WFA Congress looks at digital future

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SEOUL--Marketers attending the World Federationof Advertisers' 46th World Congress in Seoul were remindedthey must remain receptive to innovation. The "time-testedtools and precepts of yesterday" are supplanted by new ideasand solutions, noted Hans Merkle, WFA President and directorof public affairs for Procter & Gamble Co. in Germany andcentral and eastern Europe.

The advent of new media, including the explosive growthin interactive media and pan-regional broadcasting, wererecurrent themes marketers examined during the two-daycongress.

Richard Selvage, general manager of IBM Corp., said continued advances in digital media technology means "the role ofInternet advertising in our industry will continue to growspectacularly. We will very soon see advertisers spendingmany times that $1.9 billion [currently spent] on Internetadvertising. Furthermore, they will be able to achieve muchgreater results and measure them much more accurately."

The congress, which ended May 28, also examined the Asianeconomic crisis and the status of freedom of commercialspeech in a borderless global economy.

Asian economies were given special attention, particularlythe slow-but-steady recovery which South Korea has exhibitedin recent months. David Richardson, group director of TaylorNelson Sofres in north Asia, said the Asian consumer is stillvery much alive, even in the hardest-pressed Asian countriesof Thailand, Malaysia, and Korea, where approximately halfof all consumers maintained their expenditures on fast movingconsumer goods during the crisis.

But, he added, spending on durable goods was much more severelycut and Asian advertisers must learn to deal with "market fragmentation, globalization and Asia's retailing revolution" ashypermarkets replace neighborhood grocery stores.

Chim Howe Lai, senior VP for Unilever in East Asia, added,"While the worst may be over, recovery is weak and consumerconfidence remains extremely fragile." He said Unilever relieson creativity and innovation, such as adapting its productrange, supply chain and distribution methods to meet "newrealities," and on efforts to increase efficiency to keepits sales and brands alive until Asia witnesses a full recovery in the next century.

Mr. Merkle closed the conference with a call for relatedindustries to come together, perhaps as soon as the spring of2000, for the first global advertising summit, which couldbring together international organizations such as the International Advertising Association and the world magazine andnewspaper associations to discuss issues relevant to themarketing, advertising and media community.

Copyright May 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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