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Slow Going at Summer NCDM

ROSEMONT, IL — A general lack of floor traffic worried exhibitors at the 27th National Center for Database Marketing Conference and Exhibition.

While a spokesman for Intertec Exhibitions, a sponsor of NCDM that tabulates all attendee and exhibitor numbers, would not give official numbers yesterday, an insider said there were 372 attendees at the show this year, compared with 900 at last summer's NCDM show in Las Vegas.

“The main reason for the low attendance here is the economy,” said Timothy J. Suther, president of North American operations at Protagona Worldwide Inc., Chicago. “Many of our customers, particularly credit card companies, have had their marketing and media budgets slashed, so they are not in the market right now to buy our products.”

Others were blaming the low attendance on the venue, the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, which is close to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport but about an hour from downtown Chicago. Some thought that if travel budgets were slashed and marketers were only able to go to one or two shows a year, they would probably go to a bigger city than Rosemont.

C. Olivia Parr Rud, executive vice president at Data Square, a West Chester, PA, database marketing consulting firm, said the reason for the empty show floor might be that “the show is not downtown [in Chicago]. Maybe that would have been a better draw for more people.”

A spokeswoman for the Direct Marketing Association said the location was chosen because it was less expensive, close to the airport and “since the attendees to NCDM are generally a more studious group, they don't necessarily need to be near a major city so they can party.”

Jennifer L. Sprague, vice president of marketing at iMarket, Waltham, MA, also acknowledged the lack of floor traffic. “Maybe next year, there should be one show [instead of a summer and winter NCDM] in a major city.”

She added that “even studious people like to have a nice dinner in a major city.”

Many major exhibitors were no-shows. Major customer relationship management vendors, such as Epsilon, YellowBrick, Harte-Hanks, Wheelhouse and Fair Isaac were absent.

Xchange Inc., a CRM company in Boston, decided not to exhibit at or attend the show this year.

“We decided to not go to NCDM for basically two reasons,” Phil Adams, senior vice president of marketing at Xchange, said in a phone interview. “Fewer people are evaluating database software this year [because of the slow economy], and we are also focusing more on marketing directly to our customers instead of going to trade shows.”

Adams added that Xchange exhibited at several trade shows in the spring “and traffic was down considerably. Most of the time it was just vendors talking to other vendors on the show floor forming partnership deals. We really want to focus on communicating directly with our customers.”

Some exhibitors seemed happy.

Jay Pearce, marketing manager at Exstream Software, Lexington, KY, a first-time exhibitor at NCDM, was pleased with the results he was seeing.

“We've received 15 leads in the first two hours we were here on Monday,” Pearce said. “And we are getting more every day. And the leads are high-level.”

Pearce, whose company sells Dialogue, a solution that combines document creation, campaign management and tracking, said Exstream has attended other trade shows this year, including Xplor and some e-billing shows, but he said this one is “bringing in the better results by far.”

Amy O'Toole, director of marketing and advertising at Customer Communications Group Inc., Denver, said the show had been slow on Monday, the day it opened, but picked up considerably on Tuesday.

Most vendors said they would be back at the next NCDM shows. Some, however, said they may buy a smaller space next time.

Others were more enthusiastic.

“We will definitely be in New Orleans,” said Protagona's Suther, referring to the NCDM show scheduled for December. “There is about $192 billion spent in direct marketing media in this country, so they are buying into this stuff somewhere.”

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