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Each year, a single day in April has a way of reminding most of us who it is we really work for, at least for a few months of the year. Whether we like it or not.

The month also begins the season advertisers and their agencies have been saying for years should be consigned to the scrap heap. The upfront, a massive annual auction of 30-second spot commercial inventory on TV channels for a time period that extends from this coming September through next August, is here again. Like it or not.

It's a reminder to big marketers that reaching and relating to people who buy or may (not) buy their products or services is only one important goal they need to achieve to be a successful organization. The other goal is to buy the ingredients, the tooling, the employee talent, and the distribution, sales and marketing resources at a price that enables them to operate profitably. Those companies' ability to leverage their heft to get suppliers — of all forms of capital, including human — to give them good enough deals so that they can make profits from sales is what the game's about.

In the value chain which Procter & Gamble's Global Marketing Officer Jim Stengel maps out, one of the key suppliers in the marketing mix is the media company. Geographically consolidated, vertically integrated, multi-platform content and distribution organizations are where consumers, by and large, go for most of their information and entertainment nowadays, and those organizations are growing by the day.

Like it or not, the broadcast TV network, as beleaguered as the medium has been during the past decade or more, is still what you write down on a blank sheet of paper when you're asked what medium will give you the scale, the accelerated reach, the impact and the efficiency you need to introduce a new automobile model successfully. It's still the way to get the message out — the name, the benefits, the brand, the value — when there's as much at stake as contributor David Kiley spells out in “The Only Way into the Fast Lane,� starting on page 34.

The days of the primacy of the 30-second spot and the magazine or newspaper ad may be numbered, but their number is still great. Their value in reaching consumers is still great in comparison to the many other costs marketers incur to bring their goods and services to consumers. What hurts is that those channels are more expensive today than they used to be. That's just because it's always in consumers' interest to be a moving target. Like it or not.

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