CONLON'S TASK

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For most of its history, the Advertising Council has been a revered industry institution dedicated to bringing the ad business together for good works. It still commands the support of top advertisers and agencies, but shoring up the third leg of the Ad Council alliance -- the media -- will test the mettle, and selling ability, of new Ad Council President-CEO Peggy Conlon.

Media issues were the unwanted agenda item during the 11-year term of outgoing President-CEO Ruth Wooden. She was forced to shake up media policies when a new breed of TV managers threatened to walk away from the old Ad Council alliance. Now Ms. Conlon must pick up where Ms. Wooden left off, and she brings a long list of TV contacts from her former post as group publisher, Broadcasting & Cable Group, at Cahners Publishing Co.

The TV revolution was not kind to the Ad Council, which flourished as the quasi-official provider of public service announcements to the national networks when ABC, CBS and NBC ruled the airwaves. That's all changed. In today's multi-channel world, the council's work -- no matter how virtuous the cause or how wonderful the ad -- has collided with every TV outlet's compulsion to brand everything with its own nameplate, even public service messages. Further complicating matters is the federal government's new willingness to compete with the Ad Council for scarce TV time by agreeing to buy some spots for its big anti-drug campaign in exchange for getting other spots free.

Some will call all this regrettable. Others will say it's just the demands of today's media world. For Ms. Conlon, it's the world she inherits. At least she

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