The final summer CTAM Summit will be a markedly different affair from previous years, co-chairs Wonya Lucas, EVP and GM of The Weather Channel Networks, and Time Warner Cable’s EVP and chief marketing officer Sam Howe say. Summit will appeal to veteran marketers and those seeking a more broad-brushstroke perspective. But instead of adding sessions, Summit will tackle a given subject during multiple sessions.
Using the "Power to the People" theme, CTAM president/CEO Char Beales and a team of 38 cable executives joined Lucas and Howe to devise panels and keynotes grouped in four session tracks: brand marketing, digital products, next-generation trends and relationship marketing.
Lucas, Howe and Beales spoke with contributing editor Janet Stilson about the changes they’ve made to Summit and how cable is using trigger and relationship marketing to compete. An edited transcript follows.
Why did you decide to change the summit, to make it different than it has been?
Sam Howe: We really focused in on what CTAM research has been showing. Summit after summit, there’s more specialists coming in as the business matures. So we had to construct a program that allows the specialists to be satisfied and still appeals to the cable generalists.
Wonya Lucas: We use a lot of different strategies to do that. One involves the types of sessions. For example, this year we’re going to use the Harrah’s [Entertainment] case study. It will be taught by a Harvard professor. But then you can also hear and ask questions of Harrah’s CEO, Gary Loveman. It’s really meant to deepen the learning experience.
So before you had the case study, but you didn’t have the Q&A?
Lucas: That’s right. We didn’t have the actual CEO of the company that could pull it all together. There also are interactive workshops that go deeper with the summit’s four themes. We’ll have keynotes that will speak on each theme, but then we’ll have other sessions that speak to that subject matter more deeply.
Beales: We have instances where we take a speaker — say Jane McGonigal, who’s quite an academic expert on gaming and video games. [In the “Interactive Gaming” session, she’ll talk about] how’s the audience responding to games and what are the marketing opportunities. Then, for people who are specialists — who want to drill down even further — she’ll then go do a roundtable to sit and talk to them. So if you’re a non-specialist you can go hear the panel, but if you really want to drill down, then you go sit with her in another session. You’ll see a number of people on the program twice, and that’s because they’re appealing to the non-specialist and then the specialist.
How did you come up with the four themes?
Char Beales: We actually surveyed, last year, the entire membership. And those were the four themes that emerged that they were most interested in.
Howe: One of the other findings [from the survey] is that programmers want more [insights and take-aways] from of these conferences. We’re really trying to figure out ways [to cater to their interests]. That was a mission of ours. So [Time Warner Inc. president and COO] Jeff Bewkes was not a fluke as one of our keynotes and Grand Tam winner. [The Grand Tam is CTAM’s highest honor, and will be given to Bewkes in recognition of the time, talent and commitment he has made to ensure the future of the industry through marketing, education and leadership.] He really has programming roots. A lot of people wanted to hear what he has to say about the digital world — or the digital edge, as he talks about it — and where does it go next. So we hope the whole programming group will go, “Yeah, you finally got someone for us who was big and bold.” We’ve had plenty of good program speakers, but we hope this really brings it all together.
I see there’s session where there will be discussion about how Verizon and AT&T are marketing their various products that compete with cable. Give me your thoughts about what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong.
Howe: It’s very difficult to say at this point what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong. Because they’re just getting started with marketing. And we like to remind people we’ve been at the bundling for two or three years. So we have a time-based advantage in terms of marketing and some product features.
Is there any kind of rule of thumb in terms of how much of a time advantage you need to stay ahead?
Howe: I wish there was one. I’m waiting for someone to tell me that. But if we knew that then maybe we’d rest and not worry about the competition. That wouldn’t make it any fun, and it wouldn’t make it better for customers. To bring it back to the summit, we’re beyond saying, “We’re all competing. Let’s talk about competition.” Instead, we’re talking about the next place forward in marketing. We’d like to think that cable can push itself into the new place in marketing. I don’t think anybody in the cable industry took relationship marketing seriously. [Relationship marketing focuses on building long-term relationships with customers, rather than centering on particular transactions.] In the MSO world, it’s always been about acquisitions [acquiring new subscribers]. I think in this conference and this period of time, we’ll see a radical change, not to loyalty programs so much as trigger marketing that’s based on relationship data and understanding that you can be out there influencing people. If [a system has] two trouble calls [from a consumer], that’s going to trigger a marketing event.
So you think this summit marks a pivotal event from that old way of marketing to this new level?
The summit’s theme, “Power to the People,” reminds me of the theme of The Cable Show this year – “Competition Works. Consumers Win.” How would you characterize the message shift from, say five years ago?
Howe: All marketing now is much more one on one — or how users are driving their consumption. [The change is really exemplified by two keynotes.] One is Steve Hayden, who’s vice chairman of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide. He worked on the Dove real beauty campaign.
The other person is Shari Swan, who’s from a company in Amsterdam that does very creative research, Streative Branding. She’s one of the first people to have intelligence moles around the world that can help clients very quickly assess their product at the street level.
Lucas: Branding is always a common conversation. But I think the difference now is this notion around emotional branding. Nobody really knew how to tap into that. I think with Steve Hayden, the Dove campaign is a perfect example of that, where you really understand how women feel, and girls feel about themselves — and then how do you tap into the emotional qualities and really mean something to them as a product?
Given that the summit is being held in Washington, are you trying to reach out to lawmakers?
Beales: We’re going to remain true to CTAM’s mission and really focus on education and marketing. That said, we have several sessions around the digital transition, which is a very hot issue for marketers in our industry. And we’re bringing in officials from NTIA [National Telecommunications and Information Administration] and other places to really focus in on that marketing related issue.
We have a contingency coming from GAO [Government Accountability Office, which is doing the investigation for members of Congress on the digital transition]. They want to learn about marketing to oversee the digital transition.
Wonya, I know The Weather Channel has moved into the mobile space. Are you doing much marketing around mobile right now?
Lucas: A lot of the marketing for mobile happens through the carriers. We partner with them to market to consumers. I think that will evolve over time. We market on our network and our other properties, but that’s what happens with them [the carriers].
Beales: Drawing this back to the summit, we have three sessions about the three-screen experience. One is on the programming deals — how do you structure programming deals that make sense. One’s about the business model, and one’s about pure marketing. So you’re going to see a lot of information about that in the digital-products track.
Howe: And we’re going to have the Circuit City CEO as a keynote. He’s going to talk about the products themselves being sold at the store. It’s radically changing retail, and Circuit City knows better than ever. So it’ll be really interesting to listen to Phil Schoonover, the CEO.
Sam are you going to be talking at all about the new cell phone service Pivot and how you’re marketing that?
Howe: There is a Sprint person on one of the panels [Sanjay Gupta, Sprint’s VP of base management, who is a panelist in the session ”Relationship Marketing as a Strategy for Growth”]. Sprint is, of course, the joint venture partner on Pivot with four MSOs. So we’ll definitely hear from them as to how it’s coming about.
You must be coming away with some interesting learnings already. I know you’re not marketing Pivot as a quad play. It’s a separate product.
Howe: Yes. The positioning of the product is your home services extended outside the home — hence the name Pivot. We only have about five markets launched, but we’re launching about three every month through the end of the year.
What’s the key learning so far?
Howe: There’s a couple. One is that people do get the concept. In fact, one could argue that quad play’s more confusing to them than the notion “Oh, I get it. I can get my RoadRunner e-mail on my phone outside the home.” There’s a big difference between that and “Oh I can access my e-mail.” It’s “Oh, I can open up a screen, and with one click I can see RoadRunner.” So we’re getting an affirmative response, “Yes, that’s what I want. I recognize this as my home e-mail; everything about it’s similar.”
And I think the other learning is we’re selling a lot of products off the back of that. Meaning, someone wants Pivot, but they also want to add another Time Warner service — whether it‘s adding RoadRunner, adding phone, wireline. Right now, a third of customers who buy Pivot are adding another Time Warner feature.
Can competitors like telco and satellite executives attend the summit?
Beales: They can attend as non-members of the summit. Anyone can come in. But you will see sessions that are only for CTAM members.
How many sessions are just for CTAM members?
Beales: Last year I think there were less than 10.
What is your attendance projection?
Beales: We’re going for about 2,500. The summit has stayed between about 2,400 and 3,000 every year forever. We were 2,673 last year. But we’ve had a lot of consolidation. This is our last summer summit, and after this year we move to the fall. It’s going to be in late October, early November henceforth. We’ve booked locations through 2014. We’ve added cities like New Orleans and Orlando and other fun places we haven’t been able to go in July.
Even D.C. in July is pretty hot.
Lucas: However, I’m at The Weather Channel, and I can forecast with 100% accuracy that inside, the summit conference center it will be 73 degrees.