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With power comes responsibility. Fortunately, that lesson has not been lost on Procter & Gamble Co., the nation's largest advertiser. In taking a leadership role in industry efforts to explore the future of marketing communications in the new-media age, P&G obviously is first and foremost looking out for its own best interests. But its actions will move the whole industry forward, and for that it deserves praise.

Only P&G has the power to bring together in one place executives from rival marketing giants, ad agencies and technology companies, as it did for two days earlier this month at its Cincinnati headquarters. Its Future of Advertising Stakeholders conference represented even more of a watershed moment than did the adapt-or-die new-media speech delivered to the industry in 1994 by former P&G boss Ed Artzt.

As do most marketers, P&G realizes the Internet is the real thing-or at least the foundation from which the interactive-communications age will sprout. But P&G is not going to throw its massive weight behind the Web, and enable it to realize its full potential as an advertising medium, until some fundamental obstacles are overcome. Those include ad model limitations, media-buying issues, consumer acceptance and audience measurement standards.

The FAST conference was criticized by some for being more talk than action, but the former will lead to the latter. What P&G did was reach out to the ad community and lay the groundwork for moving forward together. That's a lot smarter than a clumsy attempt to leverage its clout to force change.

The long-term outcome of the summit won't be known for some time. But with its help in the formation of a new coalition representing all of the key industry viewpoints and in seeking solutions to the most pressing challenges, P&G is once again leading the way.

Hot Hispanic

To those who think marketing to Hispanics is a still-developing discipline, think again-our Special Report last week shows it's here and vibrant and increasingly sophisticated. Like Chicago Cub Sammy Sosa, the first Latino to hit 50 home runs in the majors, it's in full swing.

According to one report, the 30.5 million U.S. Hispanics spend as much as $350 billion. Advertising directed at them by 50 key marketers has just about hit the $400 million mark, and ad agencies that specialize in the market report business is booming-along with competition.

Another important aspect: Nearly 35% of U.S. Hispanics are under age 18, indicating a large adult market to come. Our report said these young people read a growing number-Latin Girl debuts for teens in November-of specialty magazines (58.6%), listen to the radio (58.2%) and watch cable TV (55.2%). Bilingual TV programming is increasing and improving; TV and radio advertising-and event marketing-are swinging with a Latin music beat that's providing an exciting link between marketer and consumer.

Access to this market is not problem-free. One difficulty is getting adequate lists and information for targeting Hispanics directly in the home. As a Gillette Co. executive said, "We bumped into a lot of walls," including "not enough names to do a proper sampling." But Gillette plugged away and ended up "with an incredible redemption rate that was much higher than general-market programs."

As another executive pointed out: "The price of not paying attention to [this] consumer is going up. . . . It's either get smart or lose share, and losing share is not acceptable."

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