AdWatch 2005: Stop grieving over death of 30-second spot. Move on.

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Much like an audience that's been desensitized by too much sex and violence, media and marketing executives are becoming inured to the frequent declarations of the death of the 30-second spot.

Or so it seemed at AdWatch 2005, where participants were calm, cool and collected when faced with questions about how the fragmenting media landscape is changing everything from job descriptions to business models. That's because one year after McDonald's CMO Larry Light called mass marketing a cooked goose, it's become clear that there's life after death. After a lot of talk, marketers, agencies and media companies are figuring out how to act in this new world.

"The challenge for advertisers is how to get consumers to listen to messages when the number of options is so much greater," said Vicki Lins, VP-marketing and communications at Comcast Spotlight. "Any advertiser that isn't already experimenting in new media is way behind the curve."

Much experimentation is coming in the form of hyper-targeted one-to-one marketing that use a variety of technologies.

"I don't think there's a one-size-fits-all model," said Ruby Anik, VP-advertising at Best Buy. "We're moving to personalized marketing."

"The model is there's no model," echoed Laura Desmond, CEO of Publicis Groupe's MediaVest USA. "The assembly-line version of communications planning is over."

Though no one claimed to have the post-30-second spot marketing world figured out completely, there was a consensus that survival hinges on understanding consumer behavior, which entails leveraging the massive amounts of customer information now ripe for the picking. Ready with examples were marketers like Best Buy and Samsung-two strong brands that don't consider TV spots the center of the marketing platform.

Peter Weedfald, senior VP-sales and marketing at Samsung Electronics America, said that one of the ways the electronics brand has broken through is by relying less on television for the introduction of its estimated 180 new product launches per year. Instead, he said, Samsung has had a heavy presence on the Internet, where it has banner ads on more than 425 sites that generate 1.65 billion page impressions and reach more than 175 million Americans each month.

"We built this huge umbrella. We looked strongly and deeply at the Internet," Mr. Weedfald said. "The Internet has very little value unless you understand the back end of something called CRM. It's about tracking, converting and retaining customers 24 hours a day, utilizing the power of wireless and the Internet."

shops changing

Ms. Anick said the key to deploying that information is making sure that it's not just "numbers on a page." She said, "With CRM and creativity, one supports the other." She talked about the customer segments, like Jill and Kyle, which Best Buy uses to target.

"I see the day when a Jill can walk into an experience room and we can communicate with her there in a personalized way," she said.

The ad agency world is taking the revolution just as seriously. One man at the center of it, David Lubars, stated the case for agencies focusing their ideas on producing ideas rather than just churning out ads.

"The definition of the ad agency is changing," said Mr. Lubars, chairman-chief creative officer at Omnicom Group's BBDO North America. "That now seems like a superficial title."

One commonly cited challenge was the need to overcome reservations about new media with unknown ROI potential, channels such as video on demand and podcasting. "If you're not willing to fail, you ain't going to make it," said Nic Utton, chief marketing officer at E-Trade.

Mr. Utton said his company and its agency, BBDO, were experimenting with TiVo-busting technology. "We know people are fast-forwarding through our beautiful TV commercials."

And what about the TV commercial?

"It has a different role," said Ian Rowden, EVP-chief marketing officer at Wendy's International. "It may well be a smaller role. It may well be a more strategically defined role."

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