The Direct Marketing Association took a fun-in-the-sun approach in marketing last monthâs Annual Conference & Exhibition in Orlando, with promotional materials featuring pictures of the Magic Kingdom and Sea World. But while Mickey and Shamu may have been a short ride away, it was all business at the Orange County Convention Centerâand that was just fine with the exhibitors and attendees.
"Itâs a pretty serious crowd. Theyâre serious about business," said Carol Meyers, VP-marketing for Unica Corp.
Cyndi Greenglass, president-agency services for Diamond Marketing Solutions and the new chairwoman of the DMAâs Business-to-Business Council, said: "Itâs very upbeat. Thereâs a lot of energy."
Thatâs quite a change from last yearâs conference in San Francisco, where the mood was anything but upbeat and business anything but energetic.
"Last year I felt it was all vendors. We called it a v-to-v show," quipped Matt Blumberg, CEO of Return Path, noting the "great floor traffic" at this yearâs event.
Colin Spooner, director of business development for Modern Postcard, said: "The industry seems healthier to me this year. I think there was an air of desperation at last yearâs DMA show. I think things are on the uprise."
All this good cheer doesnât mean there arenât serious threats still out there. Most of the people I spoke with cited the California anti-spam law as a major one. And thereâs no guarantee the tentative economic recovery will gather momentum.
Still, two key areas give considerable reason for optimismâhiring and budgeting.
Spooner said heâs seen peers laid off in 2000 and 2001 finally find work lately, and Greenglass said hiring in senior positions has picked up as companies start to focus more on strategy.
The surge in hiring reflects the strengthening of marketing budgets. "Weâre seeing a lot of confidence among our clients in terms of the budgeting process," said Jane Johnson, VP of Fair Isaac Corp. "I think thereâs a lot more optimismâin the future, in the economy. [Marketing executives] are a lot more open to going up to their budget committees and asking for more money."
In many cases theyâre getting it, too. Meyers, for example, said Unicaâs marketing budget for next year will be 25% to 30% higher than this yearâs. "Our prospects look really good," she said.
It was a sentiment I heard often in Orlando, and thatâs serious good news.