Internet Gets New Billing at Catalog Conference

Organizers have added new sessions and speakers to the catalog conference, which kicks off next week at the John B. Hynes Convention Center in Boston.

More than 5,000 people are expected to attend the 15th Annual Catalog Conference & Exhibition, which runs June 1-4. Registration is ahead of last year's show, which also drew more than 5,000 attendees.

To ensure that the industry keeps up with technology, organizers have added a full-day workshop on the Internet, which includes sessions on online merchandising, customer service and marketing, said Lisa Schaertl, manager of conference programming at the Direct Marketing Association.

“The Internet keeps growing every year, so we thought it was important to add a workshop on day one, our workshop day,” Schaertl said.

This year's conference includes, for the first time, a nationally recognized speaker, George Stephanopoulos, who served as White House communications director and senior adviser for policy and strategy during President Clinton's first term. The DMA has used personalities for other conferences, including Colin Powell, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who spoke at the DMA's fall conference in Chicago.

Stephanopoulos will assess the state of the presidency and discuss his predictions for the country's political and economic future in a speech titled “Where We Are … Where We're Going. An Insider's View.”

Other keynote speakers include Norm Thompson president Rebecca Jewett, speaking on branding for different life stages; Guerrilla Marketing International co-founder Jay Conrad Levinson, speaking on niche marketing; and Foster & Gallagher president Robert A. Ostertag, who will discuss the company's growth into a half-billion-dollar business.

This year's conference program includes many sessions related to marketing and creative, as most of the attendees work in those fields, Schaertl said. In addition, planners were careful to add sessions geared toward both large and small catalogs, with one in particular — Cooperative Strategies as a Means of Cutting Costs, at 2:15 p.m. Tuesday — aimed at helping small catalogers cut costs by forming local co-ops.

Among the new sessions buried among the pages of the conference brochure is a talk on implementing management changes, “Live From Pork Avenue: The 'Technology for Creating' in Use at New Pig,” by New Pig president and CEO Nino Vella. Also, a new two-part session on product mix planning has been added this year, at 10:15 a.m. Tuesday. The session is more intensive than most because of its length, Schaertl said.

Repeats of popular features from last year's show include electronic demonstrations scheduled for 8 a.m. Thursday and a previously well-attended session, “Of Elvis Imitators and Me-Too Catalog Creative: How to Win the Marketing Wars by Developing Your Catalog's Unique Personality.”

The annual catalog Awards Luncheon & Ceremony, recognizing excellence in catalog marketing, will be at 12:15 p.m. Wednesday.

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