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RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif.-Creativity is king of the road, especially when it comes to the information superhighway, speakers told the recent Western States Advertising Agencies Association annual conference here.

"If advertising agencies are going to survive, they need to focus on creating brilliant ideas regardless of the medium," said Ken Mandelbaum, CEO-creative director, Mandelbaum Mooney Ashley, San Francisco.

With compensation slashed, their role devalued and some agencies giving services away, ad agencies are under siege, he said. Yet, the industry mistakenly is grasping at cyberspace for its future well-being.

"I can't help thinking it's like people with amoebic dysentery getting excited about a new brand of toilet paper," Mr. Mandelbaum said.

Another speaker, Jon Steel, general manager of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, urged marketers to focus not on what can be done in cyberspace but on what needs to be done to sell products.

"Concentrate not on what we can do but what we need to do," he said.

But some presenters at the conference urged the 200 advertising executives to explore the new technologies.

"Technology is just a tool. It's a better hammer," said Mark Kvamme, CEO of CKS Group, Cupertino, the newly formed parent company of CKS Partners.

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