not familiar.

Many attendees took the time to take a tan on the decks of the QE2.

Having a conference on a ship seems to work because Richmond is looking to host the next one in 2003, albeit on a less-charming boat.

“There's more intimacy, you can really learn things,” said Caroline Hunt, senior vice president at Richmond and in charge of the forum. “The fact that it's on a ship makes it distraction-free so they can really focus on their issues.

“There's also a section on personal development, which means that there's something for them personally,” she said. “What's really interesting is that they can really have a snapshot of what marketing suppliers are doing.”

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