SUMMIT A FIRST STEP TOWARD MEDIA'S FUTURE

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To Procter & Gamble's Ed Artzt, what's clear about tomorrow's media is what needs to be done today. His call for an ad industry Leadership Summit on the future of advertiser-supported TV is smart and well-timed, and we strongly support it.

We're confident advertisers and agencies will climb on board the summit idea, too, even if they aren't ready to accept everything P&G's chairman-CEO had to say about the future in his speech to the American Association of Advertising Agencies convention this month. (The full text of the Artzt speech begins on Page 24 of this issue.)

Fears that TV may evolve in ways that leave advertisers sharply diminished opportunities need to be examined and addressed. Consultants and other prophets have been talking-and talking-about the coming of a new TV world for a long time. Mr. Artzt and P&G have in one stroke taken it from a "some day" fuzziness into a hard-edged reality.

This is an issue too big for any one advertiser-even P&G-to tackle on its own. It deserves the attention of every advertiser and every agency that depends on TV for reaching and persuading consumers in mass. And to really influence the future course of TV's development, the advertising industry as a whole will need to study what is happening, examine its options and take action.

Make no mistake; no amount of industry effort can change the steady erosion of TV's ability to regularly deliver true mass audiences-the essential weapon in P&G's brand-building arsenal. But there's every reason to believe that advertising will remain a key part of whatever TV's future turns out to be-whether programming is delivered on the TV set or the personal computer as well.

How else will the new world of 300 channels, 400 channels, 500 channels be financed? It remains to be seen whether viewers will welcome those options if they increase their already significant monthly cable rates.

And will viewers welcome commercial-supported pay-per-view if it means saving a few bucks? The common wisdom is that people choose PPV because it offers unique programming worth a price and not because they can't stomach seeing another commercial. We'll find out soon enough.

That, of course, is because some of Mr. Artzt's remarks are being heeded. But we're wondering whether his sense that agencies, along with advertisers, must have greater future involvement in programming development and ownership will go anywhere.

Direct advertiser participation in the program or channel is one way to insure it will be advertiser-supported. But do agencies want to get back in that business? Do they want to go up against existing program suppliers who are ready to work for advertisers and eliminate the middleman?

Yet advertisers and agencies must let it be known they stand ready to support-through investment or other means-innovative program ideas promising value and entertainment to viewers. For that's what TV's future is about.

Viewers will watch programs that meet their needs for entertainment or knowledge, and they'll watch the ads that come with them if they know they help pay for those programs. If those commercials also offer entertainment and worthwhile information, they'll be even more likely to watch.

The Artzt strategy of 1) increasing ad industry knowledge and understanding of the future video market, 2) broadening advertiser involvement with new programming ideas and 3) protecting universal access to ad-supported TV and competition among media suppliers is a sound beginning framework for discussion at the summit.

TV will be a more complicated and sophisticated medium tomorrow in what it offers both the marketer and viewer.

How much advertisers and agencies gain or lose in that future may well depend on what they start doing now.

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