By Design

By Joel Meyer

There's just one conference where Barbara Walters could rub elbows with the racy puppets of Tony-winning Avenue Q: Promax&BDA 2004. Geared to TV promotion, marketing, and design professionals, it's slated for New York June 23-25. More than 2,500 are pre-registered, up 31% from total attendance in 2003.

This year's theme, "Whatever It Takes," grabs the all-bets-are-off challenges of reality programming, DVRs, and the immensity of viewer choice. Still, HDTV is star of the show; no fewer than five sessions are dedicated to HD design, marketing, and production.

Barbara Walters, of ABC News and The View, and Brian Williams, of NBC News, will give keynote speeches. Outside-the-box talent includes Broadway actor Brian Stokes Mitchell and hip-hop entrepreneur Russell Simmons. The combined Promax and BDA award ceremonies will be hosted by comic actor Michael Ian Black of Ed and The State.

"We all grew up watching television selected by moguls—guys perceived as having a golden gut," says Promax CEO Jim Chabin. "Now the idea of anyone going with their gut is a recipe for disaster."

Which is why the Promax sessions are "master classes" on how to apply information and technology to TV's revamped business model.

Steve Seidmon, president of Seidmon Associates, will present the market-research seminar "I Wonder What's on TV?" Yes, on-air promos are critical to TV. But it's important for marketing professionals to create a unique, succinct name for new networks and programs, he says. The reason?

On-screen guides are increasingly popular; viewers use them like Internet search engines, choosing the most appealing title. "The guide serves as a promotional tool for broadcast and cable networks to get people to notice you," says Seidmon, "and sample you."

For Anne White, principal of TAG, the event helps mid-level creative professionals learn skills necessary for advancement. As vice-chair of Promax and chair of BDA, she helped organize the "Business Boot Camp" that kicks off the conference. The all-day event coaches those on the creative side on business basics, including the seminar "Economics 101 for the Fiscally Impaired."

"As much as we like to create fabulous designs and experiment with new ideas, we're really here to deliver a message," says White, "and deliver viewers to the networks."