NEW MEDIA'S NEXT STEPS

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Ed Artzt is right to applaud the advertising industry for the steps it has taken on new media. Marketers, agencies and media took to heart his warning, 10 months ago, that there may not be a role for advertising in the merging media landscape. They took action as well, the most significant being the formation of CASIE, the Coalition for Advertiser Supported Information and Entertainment.

Yet the worst thing that could happen today is for the industry to accept the Procter & Gamble chief's pat on the back and return to its seat secure in the knowledge that the new-media beast has been conquered. In fact, the steps taken have mainly been baby steps: the formation of committees, the issuance of position papers. The real work lies ahead, and that is for the industry to determine how goods and services can be marketed in the digital age.

Unfortunately, it seems some leading players still see new media as threat and not opportunity. No fewer than four speakers at the CASIE meeting took pains to underscore that broadcast networks will remain a major force in marketing. The impact of computer usage on network TV viewing was framed as cannibalization not migration. A good deal of time was spent on the role of advertisers in funding TV programming, a significant issue but at best marginal to the topic of interactivity.

Ad agencies insist they have a big role to play, but do they grasp the full impact that the direct buyer-seller communication allowed by interactive media will have on the role of all middlemen and agents? General Motors' Phil Guarascio, for example, said last week when discussing TV production that he wants his agencies to be "thinkers, not doers."

Yes, broadcast TV will remain a factor for many years to come, as will most traditional media forms. But new-media forms will have an enormous impact on the way goods and services are marketed, sold and distributed. And there are a million issues that must be dealt with on the way to that brave new world.

As we wrote earlier this month, CASIE is a first step but the work is far from done. With Mr. Artzt nearing retirement, other top executives must come forward and show the same visionary leadership. Otherwise, the next steps toward securing advertising's future in interactive media may be too slow in coming.

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