P&G PLANS PIVOTAL AD FORUM ABOUT NET: AGENCIES AND MARKETERS ARE INVITED TO CONFAB

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Procter & Gamble Co. will bring together a group of leading marketers this summer to discuss the future of advertising on the Internet, a summit that could mark a major milestone in the medium's development as a marketing platform.

Heavyweights AT&T Corp., Coca-Cola Co., Levi Strauss & Co. and McDonald's Corp. have already agreed to join the nation's largest marketer in Cincinnati for what is being called FAST-Forum, for Future of Advertising Stakeholders.

The forum will also be open to ad agencies, content providers and technology companies. Denis Beausejour, P&G VP-advertising, unveiled plans for the forum at last week's Adtech conference in Chicago.

`AS OPEN AS POSSIBLE'

"We want it focused on advertisers getting their act together," Mr. Beausejour said. "We'll have a spectrum of people there -- we're going to make it as open as possible."

P&G used last week's conference to shatter its silence about its Internet strategy.

Although the marketer increased its online ad spending to $3 million in the second quarter of this year, Mr. Beausejour pointed out that's a tiny fraction of its $3 billion global ad budget. (See related story, Page 63.)

"Web advertising today does not really deliver the kind of persuasive brand-sell that we need to build our business," he said.

Marketers aren't taking full advantage of the medium's interactive capabilities, he added, because "we've built a box around our thinking. We've settled on ad models like banners and buttons before the interactive show even begins."

He said bandwidth problems and the inability to measure ads' effectiveness were other obstacles to making a significant commitment to online advertising.

16% CLICK-THROUGH RATE

Mr. Beausejour highlighted some of the progress P&G has made by spending 80% of its online media budget on non-banner ads. A recent Scope pop-up ad, in which users could send a postcard "kiss" to their mothers for Mother's Day, got a 16% click-through rate.

P&G is also eyeing ways to bring distribution and fulfillment online, he said, and is conducting tests with online retailers Peapod and Streamline.

"We have a vested interest in making the Web the most effective marketing medium in history," he added.

Mr. Beausejour's speech was reminiscent of a seminal 1994 speech by then P&G Chairman Edwin Artzt that served as an industry wake-up call regarding the emergence of new media.

"We applaud the fact he's bringing the industry together at a summit meeting," said Robin Wester, senior VP of the Association of National Advertisers. "Making this kind of commitment is what it's going to take to move the industry forward."

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