June 15, 2015 - Comments Off on PromaxBDA 2015 – Thoughts and Notes

PromaxBDA 2015 – Thoughts and Notes

It’s been another year for our industry’s conference, PromaxBDA, and I can honestly say that I felt this year was better than last. The best way I can describe the feeling was more “open”. People felt more open to talking and the entire mood felt brighter and more upbeat than in years past. Perhaps being in LA versus NY gave a lot of us the distance from work that we needed to truly relax a little and be present at the conference.

As for the sessions, I can’t say I learned much. Most of them focused on practices I already know are better than what I’m using but can’t, due to office politics or a million other reasons. But I’m an old hat at Promax, having attended around 7 or 8 times (I’ve actually lost count), so perhaps a younger generation found them more insightful. And I felt the larger keynote sessions felt unfocused and jumbled in their messaging, especially the State of Design, which didn’t focus at all on design but rather on the strategy of emotion within a spot[1], and State of our Art, which felt like two people who threw the whole thing together backstage in a panic and decided at the last minute, “We’ll just wing it”[2]. That’s not to say I didn’t learn anything. I learned Andy Baker from National Geographic runs a site called The Client Blog which is fantastic[3] and now one of my top reads. I also learned that agencies are now working for more than TV networks. With clients ranging from Apple to GM, agencies I’ve worked with for years have been branching out into all kinds of design. I wouldn’t have learned those things stuck in my office here in Crystal City, VA.

But the biggest reason I go to PromaxBDA every year is not for the sessions, or even the free booze; nope, it’s for the people. To put faces with names and give those we haven’t seen in a long while a big hug. To hear about the highs and yes, even the lows, of their lives and work is so much fun each year. I’ve made it a point to also meet new people and new agencies that I would not otherwise have a chance to do and this year was no exception. There’s no substitute for sitting across from someone and watching their face light up when they talk about their work (or continually scan the room looking for someone more important to talk to), and a conference like PromaxBDA is really the only way to have that type of experience.

So, with the 60th anniversary looming large next year, below are a few suggestions Promax should think about…

  1. Loose the awards show and put the effort into a kick ass closing night party - I know. That’s a biggie but here’s why. With the awards at the end of the night on the last day it gives no one any time to enjoy their accomplishments. And it doesn’t give clients the opportunity to seek out or connect with those that won they might want to work with in the future. I propose that Promax post the winners online the morning of the last day. That way everyone has all day to enjoy, congratulate, seek out, or otherwise revel in their accomplishments. If you can’t scrap the entire show, try moving it to the second night. And don’t be afraid that everyone will leave right after they get their trophies. I think most people will see the value in having a whole day with potential clients to gloat.
  2. Start over with the app - great idea, poor execution. From the minute you open the app and you’re asked to create an account with some company called Feathr no one has ever heard of, to the fact there’s no time zone support so you’re constantly subtracting 3 hours, for those of us on the east coast, in your head from every session start time is frustrating. Not to mention little things like not being to subscribe to “my calendar” so that you can import all the sessions into iCal or Google Calendar makes juggling everything that much more difficult. And I’m not even going to start giving notes on the overall aesthetic of the app. For what is supposed to be partly a design organization, this app falls far short of my expectations.
  3. Please tell us what’s next - I found it completely ironic the tagline for this year was “Create what’s NEXT”, which was on every graphic, yet I’d sit in the ballrooms after a session and nothing told me which session was NEXT.
  4. The bag - Haven’t we had enough of the messenger bags by now? How about something more useful I might actually need, like a good camera DSLR bag? Or a beautifully crafted laptop sleeve?
  5. The badge - I liked the plastic card this year as well as the corner attachment method much better than a traditional lanyard which spins around and seems to always be facing the wrong direction. I know some missed the plastic holder, which is traditionally used to hold business cards or the printed schedule, but I didn’t. I always thought that was akin to having a pocket protector on your ID badge. I do think the names could be even larger and the name of the company definitely needs to be larger. With the rise of social media, it might be nice to also include the ability to add a twitter handle or a website on the badge as well.
  6. Networks Meetup - I’m in a lot of meetings with agencies while at Promax so I don’t get to mingle that much. I’d love to see a meetup, possibly sponsored by a few networks, where I could get to meet people from other television networks and commiserate about projects, bosses, or even our careers without feeling like I’m having to put my client face on.

Thanks PromaxBDA for another great conference.


  1. Don’t get me wrong. It was still a good session, but I felt like it didn’t focus on “design” at all.  ↩
  2. The hosts had great personalities and energy, but this was choppy and a bit too “off the cuff”. And the fact they kept saying “this spot” instead of “that spot” when the spot had already aired, kept confusing me as to what topic/subject they were trying to convey. The whole structure felt backwards the entire time.  ↩
  3. I can’t stop reading the case studies for Killing Kennedy and that whole series. It’s fascinating the difference in process from PBS.  ↩

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