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ABM roundtable: Recession sparks new thinking

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While no one would deny that the economic downturn has had a negative impact on business media, it has also opened up new ways of thinking, sparked creativity and provided greater value for customers, according to participants in an impromptu roundtable discussion held during American Business Media’s recent third-annual Achievement Awards ceremony.

The setting itself epitomized the new recession reality. The awards were presented July 29 at ABM’s New York offices rather than an offsite venue, such as the Union League Club, where last year’s awards ceremony took place.

The Achievement Awards recognized two individuals, in circulation and human resources, and five media companies for their sales promotion materials. Nick Cavnar, VP-circulation and database development for Hanley Wood, was honored with the Circulation Career Award, and Roger Dusing, VP-human resources at Ascend Media received the HR Executive of the Year Award.

Previously known as the Media Kit Awards, the Sales Promotion Awards were renamed so that a broader array of promotional and collateral materials could be included. This year’s winners were:

•Brand media kit—digital interactive format: The Advertising Specialty Institute’s Electronic Marketing Kit.

•Brand media kit—print format: The Society of Human Resource Management’s 2008 Media Kit.

•E-mail promotion (excluding e-newsletters): Watt Publishing’s Egg Industry.

•Exhibitor sales kit, print: Crain Communications Inc.’s Pensions & Investments. (Crain Communications’ also publishes Media Business.)

•Stand-alone brochure: Reed Exhibitions’ International Vision Expo East 2009.

Kevin Arsham, partner and communications planning director at MediaCom, presented the awards and brought the agency viewpoint to the discussion.

ABM President-CEO Gordon T. Hughes II asked participants to talk about some of the positive things they saw happening at their companies because of—or in spite of—the recession. “Sometimes a bad economy forces us to do things we wouldn’t have felt comfortable doing before,” he observed.

Arsham said his b-to-b clients have not reduced their advertising budgets. “They’ve just gotten much better pricing this year, so they have been able to do more,” he said. “Because they were able to do more, clients gained confidence in media, which led to more participation.”

There’s been a similar trend in trade show marketing, said Diane Tiberio, marketing director for Reed Exhibitions North America. “Frankly, this economy is forcing everyone to think differently and to provide offerings at different price points,” she said. This has enabled more exhibitors to participate in more programs, she said.

“The economy has made people become more open-minded,” said Lauren Duensing, editor in chief of Trend Publishing’s Modern Metals. One result of this thinking has been the launch of breakfast programs in addition to the company’s typical one- and two-day events. “We’re getting great reception from these smaller gatherings. People have less time available, so these are a great platform for clients to showcase thought leadership,” she said.

Michelle DeMarco, promotions director at Pensions & Investments, said she has found it refreshing that “every department has been forced to re-evaluate how they do things.”

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