Editorial: Young open to new ad forms

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Advocates of "convergence" (the many ways of blending marketer messages into media content) can take some encouragement from our new Advertising Age survey, the results of which were reported in these pages last week. All they need do is look beyond the combined responses from the 500 consumers polled for us by WPP Group's Lightspeed Research and examine the attitudes of the younger consumers (age 18-34) that so many marketers worry about.

Overall, three out of four of the survey respondents believed advertising intrusion into media content had increased in the past year, and six of 10 dismissed the examples of convergence they had encountered as "distracting." Fifty-two percent agreed they were "worried" by the trend-not surprising given the mass media coverage the convergence phenomenon has received, and the fears expressed by critics and foes of "commercialism."

But the 18-34 set was more open to, and less fearful of, what's transpiring on the convergence frontier. And nearly half of them said what they'd seen was "entertaining." That's not an invitation to shove through crass commerce-in-content schemes in some new take on subliminal advertising. Instead, recognize that younger people will accept thoughtful advertising tie-ins with their content-just as another generation accepted very open sponsor tie-ins in TV's early days, and as viewers have for decades accepted ads as part of the bargain for free TV.

The best marketing/content tie-ins will be as smart and appealing as the best TV commercials. Viewers happily watch great commercials, which often become part of popular culture. In coming years, viewers-led by the emerging generation of young adults-will happily watch content involving marketers where the sponsors' tie-ins are smart, relevant, imaginative and inspired. How many happily watch the cluttered commercial pods the TV industry inflicts on viewers, and advertisers, today?

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