This month, over 7,000 promotion and marketing executives from 60 countries will converge in Toronto, Canada, for the 42nd annual PROMAX conference. The rapid growth of the Internet and specialty networks in recent years has forced industry members, particularly those working in the kids market, to re-examine how they approach their work. Jim Chabin, president and CEO of PROMAX International, says competing for viewers’ attention in an increasingly competitive electronic universe is the focus of this year’s conference. Chabin spoke to KidScreen about the issues facing the industry and this year’s event.
KS: How has a multichannel universe affected how marketers do their jobs?
JC: The theme of the conference, ‘It’s About Time,’ says it all. Marketers are realizing that television viewers, especially kids, are not only quick to change channels, but they are more likely to be watching several programs at once. They are more media savvy than their parents, and this means that we have to be equally smart about the medium if we want to attract their attention. Kids won’t keep a station on if they find themselves immediately bored, and we have to work that much harder to develop promotional campaigns that meet their expectations. New technology, like digital television, is also having an impact on our industry. High-definition television and video with improved sound, for example, give us new tools to play with when developing marketing campaigns, but [they] also create confusion in the marketplace. This means promoters and marketers have to be solid on who they are targeting and how they can best use the medium. We will hold seminars on both these issues at this year’s conference.
KS: What about the role of the Internet as a tool when marketing to young people?
JC: By next year, there will be more people using America Online in the evening than watching CNN. This is just an indication of the growing popularity and familiarity with the Internet. We can expect to see TV and the Internet eventually becoming one, and it’s only a matter of time before a kid will sit in front of the television and speak to it. Marketers in the electronic media are aware that things are heading in this direction, but we are still working on what direction that will take our jobs. We not only have to understand our market, but we have to be very comfortable with strengths and weaknesses of the technology we are using.
KS: How has specialty television changed the marketing and promotion of children’s programming?
JC: When children’s programming was limited to Saturday morning and afternoon television on the general networks, promoters and marketers were limited in what they could do. Now, specialty channels like Nickelodeon, Disney Channel and Cartoon Network dedicate 24 hours a day to children. We can be more creative with campaigns, and we can run promotions throughout a television day that basically target the same audience. The toughest thing for a promoter to do is to market an adult program during a children’s time slot and vice versa. Specialty channels eliminate this concern. Today, the general networks are less likely to keep the Saturday morning programming because they too recognize that specialty networks are taking over the role.
KS: Does your decision to hold this year’s conference in Toronto reflect a desire to make the show more international?
JC: Interest in the PROMAX conference has grown tremendously in recent years. We have high-level speakers, and it is becoming the show to come to for marketers all over the world. We have delegates from as far as Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong. After Los Angeles and New York, Toronto has the biggest film and television production industry, so we thought it would be a logical place to host this year’s meeting.