Field Reports1 Jun, 2008 By: Thomas Haire, Jacqueline Renfrow Response
"This was my first year at Response Expo, and I thought it was well organized and very productive," says Doug Campbell, managing director of Incredible Discoveries of Deerfield Beach, Fla.
Adds Brian Fays, executive vice president of advertising sales at MTV Networks in New York, "The energy at the Expo is palpable, and each year my sales team walks away closing business. Every dollar counts, and, at Response Expo, we get more than our price of admission back in strong DR campaigns on our networks."
Expo Networking Events Draw Huge Crowds
By Thomas Haire (firstname.lastname@example.org)
SAN DIEGO — Response Expo's evening networking events on May 6-8 each drew more than 400 direct response leaders, key marketers, interested press — and even hula experts and fire dancers! Similarly, the Expo's inaugural golf tournament on the morning of May 6 was a near sell-out, with more than 120 golfers teeing off at the Riverwalk Golf Club.
The evening events, beginning with the Opening Night party on May 6, sailing through the Seaport Celebration on May 7 and closing at the elegant Natural History Museum in Balboa Park on May 8, again set a new standard for networking in the direct response marketing business.
"The best way I can put it to someone who is thinking about attending is that if this is your business or you want to get into DR to build and move your brand, Response Expo is truly where it is happening. There is no other place where you should be," says Rich Thompson, vice president of marketing for Wisconsin-based Prevea Health, and a speaker at the Expo.
Golfing expo attendees got things off to a flying start on Tuesday, May 6 as more than 30 foursomes competed for a slew of prizes in the Expo's inaugural golf tournament. Plenty of business was done, as well, during the event and awards lunch that followed.
The Opening Night party in the Hyatt's Randle Foyer followed the stunning keynote presentation by Boston Philharmonic conductor Benjamin Zander. A total of more than 500 partygoers — many who had seen the keynote — were abuzz. "It was so refreshing to meet so many new potential clients," says Collette Liantonio, president of Boonton, N.J.-based Concepts TV Productions.
On night two, Imagine Fulfillment Services (IFS) and FedEx teamed once again to throw the second annual Seaport Celebration, which featured an appearance by the a group of hula and fire dancers to benefit the Greenburg Family Foundation. More than $1,000 was raised for the foundation, while more than 400 conference attendees discussed the first full day of the show.
The final event of Response Expo took place in the Sefton Grand Atrium at the San Diego Natural History Museum. Attendees explored the exhibits on the main floors of the museum while finalizing their networking. Greg Sarnow, founder of the Austin, Texas-based Direct Response Academy, tells Response. "The museum venue for the closing event was amazingly beautiful."
Overall, the buzz of business remained the key to the Expo's networking events. "The event was first rate, from the keynote speaker to the closing night event at the museum," says Dave Petitto, a DRTV producer from Palm Desert, Calif. "Other organizations can take a page from your book."
Cabrinha, Danielson Reminisce and Look Ahead
Mercury Media's 20th anniversary doesn't mean the company's long-time leaders are looking for an exit plan anytime soon.
Direct response media buying giant Mercury Media is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2008, and its long-time leaders, co-chairmen John Cabrinha and Dan Danielson (who purchased Mercury from founders Marilyn Carr and Richard DuBois in 1991), have overseen exponential growth. Just more than a year ago, Mercury expanded its empire, forming Mercury Media Holdings (MMH) after merging with Massachusetts-based ARM Direct. The company now boasts more than $350 million in annual billings for both long- and short-form DRTV clients — a giant leap from the $12 million in billings when the duo took over. Recently, Response caught up with Cabrinha and Danielson to talk about the company's two-decade milestone.
What's the most memorable moment of Mercury Media's first 20 years?
John Cabrinha: What am I going to bring up that isn't negative? I remember all the bad news!
Dan Danielson: No kidding! Seriously, though, last year we did $194 million in long-form media, which was incredible. I remember once, when we hit $350,000 a week for the first time many years ago, John said to me, "I'll shave the Mercury logo into the side of my head if we ever bill $500,000 in a week!"
Cabrinha: Now, we had one week in 2007 where we billed $5.4 million. That's one of the most gratifying moments from a strict business standpoint. Of course, aside from that, there's been the personal aspect — watching our people grow, personally and professionally. Growing up in the agency, getting married, having babies. It's gratifying because we've always valued a family atmosphere.
Danielson: There's no doubt that our relationships with our employees and clients have been the most rewarding experiences. We've had somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 employees over the years. Many of them were in their first jobs, and we got to know them, got to have an impact on their careers, and many have stayed with us.
Cabrinha: And a lot of those who left want to come back!
What have been the biggest surprises to you in the past two decades?
Danielson: Our growth has been a surprise. Being in this business for 20 years is also quite an accomplishment, I think. Look at how many people and companies have fallen by the wayside.
Cabrinha: When we first came to L.A. with Mercury (from their roots in Northern California), we told ourselves, "Once we get to $50 million in billings and 25 employees, we'll move back to the Bay Area." We hit that about 10-12 years ago, and here we are — still in L.A. I think the biggest surprise has to be our ability to continue growing. Back in the 1990s, we thought $50 million a year was as big as we could get.
What do you consider the most successful campaign you've worked on and why?
Cabrinha: It's hard to quantify success. I mean, go to the ERA (Electronic Retailing Association) Awards once and you'll see just how subjective that is. I mean, to some people, you might have a successful show — but, then again, how many orders did the show achieve?