The running joke surrounding this year’s Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing Summit is that the annual conference was scheduled in Philadelphia to make it easier for the big kid on the block, Philadelphia-based Comcast.
But CTAM President and CEO Char Beales debunked that notion, explaining that the summit had originally been slated to be held in San Francisco. When CTAM learned three years ago that the National Cable & Telecommunications Association also was planning to stage its 2005 annual convention in the City by the Bay, it decided it needed a different location.
Quite simply, the Philadelphia convention center was available on what is rather short notice in the convention booking world, Ms. Beales said. That’s also why the convention is being held a week later than usual this year, in the final week of July. The summit opened Sunday and runs through Tuesday.
But switching the convention to the East Coast has other benefits, specifically better attendance. After all, a little more than three-quarters of CTAM’s U.S. members are based east of the Mississippi, making trips to Philadelphia, Boston and Washington, for instance, more manageable than traveling cross-country twice in one year for conferences. CTAM surveyed its members and the results indicated that most prefer shows held in East Coast locales.
In fact, Ms. Beales said she expects attendance to reach 3,000 this year, a comfortable increase from last year’s attendance of 2,780. That’s partly due to the location and partly because this year marks the first time CTAM will combine its summer summit with its digital broadband conference, which has previously been held separately in the early spring.
The spring conference began more than 15 years ago as a pay-per-view conference and expanded over time to encompass digital, broadband and video-on-demand. “It was always focused on niche products,” Ms. Beales said. “We decided that those niche products are now mainstream, so they belong at the main summit.” Attendance won’t rise significantly as a result, though, because there’s a high degree of duplication of attendance between the two conferences.
This year’s summit will include a track on advanced services covering video-on-demand, high-definition TV and digital video recorders. Telephone and broadband will have their own track.
The conference will still tackle its usual fare on competitive cable marketing, and will feature an expanded track on network marketing and a new track on sales, because members asked for one. The topic of sales has become more important as cable operators have changed the way they sell their products to reach nonsubscribers, Ms. Beales said. Sessions will cover topics including Web sales, multicultural marketing, direct sales, creating a sales culture and teaching customer care employees to be more sales-oriented.
Other sessions will address how to communicate new services to existing customers, including the value of the bundle.
“Less than seven years ago we started selling high-speed cable modems,” Ms. Beales said. “Cable companies had to take tents out at CompUSA and demonstrate how fast they were because it was a product consumers didn’t know they needed. Now it’s ubiquitous. Now we are in the same position with HD, VOD and DVRs. Consumers don’t know yet they need these products. The marketing challenge is great to explain these complicated products to consumers.”
Both Cox and Cablevision have done “terrific work” communicating the benefit of getting video, high-speed and phone from one company, Ms. Beales said, while Time Warner has been particularly effective when it comes to marketing HDTV, VOD and DVRs.
The general sessions this year are themed around “inventing or reinventing your brand.” Cable operators need to convey how their new products and services make them different from the cable company of old, while networks similarly need to be nimble and constantly change their marketing to compete for viewers, Ms. Beales said.
Shelley Lazarus, chairman and CEO of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, will speak Monday about how the advertising agency helped IBM, American Express and other companies reposition themselves. Peter Weedfald, senior VP of sales and marketing with Samsung, will be on hand Tuesday morning to discuss how his brand has risen in the past five years from a relative unknown to a leading consumer electronics name. Also on Tuesday morning, two sports executives will discuss lessons in winning: Brian France, chairman and CEO of NASCAR; and Jonathan Kraft, vice chairman of the New England Patriots.
“How [NASCAR] manages their brand and licenses are lots of great lessons for cable operators,” Ms. Beales said. She added that singer Jon Bon Jovi, who has been masterful at reinventing himself, is scheduled to speak.
An interview by CNN’s Larry King with Comcast CEO Brian Roberts will close out the conference Tuesday afternoon. The scheduling of cable’s top dog on Tuesday afternoon is shrewd-it will likely keep most attendees around the whole time. Mr. Roberts will receive CTAM’s highest honor, the Grand Tam award.
Operators, programmers and vendors will be honored at the summit for their best marketing work at the Mark Awards ceremony, slated for Sunday. The awards honor top cable marketing efforts in a host of areas, such as brand imaging, acquisitions, promotions, marketing advanced services, tune-in and affiliate sales.
The Mark Awards committee reduced the number of awards this year by half, to just under 50.
Just the Facts
What: The Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing’s annual conference
When: July 24-26
Where: The Pennsylvania Convention Center, Philadelphia
Why: The summit is an educational marketing and management conference with a focus on consumer marketing. It features sessions, case studies and awards on strategic marketing for cable operators, networks and vendors.