By Lauren Gitlin

The 54th edition of the annual Promax|BDA marketing conference is set to kick off its sixth consecutive year in New York City this Tuesday, June 16 at the Hilton Hotel, drawing industry leaders across platforms for three days of panels, discussions, networking events and seminars aimed at providing marketing strategies for the ever-changing media industry. VideoAge spoke to Promax|BDA president Jonathan Block-Verck, who discussed this year’s special sports and politics-themed content and a groundbreaking study examining TV-watching behavior, and hinted at a big announcement regarding the future of the conference.

VideoAge International: Last year there were over 3,400 attendees from around the globe, including more than 700 local station executives from over 150 television markets in the U.S. Are similar numbers expected this year?

Jonathan Block-Verk: The general consensus is that Promax|BDA is more relevant and critical than ever. But consistent with the precipitous decline in ad pages in industry trade magazines, conferences across the board are feeling the effects of the economy on attendance, and Promax|BDA is no exception.
While the number of attendees has changed, the caliber of registered delegates is top-notch. In essence, the same major media companies are coming, but they’re sending fewer people.  Attendees are generally VP level and higher.
As far as the local station community, we’ve developed a very sophisticated sponsor-supported platform which allows them to attend- in near-real time- online.  In that respect, we’ll have more registered local-station delegates than we’ve had in the last 2 years.

VAI: Has the continued devaluation of the dollar increased the ratio of foreign to domestic attendees for this year’s conference?

JBV: We’ve always been an international organization and welcome the increasing number of attendees from other nations.

VAI: Last year, much of the content was geared toward local U.S. stations. What’s the focus this year?

JBV: Aggregating audiences and finding new ways to monetize them is what Promax|BDA is about- and that’s as relevant to local stations as it is to MTV.

VAI: A number of panels are devoted to ESPN’s 30th anniversary and there’s also one  discussion that continues on last year’s topic involving news coverage of the Obama’s presidential campaign. Is it accurate to say that sports and politics are characterizing much of this year’s content?

JBV: This year’s Conference is about aggregating audiences and finding new ways to monetize them, as it always is.  Each year we choose panels based on where we see innovation and best practices in marketing and design. With three days packed with panels and sessions, there is a wide range of topics – on everything from sports and politics, to the evolving TV business, to new design technologies, to running a successful agency and re-branding an entertainment property – at this year’s Promax|BDA.  In terms of the two sessions you’ve identified, the first is a retrospective on ESPN’s 30-years of marketing.  It is a common opinion that ESPN has been one of the most important, fastest-rising, aggressive and creative brands in history and we’re going to explore the evolution of that brand.The second session is a presentation by Jim Margolis, who was Barack Obama’s Chief Media Strategist.  I think that the marketing and branding of Obama is the number one marketing story of the past 12 months and we’re honored to have one of the key executives behind the initiative address the conference.VAI.

VAI: Warner Brothers is the only TV distributor (and international to boot) exhibiting this year. Why? What does this say about how television fits into new modes of marketing?

JBV: That is incorrect information. Virtually every major national and international distributor will have a presence at Promax|BDA this year.

VAI: Tell us a bit about how this co-study with TiVo pertaining to subscriber behavior came about. Why was the decision made to include these findings this year?  Can you give us a preview of the data that will be presented?

JBV: The data confirmed that promos are less fast forwarded among TiVo subscribers than paid advertisements.  For the full results, you’ll have to come to the show.  But I can tell you that it’ll be worth the trip!

VAI:. Are you planning to stay in New York City next year as well?

JBV:We’re making a pretty major announcement about next year’s venue on Thursday.  I seriously can’t wait!

VAI: What measures are being taken to restore Promax to its former glory as a must-attend TV distribution event?

JBV:Promax|BDA remains the most relevant, informative and action-oriented conference for marketing, promotion and design professionals in the entertainment industry. The Conference is just one aspect of the international association that is relevant year-round. Between the 10 international Promax|BDA events, the MI6 Video Game marketing event, a number of new initiatives including Brief Magazine, DailyBrief and the C4 Creative Clinic Series, and a groundbreaking web initiative that will debut in the coming weeks, we’re working hard to instill a new sense of pride, excitement and relevance to arguably the most influential and important sector of the entertainment industry.

VAI: Why we don’t see Promax at such major TV trade shows as MIP and MIPCOM?

JBV: MIP and MIPCOM have a different focus and audience than Promax|BDA. They are primarily markets for buying content, whereas we are the leading global association for marketing, promotion and design professionals in the entertainment industry.

VAI: Any possibility of a tie-in with NATPE or the L.A. Screenings?

JBV:We’re always looking to deliver benefits to our membership and would consider all possibilities.

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