ARTZT'S PROGRAMMING PLEA COMES TOO LATE

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What Ed Artzt's shot heard around the advertising world boils down to is that Procter & Gamble wants to go back to the future-and the world doesn't work that way.

Mr. Artzt is desperately afraid P&G will be shut out of an ad-less TV environment, and he called on agencies to help create ad-driven programming that is in sync with the new forms of TV.

In the golden days of the agency business, whose echoes are still faintly heard and remembered in the hallowed halls of the Greenbrier, advertisers and their agencies created and produced the most popular network radio and later television shows.

That's why top entertainers of the day-Jack Benny, Bob Hope-would pay homage to the agency chieftains-David Ogilvy, Rosser Reeves, Bill Bernbach, Cliff Fitzgerald-during the almost regal Four A's conferences of the musty and distant past.

But those days are gone forever. The Four A's is talking about never returning to the Greenbrier because it conjures up memories of a patrician environment that the current agency leaders want to put behind them.

So in that context Mr. Artzt's call to rearm was like a voice crackling over the airwaves of a bygone era. Put bluntly, the agency business can't afford to get involved in programming, just as they can't afford a lot of the services they used to offer as part of their 15% commission.

P&G believes in advertising-it's the main ingredient in Tide and Crest-but few other clients really do, and they spend much of their time beating on their agencies and other suppliers to perform their services for less and less money.

It's unrealistic for agencies to "re-establish relationships that have not existed for 20 or 30 years," as Four A's outgoing Chairman Roy Bostock (who heads P&G agency DMB&B) put it. It's a massive undertaking just to develop programming, let alone produce it. Burt Manning, head of J. Walter Thompson Co. (a Lever agency), said that agencies will act as "recommenders" of programming plans. But that's what they do now.

Mr. Artzt spends 90% of his $3 billion ad budget on TV, and he is determined to shoehorn in commercials where they might not fit. For instance, he visualizes that viewers could watch a pay-per-view movie for half-price if they agreed to watch a P&G spot or two. I don't think it'll get many takers. People are going to pay-per-view because they don't want their fare interrupted.

And P&G products also don't lend themselves to interactive television. I can see viewers wanting more information about a car but does anyone really think they'll punch up an in-depth analysis of a new floor cleaner?

To speak heresy, maybe P&G's needs won't be served by television's fractionalized future. It's going to be harder and harder for television to provide the mass markets needed by P&G and other package-goods marketers. Urging the agencies to reassert themselves into the programming process won't change that fact.

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