CANCUN, Mexico-Signaling a rejuvenation of the worldwide advertising business, a record 2,200 participants convened here last week to hear upbeat speakers at the International Advertising Association's 34th World Advertising Congress.
Their topics covered a lot of ground, including the freedom of commercial speech, the falling of trade barriers, interactivity, global media and the protection ofvaluable brand names.
Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari opened the congress May 16 with a ringing endorsement of advertising.
"We are living in a world of change, where physical and ideological barriers are coming down," President Salinas said.
His remarks were especially appropriate since the IAA concurrently held its first International Youth Congress for students and associate IAA members, those under age 30.
The congress far exceeded the initial goal of 1,500 participants, said Luis Carlos Mendiola, congress chairman, newly elected IAA world president, and president-CEO of Grupo PMP, Mexico City.
The final tally included about 450 from Mexico and the rest from 90 other countries.
Outgoing IAA World President Mustapha Assad, president-CEO of Publi-Graphics Group, Paris, said if any examples are needed to support the congress' theme, "The future is now," one only needs to look at the North American Free Trade Agreement and current negotiations on the General Agreement on Tariffs & Trade.
In the ongoing debate about where the ad industry fits into the information superhighway, or if it does at all, Michael Bungey, CEO of Backer Spielvogel Bates Worldwide, New York, called the high tech development the global ad industry's salvation.
Mr. Bungey showed a prototype of a Hyundai Motor America ad as it might appear 10 years in the interactive future. A conventional 30-second commercial was followed by a 5-minute interactive segment in which the viewer has the option to obtain more specific information about the Scoupe Turbo; watch its performance; listen to a review from a magazine; analyze prices, options and payment plans; locate a dealer; and request a brochure.
Marketers and their agencies are running the risk of driving to the poorhouse in a chauffeur-driven automobile as they attempt to adhere to today's buzz phrase "stay market-driven," David Bell, chairman of Bozell Worldwide, New York, told attendees. "Being market-driven doesn't mean using the consumer as a chauffeur," he said, adding that marketers simply can't let the consumer tell them what to do.
"If we simply ask consumers direct questions about where we should go and then slavishly follow their directions, we are giving them and ourselves short shrift indeed," he said.
When Bozell client Chrysler Corp. was doing research for what would become the Dodge Ram pickup truck, at no time did the company "put consumers on the spot and try to turn them into product designers," Mr. Bell said.
Instead, the company asked consumers to express their feelings about the experience of driving a pickup truck and discovered a major insight: "Millions of people who drive light pickup trucks have a secret hankering to drive the big rigs."
The designers took that knowledge and gave the light truck much of the look and feel of an 18-wheeler without asking consumers specifically about cab placement or roof line angles or all the other details that determine overall vehicle design, Mr. Bell said.
Consumers know what they want but "It's up to us to translate their subconscious wishes into well-designed products and effective advertising." he said. "Asking them to micromanage our designs is an exercise in futility. It won't work."
Tom Rogers, president of the NBC Cable & Business Development unit, discussed how his company is preparing for global TV with last week's agreement to form a broad alliance with Television Azteca, Mexico's leading challenger to Televisa, the former monopoly that still dominates the market.
As part of its worldwide expansion plans, NBC will buy up to a 20% stake in Television Azteca and will be actively involved in programming and development.