Congress attendees urge freedom of speech on Net

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Seoul--The promise of Internet commerce was tempered with warnings about its future at the 35th World Advertising Congress here.

Carla Michelotti, senior VP-associate general counsel at Leo Burnett Co., told the congress that with the huge growth of Internet users it is important to establish freedom of speech in the new electronic media.

"Today the Internet is considered the most open of communication vehicles," Ms. Michelotti said. "Yet, legislation has passed in the United States and in Europe that restricts the type of speech possible on this, the newest and most free of media."

"We've heard the stories about the slippery slope and ad bans moving from tobacco to alcohol to children's products to automobiles to insurance to financial services, etc. And now the spotlight in some areas is going to become focused on interactive advertising. Let's anticipate the issue. Let's respond proactively and forever put aside the `every man for himself' attitude that the advertising industry so readily adopts."

The impact of new media on most marketing and commercial communications will be limited through the beginning of the next century, warned Peter Mitchell, London-based strategic affairs director of Guinness and deputy president of the World Federation of Advertisers. "It will remain at the margin."

"With something as anarchic as the Internet, few of us here will make money out of it," he told the IAA Congress. "Conference organizers, Web design companies, some research companies, some service providers. Perhaps even the telephone companies. But after that I am not so sure."

In contrast to IBM Corp.'s forecast of 500 million Internet users by the year 2000, Mr. Mitchell sited a Financial Times estimate of between only 100 million and 200 million users by 2000. He also said half of all usage is e-mail, as much as 40% comes from California, and only 1% of U.S. consumers have ever made an online transaction.

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