UK Show’s New Venue Gets Mixed Reviews

LONDON – The International Direct Marketing Fair concluded its first show at the ExCel conference center with generally good marks despite lower attendance and the inevitable glitches with having an event in a new venue.

The fair moved to ExCel last week after 10 years in the Wembley conference center, which the show had outgrown. This year’s show occupied one-third more space. Final attendance figures won’t be available until next week, but the first two days drew close to 9,000 visitors, according to the Reed Conference Co., the show’s organizer.

But Reed admitted that the numbers were muddled because they included crossovers from the other three shows attached to the main attraction – TelecommercExpo, New Media Marketing and Marketing IT.

One visitor summed up the problems with a pithy, “It’s too big, and it’s too far away.” Commutes from central London can take up to 90 minutes, and, as several American and European direct marketers commented, “it looks just like a U.S. show.”

Most of those queried liked the show and said they would come back next year.

“I renewed my booth for 2002 today,” said Neil McCarthy, managing director of Worldwide Media. “The mood was up this year. The flip side of a bad economy is that people go back to using more mail. I was very pleased with the quality of people. A lot of customers who had tired of Wembley came out this year.”

International interest in traditional DM was also higher, he said, noting that he had three U.S. catalogers in the industrial and telecom field looking for opportunity in European markets. He declined to name them.

Jerry Messer, president of Data Services Inc., a Maryland-based computer service bureau, said that he “picked up few new clients” and that business had been good. Like other traditional marketers, Messer saw a revival of interest in direct mail.

“Mail is still the best way to acquire new customers and drive people to Web sites,” he said.

Renee Frappier, managing director at PacNet, a Canadian payments company, said her stand was jammed on Wednesday, the busiest day of the fair.

“We had the whole international community – Swiss, French and German marketers all talking and sharing ideas.” Business, she said, was brisk, and the quality of the leads was high.

Ben Ennis, an account manager for UK-based Listlab, said he liked the welcome area to Excel and the better services offered on site.

“It was a little slow to start, but the quality of the people we met has been quite good,” he said.

Ennis said interest in lists seems to have grown, perhaps as a result of the dot-com meltdown, a view shared by many in the traditional direct mail community. He also noted that fewer list companies exhibited this year. To some extent that is a function of UK list company consolidation in recent years but is also because of a reluctance among some to come out and exhibit before the new venue has properly shaken down.

Jan Evers, owner of EDM, a Dutch-based list and agency company with offices in France and the UK, said his stand had been very busy though he had heard others complain about slow traffic.

“I like the premises,” he said. “In Wembley there was no place to sit down.” Excel has cafes, food courts, bars and two sit down restaurants – badly needed because there are none outside the building.

Alan Clark, sales manager at Chapman Envelopes, a British company, agreed about the venue.

“Wembley was too old,” he said. “This is more practical and drinks are cheaper.” However, Clark was less happy with the traffic. “It was pretty quiet. Quality here was OK, but I’d guess we had half the number of people stop by than we did last year.”

James Thornton, who owns MLA, a Hong Kong list company and took a booth here for the first time, said “the show has been good for us overall” with contacts he made before coming to London paying off best.

“I was disappointed in the quality of people who came by to chat,” he said. “You get more time wasters than you do at the U.S. DMA, but there was enough quality to make it worthwhile. We’ll be back next year.”

The Internet companies that exhibited in the New Media Market show were also generally upbeat, with aisles crowded and business brisk, even though people admitted they had to work a lot harder now that online ad budgets were tighter.

As for the other two new shows, enthusiasm was more restrained.

“It was a very good show for us although we didn’t get quite the number of visitors I expected,” said Marcus Potts, sales director at UK company Multiactive Software exhibiting in the Marketing IT show.

Karl Hynes, sales consultant at 4D Telecom, said “it was hit and miss for us. We had some genuine interest but we were not consistently busy. It probably makes sense to break up the shows but we didn’t get the overflow of last year when we were in New Media Marketing.”

His company exhibited in the TelecommercExpo.

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