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*Showgoers Suffer in Clash of DM Titans

The concurrent scheduling of the direct marketing industry's second- and third-largest shows this week is forcing many companies to choose one over the other or scramble to be represented at both.

Organizers and attendees said they could not recall such a conflict ever happening before. DM Days in New York and the Direct Marketing Association, co-sponsor of the 15th Annual Catalog Conference & Exhibition with Catalog Age magazine, said they expect to meet their attendance and exhibitor goals — more than 500 exhibitors have signed up for the catalog show, and DMDNY will feature 375 booths — but attendees said the attendance numbers will suffer.

“That's poor planning,'' said David Hochberg, vice president of public affairs at cataloger Lillian Vernon, New Rochelle, NY. “Whenever we do an event, the first thing to check was any conflicts that might hurt our attendance.''

Some companies said their business could be hurt as networking and deal making are priorities at the shows.

“I don't think it's the best way to service clients when you're doing business with catalogers as well,'' said Kevin Cordray, director of list marketing at Meredith Corp., Des Moines, IA, which will be forced to split time between both shows. “You short them on attention or you short the people in New York.''

The clash arose because sites and dates are limited for conventions the size of DMDNY and the catalog show. Although the conflict was first realized in early 1997, organizers for both shows said it already was too late to change.

DMDNY director Arthur Blumenfield said his show was stuck because it can only be held at two venues in New York City, one of which — the Jacob Javits Convention Center — can't accommodate crowds of 2,500 or more for luncheons and general sessions. That leaves the New York Hilton. The New York City Convention and Visitor's Bureau confirmed that the Hilton and the Javits Center are the only suitable facilities for a convention the size of DMDNY.

“Our show can only be held in one city at one facility, so we are subject to [the Hilton's] availability. We have no flexibility whatsoever,'' Blumenfield said, adding that dates at the Hilton must be reserved at least five years ahead. “It's really New York that's the problem.''

The DMA was forced to take its fall conference, which drew more than 12,000 attendees last year, out of New York years ago because it outgrew the available space. Although the catalog conference now is held in a different city every year, the DMA still must make arrangements three years in advance.

“It's been booked for three years in Boston, and it is on a master calendar that gets circulated around to direct marketing organizations to avoid conflicts,” said DMA spokesman Chet Dalzell. “Boston will have over 5,000 attendees, and there are not many venues that can accommodate us. We have to get on the calendar years ahead of time.''

However, Blumenfield said the catalog conference had more leeway than DMDNY.

“We had those dates long before [the conflict arose],'' he said. “The DMA had not updated its calendar. They had the flexibility to switch and did not.''

Next year, the shows are a week apart — the catalog show runs May 17-20 in Chicago and DMDNY on May 24-26. Both organizations said they are committed to working together to avoid a repeat of this year's conflict.

Direct marketers told DM News that, when forced to choose, they are giving the nod to DMDNY.

Service bureau CAS Inc., Omaha, NE, will send two representatives to the catalog conference but will set up its booth and send most of its staff to DMDNY because it is the larger show and pulls more attendees from across the direct marketing spectrum. CAS president Kent Stormberg said attendance at both shows will drop but he expects the catalog show to be hurt more.

“Catalog was getting bigger and gaining steam,'' Stormberg said. “They would have had a huge crowd if this had not happened.”

Amy Gruszka, marketing manager for service bureau Creative Automation, Hillside, IL, which will exhibit at DMDNY, said her company had to opt for just one show.

“We would have loved to be at both,” she said, “but we only have so many salespeople.”

Direct marketers who decide to exhibit at both shows will spend $5,420 on booth space alone — $2,895 for DMDNY, $2,525 for catalog — as well as transportation and setup expenses. Some companies, such as Cahners Business Lists, Des Plaines, IL, had to construct an extra booth and buy additional graphics.

“This is the first time we will exhibit at the catalog conference,'' said Mike Doepke, executive director of marketing and sales at Cahners. “It's costing us more for duplicate booth space and graphics, but we need two booths to do this right.''

Doepke expressed concern that lower-than-normal attendance won't give his company an accurate reading on the benefits of attending the catalog show.

Officials at larger companies said they won't be as inconvenienced, although they would prefer that a conflict not occur again.

Susan Kolon, marketing communications director for printer R.R. Donnelley & Sons, Chicago, said Donnelley was told by show organizers a year ago and the only challenge it faced was assigning its sales staff at each site.

Dave Blais, marketing director for printer Quad Graphics, Sussex, WI, which will exhibit at both shows, agreed that the concurrent dates will require the juggling of personnel to prepare and staff two booths simultaneously.

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