NEW ORLEANS — Disappointed exhibitors blamed market conditions and end-of-the-year doldrums for low turnout on the exhibit hall floor at the NCDM Winter 2001 conference, which ended yesterday. And they didn't mince words.
“I would categorize it as awful,” said Robert McKim, CEO of CRM and database services provider msdbm, Los Angeles.
McKim and others estimated that the show drew only 200 to 300 attendees, saying that half the number of companies that exhibited at the summer show in Rosemont, IL, were here at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
DoubleClick Inc. canceled a show party and halved its staff attending NCDM prior to the show because of low pre-registration figures. DoubleClick marketing staff at the show said high expectations set at last year's winter NCDM in Orlando, FL, furthered their disappointment.
“Just look in the hallways,” said Jeff Kamholz, director of business development for DoubleClick's Abacus division, motioning down the nearly empty corridors between exhibit booths yesterday morning. “We've only had six prospects.”
Exhibitors and attendees observed that several companies were noticeable by their absence, including KnowledgeBase Marketing and infoUSA. A Direct Marketing Association spokeswoman said it was against the association's policy to comment on show attendance. A representative for show organizer Primedia could not be reached yesterday.
Exhibitors said they did not blame the show organizers for the poor turnout. Companies are just now feeling the effects of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which would explain why the DMA's fall annual in Chicago held in October was better attended.
“I'm optimistic,” said Vaneska Adams, marketing manager for Lanham, MD-based Merkle. “I think a lot is going to change after the new year.”
McKim also saw a lack of exciting new technology in the customer relationship management and database market as a reason behind the low turnout. No breakthrough applications are emerging in the channel that could spur interest, he said.
Prompting the technology slump are a poor economy draining development resources and fallout from the federal government's anti-trust proceeding against Microsoft, he said. Developers have put new technology on hold until the effects of the anti-trust lawsuit are clear.
Msdbm has not decided whether to return to exhibit at next year's NCDM shows, McKim said. The company must consider whether sending a team is worth the return in terms of number of people attending.
“It's a question we're really trying to wait to get our hands around,” he said. “We could care less if our competitors miss us.”
Others couched their view of the turnout in terms of the quality of leads present. Russ Johnson, senior account executive with Dunhill International List Co., said the winter NCDM did not disappoint him.
“Attendance is light, but that doesn't mean they're not qualified,” Johnson said. “I've got some nice, qualified leads.”