MEDIA ALLIANCES TOP NEW AD COUNCIL CHIEF'S GOALS: CONLON TARGETS CABLE TV NETS FOR PARTNERSHIPS AMONG INDUSTRY GROUP'S INITIATIVES

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Some 57 years after being formed, the Advertising Council this week gets its fourth chief executive-Peggy Conlon, who takes over from Ruth Wooden.

Ms. Conlon, who formerly was group publisher for the broadcasting and cable group at Cahners Publishing Co., plans to increase media alliances for the industry's public service arm.

"My biggest initiative right now is to make sure we have the right media partnerships in place," Ms. Conlon, 48, told Advertising Age.

"We have some terrific partnerships with ABC, CBS and NBC, but they need to be refreshed. And there are some media that we feel haven't fully invested [in public service]."

TARGETING CABLE TV

Ms. Conlon, who has been on board one month but officially becomes president-CEO with Ms. Wooden's June 30 departure, makes it clear that her immediate target is cable TV networks, though she's also eyeing local stations.

"I think the cable companies are really good about adopting public affairs causes, but I don't think they have had many of our messages," she said. "We are just now getting in to see them and showing them our lineup of causes and concerns that can appeal to their demographics."

Ms. Conlon arrives as the Ad Council faces a major new challenge: the willingness of the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the new National Tobacco Control Foundation to pay for public service advertising against drugs and tobacco.

That could affect the willingness of broadcast media to air the Ad Council's unpaid PSAs in prime spots.

ONGOING CONCERNS

Ms. Wooden and Barry McCaffrey, director of the White House anti-drug office, recently said they also are concerned that even if media organizations continue to provide time to the Ad Council, its PSAs might lose out to the paid public service messages.

"The dynamics of a market will change if anti-tobacco ads and anti-drug ads are already running," Ms. Wooden told Advertising Age. "It's analogous to a political campaign, where a commercial advertiser may not want to be adjacent [in a pod]. It's another thing to worry about."

FUTURE OF COMMITMENT 2000

Ms. Conlon said the Ad Council also faces some new issues. Four years ago, the organization chose to limit future projects to those concerning kids and families; in the past, it traditionally undertook messages for a wide variety of causes.

It still produces auto seatbelt and "Take a bite out of crime" ads. But, in the future, it will have to decide where to go with its child- and family-oriented mission, dubbed Commitment 2000.

"We are all very dedicated to continue the drive, but we might want to broaden it," said Ms. Conlon.

"I would love to get into underage smoking. I would like to make sure we continue the important mission we started on for America's children. But I don't think it has to be at the expense of being in the middle of public issues that are important to this country.

USING ALL RESOURCES

"We want to make sure that we're not leaving a lot of contributed media on the table," she added.

Ms. Conlon said she's thrilled at the prospect of working at the Ad Council.

Before Cahners, she served as group publisher for the electronics group at CMP Publications, as well as working for an ad agency and advertisers.

"I was so clear on doing this, working day in and day out on making this a better place," she said.

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