Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Promax/BDA 2006 - Wednesday Rundown (Part 1)

Today I attended the Promax/BDA conference in Manhattan. Paul was kind enough to get passes for all interested parties at no cost. It started yesterday, but today was the first day that I attended. I got up at six and took the LIRR to Penn. I bought a $4 Metrocard, but it was nice this morning, so I walked from Penn to the Marriot Marquis at Times Square. I didn't bring a map (how unusual) so I consulted a subway map for relative position. A man in a watermelon suit handed me a stick of gum in Times Square. I easily found the Marriot Marquis (after all, its a big giant building) and went it. Unlike the Promax/BDA website, there was clear and easy to understand signage in the hotel about what was where and how to get there.

I went to the registration booth and assumed it would be a hassle to get my creds (credentials). My name came up in the computer right away, so that was easy. I got my ID badge with its holder and a cool messenger bag full of loot that I have yet to rummage through. Free loot is always fun at conferences, except that you have to carry it around all day.

The first session I went to was Outlook 2006, where a panel of interesting professionals gave insights into what is coming down the pipe soon. The session was hosted by John Miller, Chief Marketing Officer of NBC. He was interesting. He spoke of marketing to the Millennial generation (9 to 28 year olds), and how they pass information about media along by word of mouth to an average of six people at a time. Marketing to Millennials involves using the funny, the entertaining, the scary and the freaky. Materials must be easy for them to disseminate (free is good). TV promos also still work well (the fact that TV advertising is alive and kicking was a theme I found in a number of presentations). Social networking is also important, as it provides personal validation, it is a non-threatening portal to the world, it keeps Millennials engaged in their social circles, and it harnesses their psychological motivators.

Bob Liodice, Pres. and CEO of the Association of National Advertisers, Inc. spoke at Outlook 2006. He said that the Chief Marketing Officer was the most important person on "our" radar screens (our referring to the general populace of Promax/BDA members and attendees). The consumer has the ability to decide where and when they see advertising. Brand loyalties are shifting under the impact of new media and can not be taken for granted. He said one of the most important things I heard, which is that we (I and those like me) must continuously reinvent the total communications process. Not just once, not for the time being, but constantly changing, which is another important theme from the conference - change always occurs, but it is occurring more rapidly that before. His 4 core strategies were: brand building (core innovation and integrated marketing communications), a lifestyle approach, reinventing marketing accountability (metrics or measurement of success), and reinventing marketing approach. Some of that stuff might not be more than marketing mumbo jumbo, but innovation is the key.

Frank Dudley, VP of Marketing for Guideline spoke next. He talked about branded entertainment. There are 3 varieties: Product Placement, Brand Integration (the brand is part of the plot, like PEZ on Seinfeld), and Branded Content (where the sponsor is highly visible, probably something like Pepsi Presents so-and-so in concert or the Sprint celebrity golf tournament.) Important factors include screen time of the product, character usage of the product, importance of temporal occurrence in the program, and the reason for the appearance. New developments that are important are in-game advertising and advergaming (like games on a company's website). Scripted programming is still effective and desired by the market. Parents are more comfortable with traditional TV commercials over branded content, which they see as subliminal and therefore somewhat subversive. Parents with young children are the most concerned. They could grow up not being able to tell the difference between advertising and non-advertising in media (although maybe we should give them more credit, but the concern is understandable).

Dennis Swanson, President of Station Operations of Fox Television Stations Group was the next speaker. He said scheduling and careful control of when and where is crucial. He also talked about hiring well and the importance of getting good talented people.

Kyle Cooper (founder of both Prologue and Imaginary Forces) had some really interesting things to say about design and how it has been impacted by technology. He said that computers make designing much faster, but the design itself suffers and uniqueness is not as prevalent. Design and culture are not progressing and the foundations of design are being overlooked in favor of training people to use software. Individuality, uniqueness, story and communication should be more of a focus than technology.

The rest of the speakers were not as interesting, except for Nick Lowery (former NFL player) and Dr. John Eliot (Professor of Sports Ethics and Rice University, organizer of the National Center for Human Performance and author of Overachievement) talked about stress and how it can be good if you are lead to believe it will benefit you (in essence, you are conditioned to believe it is only bad). It is not stress that is bad, only the interpretation of it. Stress does not cause poor performance. You need to tap your mind in a different way.


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