Instead of strategic media planning issues like reach and frequencies and cost per thousands, the talk centered on digital media and online services, both as media vehicles for reaching consumers and as means for agencies to gain greater efficiency over how they plan and buy media.
The issues were the focus of a panel discussion represented by the heads of eight major media trade associations and moderated by Michael Moore, exec VP-worldwide media director of D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, New York.
Mr. Moore said the big issue for most advertisers is "cutting waste" in both media buys and the buying process.
While the broadcast and cable industries have been moving toward integrated electronic data interchange and online buying systems, the newspaper industry has been lagging until recently.
But a couple of key developments soon will let media buyers automatically access information on every U.S. newspaper and immediately place insertion orders based on the marketer's customized national network.
In one effort, backed by the Newspaper Association of America's Newspaper National Network, Publicitas has developed a system for one-order, one-bill newspaper buys.
Last week, Ampersand, a new-media unit of Editor & Publisher Co., began testing an online system that will enable media planners to access newspaper market, circulation and rate data directly, compose a media plan and automatically place insertion orders in the nation's 1,600 dailies.
The online system, being tested with papers including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and both Houston dailies, will be fully operational in July.
Five of the top 10 agencies are in discussions about signing onto the service, including Leo Burnett USA, Chicago; and DMB&B, Foote Cone & Belding's True North Media and Ogilvy & Mather, all of New York.
The system grew out of efforts to supplement Editor & Publisher with digital media, including CD-ROMs and an online service.
"The newspaper industry missed the boat with radio and then with television. This time, we're ready to go ahead. We're ready to lead the industry," said Martin Radelfinger, VP-business development of Ampersand.
The newspaper advertising component is just one element of Ampersand's mission to be the industry's online business-to-business resource, but it is a crucial one that newspapers hope will lead to a greater share of national and regional ad buys.