Online Exclusive: Report From Cannes

INDUSTRY CHIEFS DEBATE ON-DEMAND CONSUMER CONTROL

Cannes Seminar Underscores Seriousness of Changing Consumption Patterns

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CANNES, France (AdAge.com) -- With their business models and livelihoods threatened by it, four of the industry's brightest minds gathered at a Cannes seminar today to discuss the scope and implications of consumer control over media access.
Photo: Pat Denton
Participating in the session were Scott Donaton, editor, 'Advertising Age'; Lachlan Murdoch, deputy chief operating officer, News Corp.; Martin Sorrell, chief executive, WPP Group; Howard Draft, chairman-CEO, Draft; and Chuck Porter, chairman, Crispin, Porter & Bogusky.

The trend, which was until recently little more than a novel notion, has now taken hold with a vengeance as the Internet, digital video recorders, DVDs, satellite radio, iPods, podcasting and other technologies enable millions to control when and how they access -- or avoid -- entertainment content and the advertising that supports it.

'The great migration'
The impact on mainstream media and marketing companies has become so great that it is now being referred to as the "great migration" by corporate chiefs, such as Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger, who early this month surprised many with his announcement that the development of new models of on-demand digital technologies had become a high priority at ABC.

In today's Cannes session, entitled "Building a Better Mousetrap" and moderated by Advertising Age editor Scott Donaton, Martin Sorrell, Howard Draft, Chuck Porter and Lachlan Murdoch debated the future of the companies in a consumer-controlled, on-demand world.

Not surprisingly, none of the participants conceded defeat. But all acknowledged, in some way, that they've got to respond to what is a sea change in the relationship between consumers and marketing and media companies. Lachlan Murdoch, deputy chief operating officer of media giant News Corp., said one initiative under way at his company is experimentation with new ad sales models.

'A stupid idea'
"The current two- to three-minute commercial pod is a stupid idea," he said. News Corp., with its partner Visible World,

Photo: Pat Denton
The debate, called 'Building a Better Mousetrap,' was held in the Palais des Festivals today as part of the International Ad Festival.
is trying out technologies that allow ads delivered by cable TV to be customized to the individual consumer.

Mr. Sorrell, chief executive of U.K. agency company WPP Group, questioned a tenet of today's conventional wisdom. He refused to accept that unbundling of media planning and buying by ad agencies has triggered a new trend in which the marketing departments of large advertisers function more like ad agencies and use smaller creative shops as project-specific vendors rather than as strategic partners.

"That sort of move has always happened," he said, recalling the success of the Saatchi brothers years ago. "Clients will experiment with different structures. Our job is to experiment with different ones, too."

Putting messages in right place
MR. Draft, CEO of direct marketing company Draft, acknowledged that consumer control is being enabled by changes in technology and media. Understanding how to put messages in the right place, at the right time, will determine marketplace success.

Mr. Porter, of Crispin Porter & Bogusky, an agency famous for quirky but award-winning media-and-creative campaigns, summed up the future bluntly: "The dumbest thing you can do is think in terms of one medium. The biggest problem this industry has is laziness. It is a hard thing to do to think differently."

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