An Online Marketer’s Take on the Direct Marketing Association’s Global Event

- November 5, 2008

Touted as the “global event for integrated marketing”, the DMA’s annual conference had many promises to deliver on.  This year, DMA08 was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

It was interesting to get exposed to such a wide variety of exhibitors and relate their services to the diverse client base that we work with on a daily basis.  The gamut ran from promotional / incentive marketing vendors, list brokers, database analysis houses, mailing services, catalog consultants, content providers, print services, fulfillment services, market research, lead generation companies, and more!  The analytical side of me was attracted to the database analysis vendors and market research providers.  I also had the chance to see just how far schwag (trade show giveaways) has come in the last 5 years.  What used to be the standard disposable pen imprinted with a company name has made way for creative games, bottled water, digital photo frames, Starbucks gift cards, and even a free music download printed on a biodegradable card that can be planted and watered.  I will have to test the card for its presenter’s promise that it would grow into a beautiful plant to brighten up my desk. 

Monday brought a day packed with sessions beginning with the Opening General Session.  The tone was set by a Las Vegas style singer warming up the crowd for John Greco, DMA President.  An added bonus was an appearance from Senator Harry Reid, who welcomed the packed hall of attendees and thanked us for our patronage.  He talked about the diverse (mountainous) terrain of Nevada and encouraged visitors to get out and explore the 1 million + acres of wildlife across the state.  Senator Reid wrapped up his comments after quoting Mark Twain, who described Lake Tahoe in one if his writings as “the fairest picture the whole world affords”.

John Greco and DMA08 posed the question, “r u connected?”  His opening presentation was focused on answering this question with segments addressing connecting to the consumer, the community, and connecting all channels (reiterating that DMA IS multichannel).  He recapped the advertising spend trends and strong ROI that direct advertising yields.  Some notable topics included:

– DMEF — Direct Marketing Educational Foundation — DMA’s program to educate and place new marketing talent
– Education — Search Marketing Certification Program;  industry-specific, multichannel research
– DMA08 Mobile Concierge — Example of how DMA is connecting the channels via mobile
– New Mobile Advisory Board — DMA’s new board to help establish appropriate use of the emerging mobile channels
New DMA Choice website — Announcement of the launch of DMA’s new website for consumers to manage their mail preferences

Another session I attended was titled “Online Survival Skills in an Uncertain Economy”.  With a name like that, how could I resist?  Moderated by David Hallerman, Senior Analyst, eMarketer and “thought leaders” Adam Gerber of Quantcast and Ted McConnell of Proctor & Gamble, this session drew a standing room only crowd.  The panel discussed how many brand marketers are going “back to basics” in this challenging economy.  For some categories of marketers, this means dropping out of online “brand” advertising (banner and video ads) and reinvesting in proven channels with measured targeting and ROI.  As a result of a segment of advertisers dropping out, this frees up inventory for some new advertisers to expand their reach.  Direct marketers can now afford dedicated categories where they may have previously only been able to secure remnant inventory.  The topic of accountability came up and all agreed that online marketing is easy to measure results, but not easy to plan and target as it is delivered so differently than print or TV.  Since you are not getting the entire audience (unlike TV), there is only a loose connection between demographic targeting and who the ad actually reaches.  Another key point is that behavioral advertising doesn’t scale well due to the limited number of segments and the volume within each.  To recap:

– Work smarter
– Work with Less Waste
– Reduce the Clutter

As we all know, Analytics is an effective avenue for reducing waste.  Beyond click stream data, many marketers are integrating database analysis and demographic clustering to help maximize their face time in front of customers and prospects.  This was the theme of another great session, “Using Segmentation to Drive more Relevant Online Communication”.  Experian and Sirius-XM (where have I been that I did not know they merged?) teamed up to present about a pilot program they are working on.  The merger of Sirius and XM presented a new challenge — marketing to a broad demographic.  XM brings an older female audience, powered by their relationship with GM and Oprah programming.  On the flip side, Sirius brings a younger male (Howard Stern) demographic.  In short, every visitor to the website matters and they should serve the most relevant content possible. 

While I packed a lot of info into 3 days, there are several sessions I would loved to have attended.  Fortunately, online content is offered as a bonus for registrations for DMA09 made by the end of the year.

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