MARRIAGE IN CYBERSPACE

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Microsoft asks in its new ad campaign, "Where do you want to go today?" The implication: Today's technology can and will take all of us-as marketers, consumers, parents, children-anywhere our minds care to visit.

Given the full meaning of that line, we frame a slightly different question for marketers: "Where do you want to go tomorrow?"

Isn't that really what Microsoft is about? Yet the sad truth is too many marketers would answer Microsoft's question only in terms of yesterday, not today. And certainly not tomorrow.

The "tomorrow" question not only epitomizes the promise of cybernation's applications to business communications and learning, but also commands us to understand what it means that the world's borders are, in fact, coming down. Online services, soon to include Microsoft's entry, are spawning the growth of thousands of common-interest groups beyond city, state and national borders. They will be transformed into vibrant global networks. And how marketers communicate and interface with such online content will certainly become marketing's greatest challenge in the early 21st century.

That Microsoft understands the future is demonstrated by its naming Robert Herbold to be its new chief operating officer. Mr. Herbold had been Procter & Gamble's pioneering new-media guru, and with this hire, software business genius Bill Gates, the Microsoft chairman, is telling the world that to be a significant force in hardware and software, as well as future media, his industry can no longer delay sopping up the awesome brand-building and line-extension intelligence gained by the P&Gs of this world.

Microsoft understands that cybernation is now ripe for selling with all the creative communicative skills a package-goods expert can bring to the high-tech sector. The Gates/Herbold marriage, clearly, is a marriage made in cyberspace.

Assuming that P&G's commitment to new and future multimedia developments remains strong and that Microsoft benefits from Mr. Herbold's experience, we are witnessing an epic convergence of high-tech and marketing leadership.

By asking "Where do you want to go today?" Microsoft challenges marketers around the world to understand the growth and dynamics of online users and to prepare programs that will support and nurture their connections. As the world's population starts coming together in a new and different tomorrow, cyberspace is where marketing must be headed-today.

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