Brighter days for interactive

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Last week a story on Page 1 of Advertising Age examined "Dot-com doubt" and asked whether the bubble of Web site marketing is about to pop. This week, we publish a 110-page special issue extolling "The Interactive Future." Which is right? Answer: Both are. Hundreds of ill-begotten dot-com businesses will soon enough be naught-coms. But the interactive future of marketing is, simply, the future of marketing. And everyone involved in marketing should continue preparing for it.

Reports will appear in the months ahead about dot-coms running out of money, slashing advertising, consolidating and going bankrupt. (Note to agencies and media: Cash up front.) But all this attention paid to a spending boom gone kaboom misses the bigger point: The Internet and interactive will redefine marketing. End of story.

Soon we'll witness the first major dot-com implosions. But we also will see some companies emerging in a strong position. These dot-com survivors will have two attributes: a great brand name, which money can buy; and a viable and profitable business plan, which money can't buy.

Enlightened old-line marketers long ago figured out there was an interactive future. They are in a great position -- better than that of strong pure-play dot-coms -- to dominate markets by porting established world-class brands to the future.

But the tumult in dot-com land presents a second chance for marketers that missed the first round. If you own a great brand but are not yet at the front of the Net, get moving. This could be your last chance.

We figure some marketers will see dot-com fallout as proof that Internet marketing isn't real. We see such logic as proof that such marketers are dinosaurs.

The future of interactive marketing is the future of marketing. If you keep that in mind, it may be easier to ignore the mess going on with floundering, get-poor-quick dot-coms and focus on the bigger prize to be won in the months and years ahead.

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