PERSPECTIVE: How AOL’s marriage to Time Warner will redefine advertising

Hurray! It’s my first week editing the bible for a living and, handily enough, the media world order looks set to transform itself in the wake of the gigantic planned merger between the strongest branded portal on the internet and the biggest media-entertainment conglomerate in the world - America Online and Time Warner.

Hurray! It’s my first week editing the bible for a living and,

handily enough, the media world order looks set to transform itself in

the wake of the gigantic planned merger between the strongest branded

portal on the internet and the biggest media-entertainment conglomerate

in the world - America Online and Time Warner.



Acres of newsprint have already been devoted to this dollars 330 billion

marriage and we are told that the future will belong to such ’clicks and

mortar’ behemoths with fingers in internet access and content

provision.



We don’t know the advertising gameplan - whether the new company will

combine its advertising salesforce into one. However, assuming the

merger gets the nod from the regulators, there is one seismic change for

advertising implicit in the deal.



It’s hard to picture big, thriving ad agencies as pathetic creatures,

prey to business forces beyond their control.



Yet AOL Time Warner provides the ultimate proof that the mass market is

colliding with the one-to-one, that the old model of advertising agency

is irredeemably broken. The old, albeit disappearing, model - an

industry built around cost per thousand as the ultimate measure of

cost-effectiveness - now faces a future in which AOL Time Warner and its

successors can offer the one-stop shopping of ad space in everything

from the internet to Mad magazine. This marriage of entertainment and

behaviour means quality and value, not cost per thousand, will be the

only measure of cost-effectiveness in the future.



Take this thought to its logical conclusion and you might assume that

agencies risk losing their once divine and so far deserved right to

advise clients. After all, the AOL Time Warner marriage means that

clients can talk directly to consumers. Media owners are already

blurring the boundaries between advertising and programming by brokering

sponsorship deals direct with clients. BSkyB has made its first equity

stake in e-commerce with a stake in the online toy retailer,

toyzone.



Meanwhile, ads are still mostly made in the same way by the same

people.



Payment by commission, adherence to cost per thousand, traditional

briefing processes, laborious creative development with clients still

denied access to creatives and the mysterious worlds of production and

post-production - all still serve as a comfort blanket for the industry.

But they are combining to damage the spontaneity of the work, the

prospects for growth and the respect of the wider business community for

what advertising does. The leading agencies of the future will be those

that marry craft skills with ever more imaginative ways to replace mass

with impact - you’ll see. Um, Happy New Year.



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