Still Seeking Speakers

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With just three weeks remaining before the Cable Sales Management Conference in Chicago, officials at the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau are scrambling to line up speakers for its annual event.

CAB has been attempting to pull officials from outside cable's ranks to the conference, which runs from May 22 to 24. In years past, it was mostly comprised of sessions featuring executives from cable systems and cable networks, along with motivational speakers.

But no executives from advertising agencies — CAB's chief target this year — had been confirmed to appear at the conference by last Wednesday, according to CAB president Sean Cunningham.

Cunningham and the conference co-chairs, Charter Communications Inc. senior vice president of marketing and sales Jim Heneghan and Scripps Networks senior vice president of affiliate ad sales Janice Brandon, as of last week were the only confirmed speakers listed on the agenda for the sales-management conference, which is slated days after the broadcast upfront presentations conclude. Heneghan and Brandon could not be reached by press time.

While other trade groups such as the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing traditionally book top speakers at their conventions at least two months in advance, Cunningham said CAB had been planning for some time to finalize the list of speakers at the conference just weeks before its start.

“We knew taking this on that we were potentially going to have some moving targets and an occasional heartbreak on some of the speakers,” Cunningham said. “We said, a month out, we'll start to tighten it [the speaker list] up. But we knew that we were talking about super-busy [chief marketing officers], and people who literally do about three jobs at once.”

Cunningham said he planned to hold a meeting with about 30 executives from cable MSOs, networks and firms such as National Cable Communications last Thursday to work on nailing down the group.

The Cable Sales Management conference is scheduled to kick off May 22 at the Chicago Hyatt Regency, with a few afternoon panel sessions on topics such as interactive television advertising and research on how consumers use digital video recorders.

A yet-to-be-determined speaker will give a keynote address following the opening general session on May 23, and the chief marketing officer from a leading advertising agency is scheduled to give a keynote address that afternoon. Other panels featuring advertisers and ad-agency executives are also scheduled for Monday afternoon.

The highlight of the May 24 panel sessions is a morning panel that will feature ad-sales executives from top MSOs.

Breakout sessions throughout the conference will focus on topics such as strengthening the relationships between local cable system ad-sales representatives and marketers; yield management; competing against radio; client media loyalty programs; maximizing money in the multicultural marketplace; sports programming ad-sales; and competing or coexisting with newspapers.

CAB's largest event had been its annual Cable Advertising Conference in New York, which it last held in 2003. The trade group scrapped the annual conference for good last summer, saying it would instead funnel money into research, including its “One TV World” study that demonstrated the effectiveness of local cable over local broadcast, and to meet with top advertisers and agencies individually.

Cunningham said last week that he and his sales teams had just wrapped up a run of 55 presentations in a 30-day period.

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