FAST forward: P&G's summit signals future

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Procter & Gamble Co.'s new-media summit at its headquarters here last week marked a milestone in bringing together all factions of the industry to propel Internet advertising.

But participants said the real work will be turning the high-level brainstorming sessions into tangible results in the months ahead.

One immediate result of the Future of Advertising Stakeholders summit was the formation of a new industry coalition made up of representatives of advertisers, ad agencies, online marketers, media researchers and content providers.


The summit was considered by many in the industry a breakthrough event because it was the first time a major marketer invited all parties to the table--including competitors--to figure out how to make the Internet work as an ad medium.

"This event signals the beginning of real money getting involved" in online advertising, said Chuck Martin, chairman of Adtech, an Internet conference, and a participant in a FAST panel.

There was some criticism that the scope of the conference, attended by about 400 people, was limited to P&G's own concerns, despite conference planners' advice to "leave your agenda at the door."


Intentionally left off the FAST agenda were issues such as electronic commerce, database marketing and other direct-response capabilities of the Internet.

"It was focused on issues unique to the consumer package goods space," said Bob Allen, president of Modem Media-Poppe Tyson, New York, interactive agency for P&G rival Unilever.

Tony Romeo, VP-strategy at Unilever North American Foods, was moderate in his assessment of the effectiveness of the conference.

"The idea is a good idea," Mr. Romeo said. "But to try to speculate too early on the potential [of the Internet] may not be possible."

He said it is useful to try to set technical standards for areas such as audience measurement, but said it would be impossible to set creative standards for online ads.

Other attendees said they hoped the summit would yield more real solutions to Internet challenges.

"This medium should be doing so much more. I wanted to see examples of how other companies are using the Internet to acquire customers and retain customers," said Jim McMaster, VP-global consumer banking at Citibank, who flew from Hong Kong to attend the summit.

Still, the goal of putting forth issues and obstacles facing the industry was hailed by attendees, a virtual who's who of executives from leading marketers, ad agencies, tech companies and Web publishers.


"This feels like it could be a seminal moment in the advancement of online advertising," said Denis Beausejour, P&G VP-advertising.

"There's more work that needs to be done," he said, "but we have a good agenda and commitment from the industry's top leaders."

One tangible result to emerge from FAST was a new industry association, the FAST Forward steering committee. The committee is a joint effort of the Internet Advertising Bureau, Association of National Advertisers, American Association of Advertising Agencies and Advertising Research Foundation.

FAST Forward will be chaired by Rich LeFurgy, chairman of the IAB, and will include ANA Senior VP Robin Webster, Four A's Exec VP Mike Donahue and ARF President-CEO Jim Spaeth. In addition, it will have four publishers, two advertisers, two agencies and two technology companies as representatives.


FAST Forward's objectives are to make recommendations and achieve industrywide consensus beginning with four issues central to online advertising: measurement, ad models, consumer acceptance and media buying. Whether the conference results in long-term benefits remains to be seen.

"Coming here is easy. Following through is hard," said Norm Lehouillier, managing director, Grey Interactive Worldwide, New York. "We have to stop being partisan to make our common goals happen. One group could slow down the growth of the industry."

Copyright August 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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