A Look at the London DM Fair

Nearly 7,500 direct marketers from 53 countries gathered in London May 9-11 for the International Direct Marketing Fair (IDMF) and Internet World show. For the first time, the two shows were presented concurrently at Earls Court Exhibition Center.

Among those in attendance were more than 100 American and Canadian delegates, primarily suppliers and consultants. IDMF had 14 U.S. exhibitors in all. Show organizers Reed Exhibitions reported this year’s Exhibit Hall was cumulatively more “global” than in years past: Of 187 exhibitors, 24% were from outside the U.K., compared to 16% in 2005

Those on hand expressed enthusiasm about opportunities to expand their horizons at the Fair. “I’ve been coming to this show for 20 years…It’s nicely done, it’s in a proper location,” says veteran delegate Jerry Messer, president/CEO of Salisbury, MD-based Data Services. “We accomplished what we came here to do: talk to some of our current clients and talk to some good prospects about our services.”

Delegate Kathy Woodward of Bennington, VT-based data processing service provider Global Z says the show was important to her company’s business because of interest in overseas markets on the part of data processing clients. “International seems to be growing among U.S.-based businesses,” she says.

According to Bill McNutt—president of Dallas-based International Direct Marketing Consultants and also the leader of a trade mission of U.S.-based companies that attended the DM Fair in London between stops in Germany and France—more American companies are considering direct marketing in Europe because of the dramatic decrease in the dollar’s value since 2001; the surge in online marketing; strong European demand for U.S. brands and products; and the 2001 launch of the Euro, which has made it possible for American companies to sell products in one currency across most of Europe.

“Europeans are now thinking about cross-border purchases in a way that they didn’t before,” McNutt explains. “They’re getting in the habit of comparing prices outside their home country. From there, it’s just a few more clicks to check prices in the United States.”

At this year’s IDMF, delegates were able to learn about practical strategies for marketing across borders at a series of presentations sponsored by the U.K. Direct Marketing Association’s Data Council. During one such presentation about international communications, Richard Pooley, managing director of London-based Canning International Training & Development, urged marketers not to take language for granted. “Many native English speakers make expensive mistakes because they cannot speak their own language in a way that can be easily understood by others,” he stressed.

According to Pooley, the solution is learning “offshore English,” a simplified—but grammatically correct—way to communicate. The approach involves using short sentences; avoiding acronyms, colloquialisms, understatement, irony and negative questions; and employing verbal or written signposts. An example of the latter is a phrase like, “There are three things to consider.”

In another DMA presentation, Jenny Moseley and Rosemary Smith, joint managing directors of London-based consultancy OPT-4, discussed the often-murky waters of international data protection. The presenters emphasized differences in European countries’ data protection laws, primarily in how personal data is defined, whether business-to-business data is covered, what permission level is required and how policies are enforced.

“Some countries have taken a much more strict view of things than others…particularly the Eastern European countries that are opt-in rather than opt-out,” explained Smith. She identified a number of data protection “hot spots” for marketers to approach with caution, including Spain, Austria, Germany, and Greece.

Amy Syracuse is a freelance writer based in London.