Promax Panel Needed More Beef

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One of the perennial disappointments of trade shows is the usually bad idea of getting "name" personalities to moderate panels and then discovering they don't know much about the topic. Whatever the topic is. Thursday at Promax, the promo group let MSNBC and NBC News hardballer Chris Matthews moderate a panel with three top marketers (Mike Benson from ABC, Vince Manze from NBC and Ken Dice from Discovery Networks), joined by Dave Neuman, president of programming for Current. It could have been interesting but it wasn't very because Chris Matthews doesn't know much about the promotions and marketing business.

There was some meat to be had. For example, Manze, who created the Must See TV campaigns for NBC in its glory days, is now charged with getting people to watch that sputtering network again. How to do it? Benson, at ABC, is one of the pioneering spirits who put ABC programming on alternative mobile delivery platforms. Hearing them talk and get some hardball questions about that would have been valuable to the promo crowd that puts the pro in Promax.

But that wasn't going to happen. Indeed, Matthews joked at the beginning that he didn't know the subject. "Remember Best in Show?" Matthews said right up front, referring to the 2000 off-center comedy that starred Fred Willard as the bewildered TV host. "The guy who didn't know 'jack' about dogs?" He pointed at himself and then said, "Hi," as if he were in the Willard role this time. Then after a pause, he said, incongruously, "So let's get started." Which, of course, is where the discussion just about ended.

Let me add these asterisks: I like Chris Matthews, appreciate his TV shows and even appreciated the panel for what it was –mainly about how a new generation gets its news, information and entertainment off the Internet. But the promo business has a lack of shrinking violets–evidence promo pro Lee Hunt's sometimes lacerating critiques of on-air promos at other Promax sessions. It would have served attendees better had Chris Matthews, well, not been Chris Matthews.

By P.J. Bednarski

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