SPONSORED SESSIONS ARE A PLUS AT MEETING: ANA

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We continue to be perplexed by Advertising Age's opinion of how the Association of National Advertisers programs its annual conference, in particular our practice of partnering with media sponsors in our general sessions (Viewpoint, AA, July 13).

Our objective is a first-class meeting of invaluable content for our members and invited guests. The planning process started right after the 1997 annual conference, which our members rated the best ever. We set the agenda for the 1998 meeting with a strong, focused theme, Connecting with the New Consumer. There's much to be learned, we feel, about how today's time-constrained, self-focused, value-driven consumers think and act-and how our members can build brands that meet their needs.

With the help of our board, we set out to deliver on our theme by securing a powerful group of expert speakers. To date, we have commitments from Raymond Smith, chairman of Bell Atlantic and one of the architects of the converging digital world; Robert Pittman, America Online's chief operating officer and one of the most important voices on the future of electronic commerce; and Robert Eckert, CEO of Kraft Foods, a company that continues to innovate and keep its huge portfolio of brands fresh and consumer-relevant.

With keynoters locked in, we then reached out to sponsors-mostly media-to help ensure a great meeting in every respect, and to help enrich the content of our three morning general sessions.

The media have a lot of knowledge about connecting with the new consumer. And they can greatly assist marketers when they bring new, innovative ideas and approaches to our attention.

We are thrilled that this fall several prominent media companies will be partnering with us during our general sessions: ESPN, Hearst Magazines, Time Inc., Reader's Digest and USA Today. Each of these sponsors is guided by our theme/agenda-Connecting with the New Consumer-and committed to our goal: producing a first- class meeting of invaluable content.

As we have said before, our members understand what sponsorship means. They are experts in sponsoring events: sporting events, entertainment events, artistic events and cause-related events. Our members know that, when event sponsorship is done right, it's a win-win-win situation-for the event organizer, for the sponsor and for the audience.

We are confident we are on the right track. And we invite Ad Age to attend this fall's meeting and to report on the substantive content of what we believe will be the most important and successful ANA annual conference ever.

John J. Sarsen Jr.

President-CEO

Association of National Advertisers

New York

Fair is F.A.I.R.

In response to "Cable net BET seeks CPM hikes for parity" (AA, July 6), I would like to clarify our position.

The article strictly dealt with rate hike, not parity. We are not asking for CPM increases, but F.A.I.R. (favorable adjustment in rates) adjustments. African-American media have always been devalued based on marketer and agency misunderstanding of the overall value of black consumers. There has also been a misunderstanding of the relationship and influence that black media properties have on these consumers.

Marketers and their agencies must realize the African-American consumer market is a lucrative and powerful market that has changed many bottom lines in many businesses, such as, athletic shoes, automotive, retail clothing, package goods, telecommunication, financial services, quick-service restaurants, tourism and beverages, to name a few.

BET is asking for the same relationship value, influence and consumer respect that is given to ESPN, MTV, Lifetime, A&E, CNN and many other networks. In reference to the percentage increase issue, it's all relative. It depends on where you're starting from.

If you look at actuals, a 30%-plus increase on BET doesn't even move the needle, compared to a 9% increase on networks that are receiving tens of millions of dollars. At a recent conference, I heard a Fortune 400 executive say his diversity program was a great success. He had increased his minority employment by 100% When someone asked what was the actual number, he said it went from 3 to 6.

We're asking marketers and their agencies to put aside old stereotypes, do the best thing for their business and be F.A.I.R. This would be parity.

Louis Carr

Exec VP-Broadcast Media Sales

Black Entertainment Television

Chicago

Correction

In "Fila names Burnett to $20 million account" (July 6, P. 6), the United Airlines and Miller Lite creative assignments moved from Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, in 1996.

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