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The value of open data

We believe the editorial "Wal-Mart data" (Viewpoint, AA, May 21) exhibits a serious misunderstanding of the importance of aggregate third-party data to the consumer packaged-goods industry. Real efficiencies result from having independent and objective third parties such as Information Re-sources Inc. (IRI) compile billions of transactions into meaningful intelligence for consumer package goods (CPG) manufacturers and retailers. These efficiencies ultimately benefit the consumer.

The data and insights that IRI and others provide give CPG companies the broadest and most complete picture of activity across channels and product categories. Manufacturers and retailers alike use this marketplace information not only to measure consumer consumption, but also to implement retailer account and category management processes, allocate resources for customer teams and trade funds, plan media spending and promotion execution, create and roll out new products and execute specialized marketing programs. The result is more efficient distribution, consumer-informed product innovation, more effective promotions and lower costs.

Wal-Mart's Retail Link data are a valuable tool for helping manufacturers understand what they sell in Wal-Mart. What the data don't do are provide retailer and consumer insights across a broader market. IRI and similar firms exist because we have the scale, expertise and objectivity to aggregate, process, analyze and redistribute the massive amounts of information created by manufacturers and retailers. The cost for individual companies to replicate this function would be prohibitive and ultimately passed on to the consumer.

One CPG industry participant, or even a few select companies, may profit from a closed system where data are not distributed broadly. But to argue that the industry at large and ultimately the consumer will benefit from less information on product pricing and distribution flies in the face of logic and experience.

Kristine Sundberg

Senior VP-Marketing Communications

Information Resources Inc.


Wal-Mart's choice

In the editorial "Wal-Mart data" (Viewpoint, AA, May 21), Ad Age said it feels "uncomfortable ... when Wal-Mart becomes the arbiter of morality, causing record labels to alter CDs or tone down covers to get on shelves."

Let's be honest. Wal-Mart does not force anyone to alter CDs. Music companies willingly alter their products because making money (via Wal-Mart) is more important than "artistic freedom" or "integrity." Otherwise, music companies would simply refuse to alter their products and select other outlets for their products. Both Wal-Mart and the music industry are exercising the right to choose. While Wal-Mart is right up front with its choice (choosing not to sell CDs that it views as sexually explicit or violent), the music industry pretends it is not choosing (and whines about Wal-Mart "imposing its values" on them). So much for artistic "integrity."

Scott K. Powell

Assistant Professor of Marketing

Grove City College

Grove City, Pa.

Stan Tannenbaum

Advertising and education lost a real pro when Stan Tannenbaum died recently (For the Record, AA, May 21). And I lost a friend of 30 years. A longtime copywriter, creative director and agency chairman, he was responsible for many successful advertising campaigns while at Kenyon & Eckhardt.

In 1983, he joined Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism as an advertising professor. After my own first career as chairman of Marsteller Inc., a division of Young & Rubicam, I too joined Medill at about the same time as associate dean and professor of advertising. I have wonderful memories of co-teaching classes with Stan. The students seemed especially to enjoy the sessions when Stan and I argued or disagreed on issues or specific campaigns.

In the early 1990s, Stan, Prof. Don Schultz and Bob Lauterborn of the University of North Carolina wrote the first and seminal book on Integrated Marketing Communi-cations. Stan was the first chairman of the new IMC department at Medill. Today, there are 98 students getting their master's degree in this tremendously successful, unique program. Stan Tannenbaum will be much missed by the advertising and education fields and especially by his many friends.

Dick Christian

Associate Dean/Professor Emeritus

Northwestern University

Evanston, Ill.


* In "Caddy evaluates shop" (May 28, P. 4), it was incorrectly stated that D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles or predecessor agencies have handled advertising for Gen-eral Motors Corp.'s Cadillac since at least 1915. While DMB&B forebear Ted MacManus did Cadillac's famed 1915 ad, Campbell-Ewald said it handled Cadillac from 1921 to 1925 and from 1931 to 1935.

* In "Brady's Bunch" (May 28, P. 45), a photo identified as that of Fox Sports announcer Tim Mc-Carver was a photo of Fox Sports announcer Sean McDonough.

* In a profile of Modem Media in "How 10 i-shops coped" (May 7, P. S-8), it was incorrectly reported that Modem Media laid off 850 employees in March. The correct number is 85.

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