Marketers Struggle to Attend Two Shows at Once

Four consecutive days of constant hustle combined with criss-crossing the continent and some sleep deprivation are in store next week for a few marketers attending both the DMD Conference and the Catalog Conference.

One of them is John Papalia, president/CEO of Statlistics Inc., Danbury, CT, who will be on a red-eye flight with two other employees who are set to leave San Francisco late Monday and land in New York Tuesday morning. The catalog show starts Sunday and ends Tuesday, while DM Days begins Monday and ends Wednesday.

“Yes, it's an inconvenience. Yes, it's expensive,” he said. “However, we have to maintain a presence at these shows to best represent our clients' properties and to hear about new opportunities for our brokerage and management clients.”

Overall attendance at the two Direct Marketing Association shows will remain a mystery because the DMA does not release numbers, but both saw a marked reduction in attendance the last time they overlapped, according to marketers at the conferences in 1998. Those two shows also were only 215 miles apart, and several people took the hour flight from Boston to New York to attend both.

Organizers call this year's catalog show a near sellout because almost all of the exhibit floor space — though slightly smaller than last year — is filled. This year, 214 exhibitors are occupying 367 booth spaces compared with 211 exhibitors taking 385 booth spaces last year.

DM Days will have 256 exhibitors occupying 377 booth spaces. That's down 10 percent from 283 exhibitors filling 410 spaces a year ago.

At least 30 companies are scheduled to exhibit at both shows. In 1998, the catalog show drew 290 exhibitors while DM Days had 258.

Besides the three Statlistics people attending both shows this year, the company will include three people from its West Coast office at the catalog show and 25 people at DM Days from its Connecticut and Long Island offices.

“I'm not pleased. I wished the parties had been more sensitive to the attendees and vendors, but I have to do both,” Papalia said. “We evaluated the cost — but in this economy, I have to make sure I leave no stone unturned.”

Worldata, Boca Raton, FL, is another list company exhibiting at both shows.

“We will have key staff at both shows,” said Jay Schwedelson, corporate vice president at Worldata. “The catalog show is going to be strong, but I absolutely think that DM Days is going to be the stronger of the two, the reason being that it is in New York. Certainly for the list community, the core of the industry is out of the Northeast.”

Merkle Direct Marketing Inc., a provider of information-based database marketing services in Lanham, MD, will exhibit at both shows.

“It was a juggle, but we managed to coordinate our booths well enough so that we could exhibit at both shows,” said Doug Legters, director of marketing and communications. “We had to split up different components of the booth, and we actually had to get a few more pieces created, so … it cost us a little more money to try and have a full representation of our booth at both shows.”

Legters said Merkle also had to split its marketing and sales team “and that has been a juggle as well — having the same kind of representation at both shows in terms of marketing people and salespeople and having the right balance of officers and senior managers available at both shows.” About 10 people from Merkle are going to each show.

“I am not thrilled that the shows are both being held at the same time,” he said. “I am concerned that it is going to impact both shows, but we still feel it was important enough to have a presence at both.”

Printing and supply management provider Banta Corp., Menasha, WI, is sending representatives to both shows, said Nancy Wiggins, marketing communications manager.

“We're expecting San Francisco to be lighter than usual this year,” she said. “The pre-show mailing list is smaller.”

Even though Carney Direct Marketing, Irvine, CA, is in the same state as the catalog show, the list company is exhibiting at DM Days, though one employee is stopping at the catalog show before heading to New York.

“We don't have a lot of catalog clients, so exhibiting at DM Days just made sense for us,” said Peter J. Carney, president/CEO of Carney Direct Marketing. “We did both last year when the shows were a week apart, but we couldn't do that this year.”

KnowledgeBase Marketing, Richardson, TX, won't have a booth at the catalog show but will send a few executives to San Francisco. It will focus on DM Days instead.

“We just felt that our services appeal to a broader variety of industries than just one in particular,” KnowledgeBase president/CEO Gary Laben said. “While we play a role servicing the catalog industry, we have a larger portion of our clients in other industries, and DM Days has a larger and more diverse audience.”

Tony Cox, president of Catalog Solutions, Richardson, TX, works with specialty food catalogers and has 14 clients with annual sales ranging from $300,000 to $6 million. Cox attended his first catalog show in the late 1980s, but he didn't attend last year in Chicago. He will be in San Francisco this year.

“None of my clients are attending [this year],” he said. “Part of it is the money. About 80 percent of my clients said, 'I count on you to give me the information that will be presented at the show.' It's $1,500 to attend, plus it's in a city where it's a couple of hundred bucks a night for the hotel, plus the airfare. … My clients don't see that it's worth being out of the office, and all of my clients are up to their eyeballs in production right now.”

For Crutchfield, Charlottesville, VA, the catalog show is a must-attend event, said Alan Rimm-Kaufman, vice president of marketing.

“It's a place to get a lot of business done efficiently,” said Rimm-Kaufman, who has attended three of the past four catalog shows and is speaking at this year's event. “All the major vendors are there. You can do a lot of face-to-face meetings in one place that wouldn't be cost-effective any other way.”

Conference officials aim to avoid a scheduling conflict next year. Though no date for DM Days has been announced, the DMA said it is trying to keep it in June. The catalog show is set for May 3-5 at McCormick Place in Chicago.

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