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Dot-com ad chiefs

A lot of what Scott Donaton said in his recent Viewpoint column regarding the potential negative influence venture capitalists are having on advertising is true ("VCs had their fling as dot-com ad chiefs; now bring in experts," AA, Feb. 21). But there is another important and quite positive side to their new influence that he failed to mention.

In making advertising decisions, these folks are not shackled to the past. They are far more inclined to approve advertising concepts on the basis of instinct rather than what seems to have worked in the past.

You can't make history by looking over your shoulder, which explains why so much advertising is redundant, boring and uninspired. I would rather partner with visionary and decisive "dot-com ad chiefs" any day. Our agency is doing some of our very best work for these folks.

Fred Goldberg


Goldberg Moser O'Neill

San Francisco

`Cluetrain' theses

I enjoyed Randall Rothenberg's Viewpoint column "Truths in `Cluetrain Manifesto' coexist with wishful thinking" (AA, March 13) as I had been admonished by my students to check out the 95 theses. [Cluetrain] is a very clever bit of Web-based marketing, creating a buzz perhaps the same way the young filmmakers did with "The Blair Witch Project." At the speed of the Web, it seems one needs little content to start a buzz.

Mr. Rothenberg's point comparing markets and conversations is well taken. Obviously, no freshman economics courses taken or understood by these four authors. Nor is there much understanding of conversations, as some may find written comments devoid of any nonverbal, one might even say human, content to be quite limited communications. God save us all from the banal chat rooms on the Web. . . .

Word-of-mouth has been and continues to be a well-researched topic, over more than five decades with several thousand credible, published studies. But, as I'm sure Mr. Rothenberg is aware, it is not the most potent form of communication in many circumstances.

I sense a tilt towards the new or innovative product or service, or at least a new channel, where the transaction is Web-based. Yet we know from decades of innovation studies -- the landmark work stemming from Ev Rogers' "Diffusion of Innovations" -- that the innovator and early adopter learn about new things directly from commercial sources, not from one another.

I'm distressed one can generate 95 theses, few of which show much understanding of the underlying communication phenomena in question. The telling point is readers will take this unsubstantiated stream of consciousness seriously . . .

Despite the obvious shortcomings, these four voices need to be heard and not dismissed out of hand. I would think we all would like to support their call for personalization and better quality service, the kind that the Web in combination with a good data warehouse can uniquely provide.

Prof. Robert Sweitzer

Peter F. Drucker School of Business

Claremont Graduate University

Claremont, Calif.

A new vegetable?

Have you noticed in the latest Papa John's pizza TV commercial, featuring parents visiting their son at college, the son exclaims that he is getting his vegetables because he orders his pizzas with the portobello mushroom topping? Since when did the fungus become a vegetable?

Scott R. Hamula

Assistant Professor of Advertising

Park School of Communications

Ithaca College

Ithaca, N.Y.


* In "Sol pours it on in U.S. with $15 mil campaign" (March 27, P. 64), Corona beer is imported by Gambrinus Co. and Barton Beers.

* In "NetResults" (March 20, P. 72), Microsoft Corp. in February should have ranked third among Web properties in home audience, behind America Online and Yahoo!, with a unique audience of 35,690,783 and average time spent of 50 minutes, 31 seconds, according to Nielsen/NetRatings. Because of a miscalculation at NetRatings, Microsoft had been reported in second place with a larger audience.

* In "Subscriptions set record pace for magazines" (March 13, P. 26), the article should have stated 63% of magazines measured by the Audit Bureau of Circulations reported subscription gains. The article incorrectly reported Dan Capell, publisher of Capell's Circulation Report, as having said subscriptions overall were up 63%

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