NEW-MEDIA TOPIC NOW VISITS AAF

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HOUSTON-More than 600 members of U.S. adclubs gathered here last week for the American Advertising Federation's national conference, where eclectic chitchat centered on new media, good and bad advertising, the Saturday night rodeo and local basketball star Hakeem Olajuwon.

Besides regular business meetings and a student ad competition, small workshops addressed such issues as "Stress Management for Advertising Professionals" and "Street Fighter Local Store Marketing: The New Profit Center for the Next Century."

One of the more interesting sessions that surprisingly didn't attract a large crowd was "How Magazines Are Keeping Pace With the Information Superhighway," moderated by Texas Monthly President Steve Childs.

Philip Elmer-DeWitt, associate editor at Time, presented a case history of his magazine's interactive venture on America Online that began last September. So far, the interactive version of the newsweekly has racked up 2 million "visits" from users and will make in the six figures.

"You may notice there haven't been any ads on this [computer screen]," he said. "We're trying to figure out how to get advertisers into this. The lesson with online is that you're always pushing a button to want to see this and that, which allows you not to see what you don't want to see.

"The trick then is how do you make an advertisement that is sufficiently attractive that people will actually choose to go to it. In my fantasy, Ford would buy some space on this and people would log on and the computer would begin a conversation and ask what kind of car you'd want. At the end of it, the computer would know precisely what kind of car you want and likely to know the price range, and then the person would be sent some information. Or if it's really smart, the computer would say, `Stay right where you are. We'll send a car over for a test drive. If you take the test drive, we'll give you 5 free hours of America Online.'*"

Mr. Elmer-DeWitt noted that Merrill Lynch & Co. is Time's first interactive advertiser and that Compaq Computer Corp. will soon sponsor the daily news summary as part of a larger ad buy.

Harlan S. Levinson, VP at UNET Corp., New York, presented a different approach for online magazines. UNET works with TV Guide, Parents, Art & Antiques, Individual Investor and Sierra to create online systems that have the look, feel, editorial and graphic input of those magazines.

"Our feeling is that these online services work best and in the future may only work when they are ancillary services to existing media properties," he said. "They are not meant to reproduce the text online. What you can do is provide the reader with more information than what's available in the printed product."

Mr. Levinson showed that TV Guide online is clearly identifiable as TV Guide through its graphic presentation on the screen. A national test showed successful usage and response to advertising, though results couldn't be revealed, he added.

No date has been set to introduce TV Guide online, though the test has concluded, he said.

The three-day conference culminated with the National Addy Awards at NASA's Space Center Houston. Original music spearheaded by Larry Sachnowitz, president of Sachnowitz & Co. here, and an impressive video on the enormous Imax screen played to a standing-room-only audience.

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