Report From 4As Creative Conference

Creative Execs Stress Importance of Internet

Cite Volvo's Latest Online Campaigns as Examples of a New Reality

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SAN FRANCISCO ( -- Advertising agencies must think beyond the TV-centric creative tradition and see the Internet and other new media as the way to expand their craft.

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That's the talk in San Francisco this week as some 200 agency executives meet for the 2002 American Association of Advertising Agencies' Creative Conference.

The three-day biannual conference was originally scheduled for October 2001 but postponed due to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Issues facing the discipline, however, have compounded since that time.

Not great
"It's easy to be worried and scared, but change is inevitable," said Ron Berger, CEO and chief creative officer of Havas' Euro RSCG MVBMS Partners and chairman of the AAAA Creative Committee. "You don't hear people saying this is really great, we're having a lot of fun."

Mr. Berger noted that since 1983, half of the companies in the Fortune 500 have disappeared, to be replaced by others. "What clients want is one thing. What they need is what great creative people do," he said.

At the same time, media choice is not as clear as it was only 20 years ago, when a single TV spot, such as the 1984 Apple Computer commercial that aired during the Super Bowl, transformed the brand. "New media and the ability to use them in different and interesting ways as technology evolves. That remains the opportunity," Mr. Berger said.

Volvo achieved amazingly high SUV sales using only Internet promotions.
Volvo success
For example, he said one of his agency's clients, Volvo, has used the Internet to market its sports utility vehicle, selling out the first season's worth of cars without spending "a dollar on traditional marketing."

Still, creatives will need courage, he said: "We are entering into unchartered territories" in a difficult business climate.

Meanwhile, a number of the younger creatives in the city have begun to set their sites on the transformation in media that the Internet affords. Frenchmen Fred Raillard and Farid Mokartce, recently hired by Omnicom Group's Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, believe the Internet poses the greatest opportunity, with interesting ads -- or films as they call them -- disseminating rapidly, virally through e-mail. Their award-winning commercial for Microsoft's Xbox video-game console received 2 million hits within two weeks, they said, without any additional expense on the part of the marketer.

Element of pop culture
"If a commercial is good, it can become an element of popular culture," Mr. Raillard said.

Still, the Internet poses challenges: Creative has to rely less on dialogue and has to get its message across in a more universal way, the creative team said.

Other creatives, such as Paul Venables, principal of Venables, Bell & Partners, San Francisco, a Goodby breakaway shop, still finds traditional media of great value. The difficulties, he said, lie with marketers pumping money into ideas with little value. He cited Visa's long-running campaign backing its check card that touts the ease of shopping without needing to carry identification. "How many times do you go out shopping without your identification with you?" he asked.

In addition to a discussion of the future of the 30-second spot, other panels and speakers will address issues ranging from motivating the creative department to reaching multicultural audiences to the future of creative boutiques.

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