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AdWatch Sessions Wrestle With Implications of Industry Upheaval

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NEW YORK ( -- Much like an audience that’s been desensitized by too much sex and violence, media and marketing executives are becoming inured to the frequent declarations of the death of the 30-second spot.

Rapid change
Or so it seemed at AdWatch, where participants were calm, cool and collected when faced with questions about how the fragmenting media landscape is changing everything from job descriptions to business models.

Yesterday's AdWatch: Outlook 2005 conference at Manhattan's Hyatt Grand Central was co-presented by Advertising Age and TNS Media Intelligence. Its sessions were largely focused on the implications of the ongoing upheavals in the marketing and media industries.

The event, which came one year after McDonald’s Corp.'s chief marketing officer, Larry Light, declared the death of mass marketing, made clear that there is life after that death -- namely in the form of hyper-targeted one-to-one marketing strategies that use a variety of technologies.

Personalized marketing
“I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all model,” said Ruby Anik, vice president of advertising at Best Buy. “We’re moving to personalized marketing.”

“The model is there’s no model,” echoed Laura Desmond, CEO of Publicis Groupe’s MediaVest USA. “The assembly-line version of communications planning is over.”

While no one claimed to have the post-30-second spot marketing world figured out completely, there was a consensus that survival hinges on understanding consumer behavior, which entails leveraging the massive amounts of customer information now available. Ready with examples were marketers like Best Buy and Samsung -- two strong brands that don’t consider TV spots the center of the marketing platform.

Samsung Electronics
Peter Weedfald, senior vide president of sales and marketing at Samsung Electronics America, said one of the ways the electronics brand has broken through is by relying less on TV for the introduction of its estimated 180 new product launches per year. Instead, he said, Samsung has had a heavy presence on the Internet, where it has banner ads on more than 425 sites that generate 1.65 billion page impressions and reach more than 175 million Americans each month.

“We built this huge umbrella. We looked strongly and deeply at the internet,” Mr. Weedfald said. “The internet has very little value unless you understand the back end of something called CRM [customer relationship marketing ]. It’s about tracking, converting and retaining customers 24 hours a day, utilizing the power of wireless and the Internet.”

Ms. Anick said the key to deploying that information is making sure it’s not just “numbers on a page.” She said, “With CRM and creativity, one supports the other.” She talked about the customer segments, like Jill and Kyle, that Best Buy uses to target.

'Experience room'
“I see the day when a Jill can walk into an experience room and we can communicate with there in a personalized way,” she said.

The ad agency world is taking the revolution just as seriously. One man at the center of it, David Lubars, stated the case for agencies focusing their ideas on producing ideas rather than just churning out ads.

“The definition of the ad agency is changing,” said Mr. Lubars, chairman and chief creative officer at Omnicom Group’s BBDO North America. “That now seems like a superficial title.”

One commonly cited challenge was the need to overcome reservations about new mediums with unknown return-on-investment potential, channels like video on demand and podcasting. “If you’re not willing to fail, you ain’t going to make it,” said Nic Utton, chief marketing officer at E-Trade.

TiVo-busting technology
Mr. Utton said his company and its agency, BBDO, were experimenting with TiVo-busting technology. “We know people are fast-forwarding through our beautiful TV commercials."

And what about the TV commercial?

“It has a different role,” said Ian Rowden, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Wendy’s International. “It may well be a smaller role. It may well be a more strategically defined role.”

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