Benefits for Canadian direct marketers

Close to 10,000 direct marketing professionals from Canada, the u.s. and around the world are expected to attend the 76th annual conference of the Direct Marketing Association in Toronto.The conference, which will take place Oct. 24-27 at the Metro Toronto Convention...

Close to 10,000 direct marketing professionals from Canada, the u.s. and around the world are expected to attend the 76th annual conference of the Direct Marketing Association in Toronto.

The conference, which will take place Oct. 24-27 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, is being presented in co-operation with the Toronto-based Canadian Direct Marketing Association.

The cdma has foregone its annual fall conference in order that its staff and members can concentrate their time and energy on promoting and participating in the world’s largest direct marketing event of the year.

Asked why the New York City-based dma chose Toronto for the site of its 1993 conference, Jeffrey Wood, the association’s director of conference planning, says the event is now so large there are few facilities in the u.s. that can accommodate it, and of those that could, many were already committed.

‘We thought about Toronto, and thought it would be a terrific city,’ Wood says. ‘It’s accessible, it’s clean, it has a low crime rate and wonderful people.’

He says, as well, the city is easily accessible to delegates in Chicago, Washington, d.c., Boston and New York, four of the largest direct marketing centres in the u.s.

As it turns out, Wood says the dma is expecting record attendance.

John Gustavson, cdma president and chief executive officer, says hosting the dma conference will benefit Canadian direct marketers in two ways: by bringing to Canada the most up-to-date direct marketing information in the world, and by promoting the direct marketing concept through media coverage to Canadian consumers, a group which Gustavson says promises potential for direct marketers.

‘Canadians buy about 50% less per capita than Americans through direct marketing, so it’s a vastly underdeveloped marketplace compared to the u.s.,’ he says.

Gustavson says the decision to hold the dma conference in Canada will also provide Canadian and u.s. direct marketing professionals valuable cross-border contacts, something he says is increasingly important since the free trade agreement with the u.s. and the growth of direct marketing there have made it inevitable that u.s. direct marketing companies now want to do more business in Canada.

While he is quick to point out the cdma welcomes the entry of u.s. direct marketers into the Canadian marketplace (‘It helps all of us grow the direct marketing pie,’ he says), Gustavson says the conference will encourage them to link up with Canadian partners.

‘Whether that’s a joint venture partner, a licensee or a Canadian consultant, it doesn’t really matter, but they have to respect the differences between the two countries to be successful,’ he says.

More than 30 Canadians are among the approximately 500 experts who will participate in the conference as panelists, moderators and speakers.

They include catalogue marketing expert and Strategy direct marketing columnist Barbara Canning Brown, Gwen Chapman, director of membership and marketing at the Toronto-based World Wildlife Fund (Canada), Kim Dunn, director of English creative at agency FCB Direct (Montreal), Martin Jeffery, vice-president of advertising and direct marketing at Toronto-based The Bank of Nova Scotia, David Middleton, director of advertising at Montreal-based retailer Zellers, and Colin Tener, president of Toronto-based database marketing firm Spectrum Decision Sciences.

As well, Georges Clermont, president and chief operating officer of Ottawa-based Canada Post will deliver a keynote presentation on the Canadian postal system.

Billed by dma public relations director Chet Dalzell as ‘the face of direct marketing today’, the dma conference program is, indeed, comprehensive.

A hefty 54 pages, the conference guide outlines close to 150 individual sessions, organized under 20 themes, or ‘tracks’, that examine the direct marketing discipline from every conceivable angle.

They include:

- direct promotion – the intersection of direct marketing and sales promotion;

- customer relationship management;

- research – dm trench warfare;

- the electronic marketplace;

- drtv – a reality check;

- the American pie – demographics/marketing roundup;

- direct marketing media mastery – integration and solo;

- dm technology advances across the board;

- operations improvement and cost management;

- focus on improving creative;

- how to beat your control package and program; and

- public policy horizons.

Three tracks include sessions that address the issues from an international perspective.

They are organized under the headings: direct marketing to Europe; international thrust from a u.s. base, and strategic planning and brave new alliances.

For those new to direct marketing, or those who need a refresher course, conference planners have organized a ‘basics’ track that includes sessions discussing the mathematical underpinnings of direct marketing, common pitfalls to avoid when launching a direct marketing program and the multimedia of direct marketing, among other subjects.

As well, there is a track devoted to celebrating direct marketing victories, in which delegates can get the inside information on award-winning direct marketing programs.

Finally, the personal skills development track promises to coach delegates on everything from power-selling to team-building.

As if that were not enough to challenge even the most determined conference-goer, there are three two-day mini-conferences that precede the main event.

These examine in-depth more specialized subjects, and include a catalogue management issues weekend, business-to-business day, and, new this year, a creative conference. All take place Oct. 23-24.

A fourth mini-conference, financial services day, takes place during the conference, on Oct. 26.

Conference junkies can keep on top of things from their hotel rooms via dma-tv, a 24-hour-a-day, closed-circuit television feed produced by New York’s Advertising Age magazine.

Programming for the feed will consist of pre-recorded feature stories, information on general and concurrent sessions and direct marketing news.

Trade show

No conference of this magnitude would be complete without a trade show, and the dma has responded with an exhibition hall of about 700 booths, all but a handful of which were sold out at press-time.

Exhibitors fall into 22 supplier categories and include printers, lettershop and mailing services, list brokers, market research firms, computer service bureaus, and paper and envelope manufacturers.

A number of special events round out the program.

On Sunday night, for example, the dma will present its 64th annual international ECHO Awards, recognizing both creative excellence and response.

According to Dalzell, the association will bestow upon deserving direct marketers about 85 diamond, gold, silver and bronze awards in seven media categories, across seven industry categories.

The winners, he says, were selected from about 1,200 entries from around the world.

Just as the best direct marketing campaigns are designed to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time, the dma conference is organized to allow delegates to customize their conference experience.

Delegates can focus narrowly by following one track throughout the conference, or opt for a broader learning experience by jumping from one track to the next, says Valerie Knaster, the dma’s director of conference programming.

As one might expect, organizing such a conference was a logistical challenge.

Knaster says planning started a full year in advance, with a committee of 15 advisors suggesting issues to be addressed and the speakers to address them.

Knaster and Karen Burns, the dma’s co-director of conference programming, worked full time at refining the program.

Logistics

A logistics department booked the speakers, while seven employees co-ordinated delegate housing and registration.

Two employees worked with outside contractors on the exhibit hall.

Knaster says at some point, just about every department at the dma became involved in the conference, from public relations to marketing to membership.

Plans for the 1994 conference are already in the works.

It will take place Oct. 9-12 in San Francisco.