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&THEN 2018 Conference Recap: Hot Marketing Topics and Where the Show’s Future Stands

For the team at Modern Postcard and many other direct marketing professionals, fall is the anticipated season of our industry’s renowned show, the Data & Marketing Association (DMA) annual conference! We’ve been a proud exhibitor and print sponsor for countless years, but earlier this summer, an important announcement was delivered that created a lot of office buzz and left us curious about the show’s future.

We learned that the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) officially acquired the DMA on July 1, 2018. While this news was unexpected and exciting to some, a main concern was, what would happen to the annual convention with the merger? Would Modern Postcard and many other companies get to exhibit beyond 2018? Would marketing professionals everywhere get the opportunity to network and attend educational sessions like before? To answer these questions, let’s first look at how the show evolved in recent years.

Back in 2016, the show was rebranded to the DMA &THEN global conference, with a heavy focus on data-driven technology and all the channels that make up the marketing ecosystem. The show’s organization and layout drastically changed too, with a central hub of activities and speakers planted within the traditional exhibit hall landscape. &THEN upped the ante with a star-studded lineup of keynote speakers (ahem, John Legend), restructured marketing sessions, and after-show entertainment that clearly targeted the hearts of older millennials with late-90s-era bands like Sugar Ray, Third Eye Blind and Lit. Needless to say, the “&THEN” name and reinvented structure were controversial to some, but an innovative, breath of fresh air to others.

Fast-forward to October 2018: Modern Postcard exhibited at the third consecutive DMA &THEN conference hosted in Las Vegas. That’s where we learned what’s in store for the show with the ANA-DMA union. If you didn’t get a chance to attend and want to hear the latest direct marketing trends, happenings and overall vibe of the event, we’ve included a Q&A below with our Senior Marketing Manager, Jeanine Norlin, to catch you up to speed.

Q: What was the overall atmosphere at the show this year? 
JN: DMA &THEN 2018 was one for the books. The attendees were engaged and open to acquiring new knowledge. It’s amazing how far we’ve come with
data-driven marketing, yet we all recognize how much more room there is for development.

Q: Will there be a show next year with the ANA-DMA merge?
JN: Exciting news about the future of the show was announced at the opening general session. DMA’s &THEN show will now be the Masters of Data Marketing & Analytics conference, launching March 2-4, 2020 in Orlando, Florida. I was very happy to hear that the show will continue and grow as a hallmark conference in the ANA’s lineup of marketing events. We can’t wait to hear more details, but for now, I and many of the DMA &THEN alumni will be saving the dates!

&Then Conference 2018 Las Vegas
The Modern Postcard team in booth #217 at &THEN 2018, Las Vegas.

Q: Any industry hot topics or themes at the sessions? 
JN: Data as the catalyst for driving growth was a common theme at the show and in sessions. The days of starting with requirements and then developing strategies are gone. Marketers are abandoning the waterfall approach and instead are becoming very granular with customer data and using those insights to drive the direction. The other hot topic was how important human intelligence is in conjunction with analytics. Because no matter how much direct insight you can draw from the data, you need brain power and marketing practitioners with strong instincts to execute successfully.

Q: How was traffic at Modern’s booth and Keith Goodman’s “Direct Mail: The New Fundamentals” session? 
JN: The Modern Postcard Booth was busy the entire show. I spoke with many attendees who were digital marketing practitioners in need of direct mail solutions for their multi-channel programs. This is precisely where Modern Postcard provides unique value. Our experience with integrated services plus Modern’s consultative approach helps our clients seamlessly add direct mail to their marketing mix. Keith’s session was yet again standing room only, with hundreds of engaged attendees wanting to know about all things direct mail marketing.

Direct Mail Presentation
Keith Goodman, VP of Corporate Solutions and Marketing, hosting his direct mail session on Monday, October 8, 2018.

Q: What was Modern’s most popular booth promotion?
JN: Everyone loved our Viva Las Vegas souvenir postcard giveaway! Crowds of people flooded our booth each day to have their cards stamped and mailed back to friends and family. I think it demonstrates that while we all are hard-working professionals, we are just as dedicated to our personal lives and relationships. Another big showcase this year was our brand new trigger marketing solution, Modern iO. This program allows brands to retarget their website visitors with postcard mailers in a privacy-compliant manner. No surprise that this was a huge hit at our booth.

Vegas Mail Promotion
One of Modern’s several show marketing promotions to help drive booth traffic.

Q: Any vibe of direct mail continuing to trend this year and next? 
JN: If there was ever any doubt about direct mail’s popularity, this show proved it wrong. Everyone was either boasting about the benefits of direct mail or wanting to learn how they can get in on the action. Yes, we live in a digital age. Yes, email and social media work well. But you can’t deny direct mail’s impact. It always has been and will increasingly be the most effective form of advertising marketers have at their disposal, especially as stricter privacy regulations like GDPR become the norm for online marketing.

Look for Modern Postcard as an exhibitor at the brand new ANA launched show, coming to Orlando in March 2020! More details to follow.

Modern is here to help your brand stand out with successful print promotions and direct mail campaigns.

By Modern Postcard

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