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The ad industry is out to prove that it didn't hit the snooze button after Procter & Gamble Co. chief Ed Artzt's new-media wake-up call four months ago.

A task force led by the Association of National Advertisers and the American Association of Advertising Agencies gathered in New York on Sept. 20 to define its mission and establish subcommittees to tackle specific issues.

The group also began to solidify plans for the superhighway summit that Mr. Artzt had called for and hoped would be held before yearend. The summit is slated for early next year in Washington.

Last week's actions were the most significant since Mr. Artzt, P&G's chairman-CEO, dropped a bomb on the marketing industry during the Four A's annual meeting in May.

At the time, he warned that if agencies didn't confront changing media technologies, they might face an electronic landscape with no place for marketers: "We can't be sure that ad-supported TV programming will have a future in the world being created."

Robert Herbold, P&G's point man on the new-media front as senior VP-advertising and information services, was in New York for last week's meetings and said he's satisfied with the progress made since May.

"The ad industry is really pulling together and getting ahead of the technology wave and we are extremely pleased," Mr. Herbold said. "There's a major unified effort and there is a notion of, `Wow, things are really beginning to roll as an industry."'

The task force-the Coalition for Advertising-Supported Information & Entertainment-is charged with creating "an environment where advertising revenue is the key funding source for the large majority of information and entertainment sources in the evolving world of media," Mr. Herbold said.

The subcommittees formed last week will focus on legislative issues; consumer research; adoption of hardware and software standards; and continued development of ad-supported services by new-media providers.

"These groups are moving forward on all fronts and there are some key people involved," said Judy Black, senior VP-strategic media project manager, Bozell Worldwide, and chairman of the media research subcommittee.

Four A's President O. Burtch Drake and ANA President John Sarsen are co-chairmen.

The group's members will "make personal visits with the networks, cable stations and telephone companies at the highest level possible to get them on the bandwagon with us," Mr. Drake said.

The meeting did not include a representative from the American Advertising Federation, although the three industry groups historically have acted together in such undertakings. AAF President Wally Snyder still hopes to be part of the big picture.

"The fact is that we have asked to be part of it ... We haven't been accepted yet, but I think we will be," Mr. Snyder said.

James Guthrie, exec VP-marketing development at the Magazine Publishers of America, said that group, too, wants to "get involved in the dialogue."

P&G is taking a leadership position because it can't afford to get left behind as new media unfold since 90% of its $3 billion annual ad budget is spent on TV.

"Agencies are really taking notice," said Mr. Herbold. "Grey Advertising has jumped in feet first along with Leo Burnett, DMB&B and Jordan McGrath. Ed's speech really lit a fire under the activities-although to be honest, some was going on at the lower agency levels. The difference the speech made was with top management."

Many agencies formed groups to explore interactive opportunities; some accelerated their efforts as a result of Mr. Artzt's speech.

"Agencies were doing more in terms of new media than anyone realized," said Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide Chairman-CEO Ed Wax, also Four A's chairman. "I came back to New York after the Four A's meeting and said, `What the heck is going on?' and our media group said, `Here's what we're doing.' Ed Artzt got everyone to focus on the right issues."

Written by Scott Donaton, with contributions from Jennifer Lawrence, Steven W. Colford and Melanie Wells.

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