Industry Internet initiative backed by P&G comes to Europe

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AMSTERDAM--The Procter & Gamble Co.-backed FAST Forward initiative to promote and set guidelines for online advertising has come to Europe. FAST Forward Europe held its first summit to attract members and set goals June 1-2 in Amsterdam at @ad:tech's first European conference. (Fast stands for Future of Advertising Stakeholders).

"The key message is we want people from the industry [to participate] and we're action-focused," says Frederic Colas, co-founder, team leader at Procter & Gamble Inter@ctive, Brussels.

Mr. Colas said the next step will be to release, in about two weeks, draft action plans for six key issues on the FAST Web site. Four of the subjects, each of which will have a committee and a team leader, are similar to the U.S. FAST agenda. New topics for Europe are interactive TV, seen as having greater potential in Europe than in the U.S., and ways to enhance the targeting of digital advertising.

The other working groups will deal with issues including audience measurement and how to win consumer acceptance and trust.

So far, the core FAST Forward Europe group consists of P&G, IBM Corp. Europe, MSN and the Internet Advertising Bureau, as well as industry trade groups representing advertisers, ad agency and market research groups.

Mr. Colas says he expects the six committees to be formed by the end of June and will start a search for a paid staff person to run the new FAST Forward Europe organization.

Given the comparative stage of development of online advertising in Europe, the FAST movement has started earlier in Europe than it did in the U.S., he says. Mr. Colas returned to Europe last August to set up P&G's European headquarters in Brussels after spending two years working in Cincinnati for P&G.

Europe still faces different challenges from the U.S., such as per-minute charges for local phone calls.

"Telecommunications de-regulation will have a big impact," Ms. Colas said. "In the U.S., you can spend the whole day [online] in front of a computer. In Europe, you pay by the minute. So consumers have a utilitarian use of the Internet. And advertising has to bring even more value.''

FAST Forward Europe plans to hold its next summit in November, when its first guidelines will be published.

Copyright June 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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