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Direct Response Marketing

Field Reports

1 Sep, 2006 By: Thomas Haire, Courtney Beth Pugatch Response

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. and PITTSBURGH — When visitors at the Electronic Retailing Association's (ERA) annual conference in Las Vegas this month happen upon the Invention Showcase, a number of them will likely wonder, "Where on earth did these products come from?" The answer, of course, begins with the inventor who came up with the product. But it doesn't end there.

Jennifer Lawlor, INPEX trade show director, says partnering with ERA has benefited inventors.
Jennifer Lawlor, INPEX trade show director, says partnering with ERA has benefited inventors.

"We honor and respect the inventor," says Wendi Cooper, founder and CEO of El Segundo, Calif.-based C Spot Run Productions LLC and the chair of ERA's Invention Showcase for seven of the past eight years (the Showcase began in 1998). "We give them the tools they need to get in the door. The entire program is based on integrity. The goal is to create a safe forum for the inventor, and provide education and opportunity."

A major part of the success of the Invention Showcase has been the relationship between Cooper and the Pittsburgh-based Invention/New Product Exposition (INPEX), an event featuring hundreds of inventors from around the world that takes place every spring. As part of the event's Inventors' University program, Cooper leads a three-hour seminar on what direct response executives are looking for from new inventors.

Wendi Cooper has chaired the ERA Invention Showcase for seven of the past eight years.
Wendi Cooper has chaired the ERA Invention Showcase for seven of the past eight years.

The next day, Cooper and a team of DRTV executives hears five-minute pitches from dozens of inventors. The panel reviews the pitches and extends invitations to the best to the ERA Invention Showcase in September.

"I think it's accurate to say INPEX plays an important role in the [Invention] Showcase, in that the majority of the new products come from INPEX," says Jennifer Lawlor, INPEX trade show director. "The Showcase is a great opportunity for inventors with an idea suited to direct response."

Cooper and Lawlor agree that the key to the relationship is the panel review process during the INPEX event. "INPEX is really part of the soul that makes the Invention Showcase tick," Cooper contends, adding that the "more than 60" inventors who make their pitches get key feedback. "We collectively decide if the invention qualifies for one of the following categories: radio, long- or short-form TV, upsells, catalog, live shopping or the Web. All products must have a 'problem-solving' feature."

Lawlor adds, "The panel is an exciting event and we have many exhibitors interested in participating. We could have many more [inventors pitching ideas] if time allowed. The folks who participate as panelists are awesome. They come to INPEX at their own expense and help make the Showcase the great event that it is."

Cooper also emphasizes the Showcase's strict guidelines that protect inventors against unscrupulous marketers trying to take their ideas. "The Showcase was the first program that gave ERA's lobbyist some true meat to take to Capitol Hill," she contends.

Cooper says the panelists at INPEX since 1999 have run the gamut of major industry players. She credits the volunteer work of many ERA members with the growing strength of the program.

The Invention Showcase takes place Sept. 10-12 in Las Vegas.


Venable Opens L.A. Office


LOS ANGELES — On August 1, Venable LLP entered the California market by merging with two Los Angeles-area firms with strengths in media, marketing, advertising, entertainment, litigation, real estate and corporate matters.

The addition of the firms of Gorry Meyer & Rudd LLP of Century City and Whitwell Jacoby Emhoff LLP of Beverly Hills brings 20 attorneys to Venable, which now boasts nearly 500 lawyers in Washington, D.C., New York, Baltimore and Los Angeles.

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