Highly complex, and at an average of 20% and counting, trade investment is the biggest and most important expenditure of every NAM, sales director and quite possibly CEO in fmcg.

And indeed, with promotions reaching another all-time high this week (p4), while like-for-like sales are at a standstill for most of the major multiples, I was disappointed at the number of attendees at our Trade Promotion Conference this week.

But I was delighted by the content, the insight and the banter. For this was not one of those conferences where swanky PowerPoint presentations are used to rehearse material you read in The Grocer weeks and months earlier.

Using original research and proprietary analysis, featuring case studies from buyers such as Morrisons group trading director Martyn Jones, and calling on experts to share their intellectual property, the conference saw granular, hands-on advice combined with debate and idea sharing, and was genuinely informative and inspiring, according to the 70 or so delegates.

We couldn't share all the insights and findings of the day-long event here and now, though on p4 you'll find a small window into the debate.

But for me the most refreshing moment came in the presentation of Tesco household category director Sam Perkins. Prior to the event he had contacted delegates to find out what they were hoping to get out of the conference in order to make his presentation relevant.

Supermarkets are often accused of listening very hard to their customers, while bullying and barking orders at their suppliers, so it was refreshing to see how receptive a buyer can be.

And he was also brutally honest. Calling for 'truth, not PowerPoint' he told delegates: "I don't think we're clear on the role of promotions."

In other words, we've all become promotion junkies. And with like-for-likes stagnant, it isn't working.