Edwin Artzt

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It was the shot heard around the advertising world. But, in a sense, it missed its mark.

In a landmark speech to the American Association of Advertising Agencies in May 1994, former Procter & Gamble Co. Chairman-CEO Edwin L. Artzt warned of the demise of advertising unless agencies girded for an interactive future.

But the future Mr. Artzt envisioned was interactive TV, an undeveloped medium then -- and now. His core message: If advertisers and media didn't take action, interactive TV would emerge without advertising support, meaning advertisers such as P&G could no longer count on broadcast TV to reach a mass audience.

"Within the next few years -- surely before the end of the decade -- consumers will be choosing among hundreds of shows and pay-per-view movies," Mr. Artzt said in '94. "They'll have dozens of home shopping channels. They'll play hours of interactive videogames."

That didn't happen, at least not on interactive TV. But the speech was the big-advertiser push needed to thrust agencies into what would be called "the interactive space." And, given the Internet explosion that started in 1995, Mr. Artzt's speech looks prescient in hindsight.

At the time, the Internet still was primarily a plaything of the technical elite, who used arcane tools to hunt down academic information. Netscape had only opened shop a month earlier to develop its Web browser. And the online world was dominated by dial-up services Prodigy and CompuServe, dogged by fast-follower America Online.

Bob Herbold, P&G's former senior VP-information services and advertising, wrote the speech for the now-retired Mr. Artzt, but he would never get a chance to practice what he preached at P&G. He soon headed to Microsoft Corp., where he ultimately became exec VP-chief operating officer and helped spearhead that company's investment in e-commerce and Web advertising.

Indeed, P&G didn't launch interactive marketing in earnest for another two years.

Even so, Mr. Artzt's speech reverberated in ways that would reshape marketing at P&G and elsewhere.

Pete Blackshaw, former interactive brand manager at P&G, a key shaper of its interactive efforts and co-chair of the 1998 Future of Advertising Stakeholders Summit, says the speech helped lead him into interactive marketing and to P&G. Mr. Blackshaw left the company last year to launch online consumer feedback site Planetfeedback.com, but he still sees the speech as a watershed.

"I would put it akin to [former Soviet leader] Mikhail Gorbachev's warning that free markets are just around the corner and [Russia had] better get ready for them."

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