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VIEWPOINTS FROM THE NEW-MEDIA TRENCHES ADVERTISING AGE RECENTLY CONDUCTED REAL-TIME CHATS ON APPLE'S EWORLD ONLINE SERVICE WITH AMERITECH'S MARTIN NISENHOLTZ, AN INTERACTIVE INDUSTRY FOUNDING FATHER, AND LEO BURNETT CO.'S RISHAD TOBACCOWALA, A RELATIVE NEWCOMER TO THE FIELD. HERE ARE SOME OF THEIR THOUGHTS.

Published on .

Martin Nisenholtz, director of content strategy, Ameritech

On marketers flocking to the Web:

I think they're doing it because they see it as a way to reach customers. When 800 service came along, it represented another way to communicate.

It's most viable for companies with the need to communicate large amounts of customer service stuff. Companies who see a lot of 800 traffic will see a lot of Internet activity.

Ad agencies are well positioned to create the content. But too few have invested in the necessary people to adequately compete against small, nimble competitors.

On changes in the interactive scene since Ed Artzt's speech to the Four A's:

I think the buzz can be positive. It motivates people to explore. But it shouldn't be misinterpreted. Clearly, more agencies are involved as a result.

The question remains: Where is the product? Are we touching the consumer? And what is the agency role? For example, I see a lot of home-grown activity on the 'net. Clients aren't waiting for agencies.

On preparing agency clients for interactive TV:

You should focus on interactive activities in today's marketplace. You need to show your clients how today's interactive options can help them ... and focus less on the hype of interactive TV, because that will lead to disappointed clients.

Interactive TV needs to be part of an overall plan. The plan needs to cover how clients benefit today while at the same time helping them to understand how what they do today will evolve as TV gets more digital.

On Baby Bells vs. cable TV:

Different players have different advantages. We have a heritage of providing a very high level of customer responsiveness measured in hours, not days. We also have a very strong brand in the marketplace.

Our network will be state-of-the-art. It will provide switched interactive services as well as the straight analog video stuff. So I wouldn't bet on cable, just yet.

Our strategy is to focus in basically six areas. We'll be looking at services that enhance users' lives, such as convenience services, educational content and information services. But we'll also look at entertainment services-both local and national filmed entertainment-and interactive entertainment.

We have equity in several companies that are "live": Peapod, an online grocery shopping company (convenience); Worldview, a travel information company (informational).

On the interactive marketing potential for package-goods marketers:

I have a cascade theory. I believe that new media will cascade from the big-ticket guys, who naturally want to reach the techno-savvy target ... The cascade starts with techno-savvys, and as the devices become more natural and easier to use, then more people will adopt them.

And access will begin to play a part for the mayo guys. For example, as more people use Peapod, Kraft will want to promote its mayo through this new distribution channel.

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