Madison & Vine Concept Sparks Debate

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See Speech That Sparked These Letters
Madison & Vine Explained as Coca-Cola's Global Master Plan welcomes your letters and comments on any aspect of the marketing and advertising business. All e-mail letters should include the name, title, company, city, state and phone number of the author. E-mail addresses and phone numbers will not be published. reserves the right to edit all letters for brevity and style. Send letters to Hoag Levins at [email protected].
Feb. 10, 2003
The Danger of Steve Heyer's Dreams
Dear Editor,

Coca-Cola succeeds because it is ubiquitous and consistent. It is a good thing to drink. It is a truly American pleasure. It knows its place, and its place is in diners and vending machines. On billboards and in gas station coolers. In an Iowan farmer's hand at dawn.

If the little red can begins to poison our art, our music, our films -- all of which I believe to be quintissential celebrations of humanity -- we have no hope for a future ruled by anything other than the almighty dollar. Mr. Heyer and his Madison Avenue sycophants -- for shame. We advertisers should not be bullied into poisoning humanity -- but we will. Over the next 10 or 20 years we will bulldoze into any vehicle that will get in front of a customer.

Though it upsets me, I do see a bit of genius in Mr. Heyer's saber-rattling at the Madison & Vine conference in Los Angeles last week. America is fast becoming a nation of super rich (low liquidity, lots of assets, spendthrift relative to net worth) and thick poor (lots of credit, little to no assets, huge spenders). It is exactly this socioeconomic erosion that has created a pool of Americans hungry for both mass market entertainment and mass market consumer packaged goods. They are ripe to be taken -- a vulnerable and biasless pool for Mr. Heyer's dream of advertising to shark around in. The super rich -- well, they know better. They are Coca-Cola stockholders. I'm one myself (stockholder that is) and we are watching (but not consuming) the hybrid advertising/entertainment products infiltrating society.

Mr. Hayer's exhortation to the U.S. ad industry to swim in his turgid pond of brainwashed consumers is sadly right on the money. Internationally the streets of McWorld are already paved with the class setup that makes the Heyer model work: think Brazil, think Russia. Soon the divine international arts, films, and music that the priveleged American today escapes to will be nothing more than a shell; another advertising vehicle ironically pushing the products that very American flees from.

From my ivory tower (as a human, not as an advertiser) this penetration into content like films, music, and art will create a backlash against advertising the likes of which our industry cannot know. Think Vietnam. The next generation will out of evolutionary necessity be more media saavy and brand agnostic than ever. By taking the next step on the Heyer model we would effectively immunize the next three generations of customers to advertising messaging and force the entire industry to re-invent itself. Shaken, not stirred by the invention of the big-I internet a decade back? You ain't seen nothing yet if Steven Heyer has his way.

The convergence creep in advertising and human expression is simply appalling. There is no longer nobility nor purity in expression with jackals like Mr. Heyer drooling over our shared ideaplace. Profit motive is an acceptable human trait; I would go so far as to say greed is good. Culture has been up for sale for quite a while now with varying degrees of subtlety. What scares me about Mr. Heyer's comments at the Madison & Vine conference is that he models a future where culture exists only to serve those who wish to manipulate others into buying sugar water.

Mr. Heyer, you are smart but what you suggest is irresponsible. The little red can does not hold the key to happiness. It's just a good drink and a hell of a lot of marketing muscle. Use it wisely.

Thomas Ito
Stamford, CT
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Feb. 10, 2003
What Heyer Proposes Is Impossible
Dear Editor,

Steve Heyer's Madison & Vine speech has the resonance of many speeches I've heard during my career in advertising calling for some new concept without relating it to a current reality. Like the notion of convergence -- whatever that is.

In fact, billions of dollars have been spent chasing the notion of convergence even as it has never been really clear what the term really meant. It was a false god and it did not exist -- just as Madison & Vine does not exist and never will.

The difference in the three cultures -- show business, corporate behavior and advertising -- it so huge and so ingrained as to make what Heyer's speech proposes impossible. He says he is from all three worlds -- but I think he understands none.

Back to the drawing board. May I suggest that we all learn more about what we do best and share this knowledge -- one with the other, as professionals in very important but separate sectors that are clearly destined to always remain so.

Ian Hamilton
Toronto, Canada
A retired advertising executive, Mr. Hamilton and his wife run the Hamilton House bed-and-breakfast in Toronto.
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Feb. 10, 2003
What Steve Heyer Forgot
Dear Editor,

In his Madison & Vine keynote speech, Steve Heyer forgot to recognize why the change is actually happening and didn't understand how to explain it because he is too caught up in marketing/advertising and not in touch with how popular culture can actually affect a trend -- which is what he thinks Coke is accomplishing.

Coke, your partners are not advertising agencies, movie studios or record labels. You're partners are your consumers.

Justin Galvin
Entertainment Marketing Executive
Fanatical Marketing
New York
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Feb. 10, 2003
Let's Hope Steve Heyer Fails
Dear Editor,

Steven Heyer's "Manifesto," stripped of its new age gobbledegook, seems nothing more than a strategy for even more product placement.

This kind of thinking further corrupts the artistic integrity of the talented people who create our best work in the music, movies and television arts.

As readers, viewers and listeners, we're already engulfed in a tidal wave of commercialism -- from corporate names on sporting events to "special advertising sections" in our finest publications. Heyer would apparently like the line between advertising and content erased in every medium. Let's hope he fails.

Charles Fisher
Dublin, Ohio
Mr. Fisher, who is retired, is the former president and creative director of Fahlgren & Swink, an agency in Columbus, Ohio.
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Feb. 10, 2003
Driving Consumers Away
Dear Editor,

While I was listening to Mr. Heyer talk about his company brand I had to ask myself, What value does the brand offer the average consumer? None, as long as it's based on price. Today Coke is the product of choice; tomorrow it will be Pepsi. Brand no longer drives consumers to buy, because the 99-cent mentality has become a central part of American culture. Just take a look at McDonald's, AT&T, Ford, and AOL.

I also think the intersection of Hollywood and Madison Avenue that Mr. Heyer calls for will only drive consumers away from marketers products and messages.

Look closer: Consumers are already going to the movies late in order to avoid the movie theater commercials. And who do you know under 21 that still pays for a music CD? Generation X, Y Z have taken the Internet format and are applying that consumer model to everything.

Charles Allen
New Canaan, CT.
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Feb. 10, 2003
Ugly Reality Will Follow Heyer's Speech
Dear Editor,

It is inevitable that as the applause that greeted Mr. Heyer's Madison & Vine speech dies down, reality will rear its ugly head. There are just too many high-ranking people so invested in outdated TV and ad agency business models that they will not make the adjustments required to improve them. Or even save them.

The TV industry will likely continue to use an obsolete, failed program-development model while the advertising industry will not wean itself away from the belief that creating advertising is what they do.

No doubt Coca-Cola will be approached with powerful and effective ideas that Mr. Heyer solicited from the audience. But in the end his concept won't work because of this reality: Too many people at the top of the involved industries are focused -- to borrow a tag line from Ford Motor Co. -- on the perpetuation of their current infrastructure, income and power as Job 1.

Ken Convoy
TV Consultant
West Hills, Calif.
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Feb. 10, 2003
Consumer View of Madison & Vine
Dear Editor,

Coca-Cola's COO Steven J. Heyer's revealing and candid speech at the February 2003 Madison & Vine conference sounds the charge forward. Meanwhile, I would like to pause for a minute to look back at the causes of declining efficacy and impact of mass media advertising.

The key to salvaging the advertising business model is to recognize that the most integral participant in the symbiotic relationship -- the consumer -- has essentially been ignored. Consumers have had virtually no voice in the evolution of the advertising and content broadcast model imposed on them today. Was a single consumer asked for feedback when program sponsorships morphed into traditional spot ads? Did our parents vote on the idea that program content would be interrupted by ad messages? And did we, as consumers, provide our support when the number of ad minutes per hour was increased, decade after decade?

We must start including the consumer in the process --they will demand it, and they deserve it. There is a new revolution under way, and "choice" is its war cry. Mr. Heyer rightfully predicts that transformation, not evolution, will be the key to survival.

We'll see consumers, en masse, watching, and reacting, to ad messages on their terms -- not because they have to or can't avoid them, but because they want to and seek them out.

Frank S. Maggio
St. Petersburg, Fla.
Mr. Maggio is a former Emory University Woodruff Merit Scholar, Procter & Gamble Co. sales manager, and the CEO of FMTV Interactive LLC.
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