Hectic Days, Formal Nights for Marketing Forum Attendees on the Atlantic

The bracing Atlantic breeze, fog near the Hamptons coastline and clear decks belied the hubbub of activity onboard the Norwegian Dawn luxury cruise liner, home May 9-12 of the annual Marketing Forum.

As in years past, suppliers — marketing services firms paying $22,000 or more per person — wasted no time in pitching their value propositions to invited client-side senior marketing decision makers. With 160 suppliers, the clients had nowhere to run or hide.

After hectic days of 25 to 30 briefings plus random encounters, the bars, gym, casino and theater were open for bonhomie and networking. But that was after dinner in black tie and long dress with suppliers seated across from clients for an hour and a half.

Highlights of the forum included:

· Shelley Nandkeolyar, vice president of interactive marketing and ebusiness at The Home Depot Inc., was on board for the first time and was on a panel deliberating emerging media. Nandkeolyar had more than 20 meetings with firms eager to get business from the nation's No. 2 retailer. “Generally they'd been very productive,” he said. “It's a nice way to get to meet with a lot of new people with new business ideas in a compressed time. If I had to do this in a different format, it would take me two weeks to meet these companies.”

· Bob Quinn, former director of agency services at IBM Corp. and now a Lenova consultant, co-hosted the agency compensation versus service clinic along with ad consultant and Marketing Forum veteran Joanne Davis. “I found in the environment that Joanne and I were offering the clinic that their needs were so diverse that I wanted to take a topic and go deeper,” Quinn said. “In an hour we did not have enough time. That clinic should have been three hours, and we could have done some real good for people looking for best practices.”

· Denise Soltys, president of S3, an ad agency in Boonton, NJ, and Irvine, CA, registered to become a supplier for the first time. She was impressed by the organization of the event. But there were surprises.

“There were a lot of clients here who didn't want to be here,” she said. “I don't know why they were here. The ones who didn't want to be here made it obvious. They've got to overbook clients and have a greater barrier for them to not show up.”

Six clients she had requested to see were no-shows, she said. And she was told 14 clients failed to make it to the ship after committing to attend.

This year's Marketing Forum was held Monday evening through Thursday morning versus the typical Thursday evening through Sunday morning format.

Soltys was confident she was going home with leads.

“I was surprised I had some good meetings with fellow suppliers,” she said. “I didn't even want to meet with suppliers. And now I may want to form alliances with other suppliers.”

· You may have had a table with an ocean view, but Jeff Shachtman had no time to stare. The vice president of business development at marketing services firm D2 Creative in Somerset, NJ, and his colleague, Jeff Yang, pitched almost 70 clients-side executives during the forum.

“I think it's a fact-finding experience for them,” Shachtman said. “It's a learning experience. They were trying to find out what technology's there for them. They were here with an open mind. At least everybody's here for the same purpose: to learn about each other's companies and what their needs are.”

He had a few concerns, however. He would have liked more Fortune 500 companies — the target of D2 and its Chinese-American-owned Appliedinfo Partners parent. Also, he wished some clients paid more attention to the pitches rather than looking to talk with the next supplier. And there was the dinnertime maritime ceremony on the luxury liner, liked by most but not all.

“Wearing tuxedos I hate,” Shachtman said.

Mickey Alam Khan covers Internet marketing campaigns and e-commerce, agency news as well as circulation for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters

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