GM EXPLORES NEW MEDIA VIA CYBERWORKS;SISTER UNIT OF MEDIA BUYER SERVES AUTO DIVISIONS AND THEIR AGENCIES

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General Motors Corp. has spurred formation of a new sister unit of GM Mediaworks to study the coming technological waves of new media and communications.

The group, tentatively called Cyberworks, consolidates most new-media research from GM divisions and their ad agencies, and will advise them, make new-media buys and evaluate proposals from outsiders, said two GM agency executives who asked not to be named.

BIG 3 EXPLORE NEW MEDIA

All of the Big 3 automakers are exploring new media, with committees or departments devoted to the possibilities that are being opened up. But GM claims to be in the lead.

"There isn't anyone out there I know of taking this long view and taking this tactical aspect to it," said Philip Guarascio, VP and general manager-marketing and advertising for GM's North American Operations.

SIGN OF GM CONSOLIDATION

At GM, Cyberworks will act as a "super-resource" and signals the possibility of further consolidation of communications for GM's divisions at the corporate level, one of the agency executives said.

The agencies will still do their own new-media creative and "still need to retain their strategic [brand] imperatives," Mr. Guarascio said.

Cyberworks will collect, access and experiment with new technologies so GM's "learning becomes institutionalized," he said.

"There's a lot of uncertainty about what systems people will get their entertainment from and how much interactivity there will be," Mr. Guarascio said. Cyberworks "will become an area of expertise [for GM] and create strategies for the future."

GM wants to know who the key players will be, with whom to form alliances and how much to pay for the new media.

Larry Lozon, formerly a senior VP-director of new technologies at GM's spun-off Electronic Data Systems Corp. subsidiary, is managing director of Cyberworks. He was on vacation last week and unavailable for comment.

Mr. Lozon reports to Karen Ritchie, exec VP-managing director of Mediaworks, a Campbell-Ewald unit that does all GM's media buying. Cyberworks is housed in Campbell-Ewald's offices in Warren, Mich.

A key part of Cyberworks will be its media lab, Mr. Guarascio said, explaining, "It has a very broad development farm to deal with all these technologies."

GM's brand managers and ad agencies will have access to the lab, but won't be prohibited from doing some of their own research.

Chrysler Corp. recently formed a technology committee, headed by Steve Torok, former Chrysler-Plymouth general manager and, in March, named executive director-corporate sales and marketing operations.

It's too early to discuss that technology committee, which is in a "formative stage," a Chrysler spokesman said.

At Ford Motor Co., Larry Dale follows new media as marketing specialist in the customer satisfaction and communications department of Ford Automotive Operations.

Ford was a charter advertiser on Prodigy when the online service started as Trintex about 10 years ago. Since then, Mr. Lane and his department have been staying abreast of new-media happenings.

Most of the new-media action now and in the near future will be on the World Wide Web, Mr. Dale said. The multimedia technology that arrived on the Web three years ago has driven increased interest from advertisers and increased consumer traffic.

Mr. Dale contended that most of the announced new-media programs, like interactive TV, don't have a big enough consumer base to justify ads and "most of that stuff never comes to fruition.

"I can't see a coach potato using TV for the Web. I see [the Web] as a separate appliance because the function of a television now is entertainment," he said.

WebTV, the Palo Alto, Calif., start-up that announced a deal last week with Sony Electronics and Philips Consumer Electronics, plans to offer Net access via TVs this fall.

"WebTV is a ways away" from being a far-reaching medium, Mr. Dale said. "Do I see an urgent need to put my ads on that today? No. When there's a critical mass out there, we'll be there. WebTV is probably more promise than reality."

Mr. Dale doesn't believe any of Detroit's Big 3 have an edge in new media.

"We're all staying abreast of it," he said, "and if someone has a new technology, there are three big companies they all want to talk to."Driving into new media the future."

Larry Lozon, formerly a senior VP-director of new technologies at GM's spun-off Electronic Data Systems Corp. subsidiary, is managing director of Cyberworks. He was on vacation last week and unavailable for comment.

Mr. Lozon reports to Karen Ritchie, exec VP-managing director of Mediaworks, a Campbell-Ewald unit that does all GM's media buying. Cyberworks is housed in Campbell-Ewald's offices in Warren, Mich.

`DEVELOPMENT FARM'

A key part of Cyberworks will be its media lab, Mr. Guarascio said, explaining, "It has a very broad development farm to deal with all these technologies."

Chrysler Corp. recently formed a technology committee, headed by Steve Torok, former Chrysler-Plymouth general manager and, in March, named executive director-corporate sales and marketing operations.

`FORMATIVE STAGE'

It's too early to discuss that technology committee, which is in a "formative stage," a Chrysler spokesman said.

At Ford Motor Co., Larry Dale follows new media as marketing specialist in the customer satisfaction and communications department of Ford Automotive Operations. Ford was a charter advertiser on Prodigy when the online service started as Trintex about 10 years ago. Since then, Mr. Dale and his department have been staying abreast of new media.

Most of the new-media action now and in the near future will be on the World Wide Web, Mr. Dale said. The multimedia technology that arrived on the Web three years ago has driven increased interest from advertisers and increased consumer traffic.

Mr. Dale contended that most of the announced new-media programs, like interactive TV, don't have a big enough consumer base to justify ads.

WebTV, the start-up that announced a deal last week with Sony Electronics and Philips Consumer Electronics, plans to offer Net access via TVs this fall.

`MORE PROMISE THAN REALITY'

"WebTV is a ways away" from being a far-reaching medium, Mr. Dale said. "Do I see an urgent need to put my ads on that today? No. When there's a critical mass out there, we'll be there. WebTV is probably more promise than reality."

Mr. Dale doesn't believe any of the Big 3 have an edge in new media. "We're all staying abreast of it. And if someone has a new technology, there are three big companies they all want to talk to."

Contributing: Chuck Ross.

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