From where we stand today, we can't be sure that ad-supported TV programming will have a future in the world being created-a world of video-on-demand, pay-per-view and subscription television.
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. They'll have dozens of home shopping channels. They'll play hours of interactive videogames.
And for many of these-maybe most-no advertising at all.
If that happens it's going to be harder than ever before just to reach consumers with our advertising, much less reach them with the frequency and regularity we need to build loyalty to our brands.
We can't let that happen. We're going to have to grab technology in our teeth again and make it work for us. But it isn't going to be as simple as it was to adapt to radio or TV, where everything favored the advertiser. Now, we've got competition, not just among traditional, ad-supported media but from unadvertised programming as well-entertainment and information that will represent an entirely separate source of revenue for media suppliers and programmers alike.
This is a real threat. These new media suppliers will give consumers what they want and potentially at a price they're willing to pay. If user fees replace advertising revenue, we're in serious trouble.
But I don't think that's going to happen. If this industry does what it's done before, you will turn this threat into an enormous opportunity.
Just think of some of the opportunities we've not had before:
We can use interactive technology to engage consumers in our commercials.
We can provide direct consumer response. If a consumer wants to know which Cover Girl nail polish matches the lipstick she saw in our commercial, we can tell her on the spot.
We can target not just demographic segments but individual households. If a family has a newborn baby, we can make sure they get a Pampers commercial.
We can use games, infomercials, video shopping malls. We'll have a whole bag of tools to engage and inform consumers, and if we do that right, we can keep people in their seats when the commercials come on.
History says that the advertising industry adapts brilliantly to new technology. But we can't sit there. We have to act. We've got to get involved in programming to make certain that advertisers have access to the mass audience and to the best properties. Every industry leader we talked to agreed that advertisers should get back into program ownership. We've got to form active working alliances with the new providers.
We may not get another opportunity like this in our lifetime. Let's grab all this new technology in our teeth once again and turn it into a bonanza for advertising.