Trade Show Producer eMarketWorld Files for Chapter 11

Internet trade show and conference producer Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month after piling up more than $10 million in debts. The company until earlier this year produced the @d:tech trade shows, which it sold to Imark Communications for an undisclosed sum.

According to eMarketWorld's bankruptcy filing, it owes more than 200 creditors. The court filing said the company's liabilities could reach $50 million. It has assets of less than $10 million.

It faces at least seven lawsuits from clients — who are now its creditors — for failure to pay its mounting debts. The suits allege that eMarketWorld, Richmond VA, owes nearly $10,000 for limousine services and nearly $15,000 for direct marketing services. Another suit involving the departure of a former company executive earlier this year seeks $375,000.

No one from eMarketWorld was available for comment.

While eMarketWorld, which is 42 percent owned by Internet incubator Internet Capital Group, may not be the first dot-com to fall victim of hard times, its failure shows the vulnerabilities of marketing and advertising trade shows in the current economy.

Observers noted that last year when the dot-com boom was in full swing, the number of marketing shows increased — some, like @d:tech and the Direct Marketing Association's show, were even offered more than once a year. This growth was not sustainable even in a healthy economy, observers said. As a result, attendance steadily declined.

There's no better proof of this than the DMA's announcement this week that it was laying off 14 employees, many from its seminar area. H. Robert Wientzen, the DMA's president/CEO, said the organization has seen a drop in attendance at its shows.

“No question, there's been a drop in physical attendees” at recent DMA conferences and seminars, he said recently. “Travel budgets have been slashed.”

Particularly affected was the DMA's spring conference in Seattle, which saw a drastic falloff in attendance. The organization plans to cut back on the frequency of its seminars.

Another show hit hard by the dot-com shakeout is Imark Communications' @d:tech Internet advertising conference.

Joel Davis, general manager of Imark Communications, said the recent @d:tech show in Los Angeles attracted 102 exhibitors and 233 fully paid delegates and about 2,500 floorwalkers. However, about 41 exhibitors who had pre-registered pulled out before the show opened. Cancellations included 24/7 Media, AdForce,, ad pepper media USA, Avenue A, BrightStreet, CheetahMail, Cybuy, Digital Impact, eMachines, [email protected], FloNetwork, Mplayer, NetValue, Qualcomm, Radical Communication, Primary Knowledge, Team Toolz and ValueClick.

Davis said the exhibitor cancellations and lower attendance resulted from last year's disastrous business climate. He predicted that this year will “see reasonable growth.”

Jason Hester, content director for @d:tech, said it is no surprise that attendance is down at trade shows because when the economy falters, marketing budgets are the first things to be cut. Instead of attending all the shows during the year, many companies now let their executives attend only two or three main ones, he said.

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