Letters

So here we are in the 21st century! Remember when futurists predicted we’d all have atomic-powered flying cars? That we’d go for vacations on the moon? That many of us would live in glass bubbles under the sea?

Well, the futurists may have missed when it came to lifestyles, but there is no doubt the media world of the 21st century is very different from the business as we knew it way back when in the 20th century.

And the radio industry leads the way in revolutionary change.

There are now more than 12,000 AM and FM stations in the country. Giant radio groups have been formed by mega-media corporations, with the cost of acquisitions literally piling up billions in debt for the purchasers.

Internet radio is growing exponentially. Satellite radio is emerging. Sales staffs are being consolidated; formats change daily; famous call letters are disappearing or moving from signal to signal.

Change, change, change—except in one critical area: The industry still kills gazillions of trees when it comes time to invoice agencies.

Initiative Media North America is the largest radio buyer in the country. We purchased more than $400 million in radio time for our clients this year, dealing with more than 6,000 stations along the way.

Out of those 6,000 stations, only 47 are able to send a bill electronically. (Hey, it’s the 21st century, guys! Remember?)

Partnership is a byword of modern marketing. One and one equals three when you do it right. We need to work together to produce a more effective product on behalf of the clients we jointly serve. And we can do it.

Manual invoicing costs stations and agencies money they can ill afford to spend these days—especially with Wall Street breathing down our necks.

Approximately 700 TV stations and networks are now sending invoices electronically to their agencies. That took a lot of hard work and a serious investment (which pays off quickly) by the station owners. A round of applause should be given to those who have stepped up to the plate.

Now we need help from the radio industry. Today, it is clear that we all have to “do it better, faster, more efficiently.” And manual invoicing isn’t “better, faster, or efficient.”

For example, Initiative Media receives more than 13,000 invoices every month from radio stations for more than 500,000 spots. Think of the millions of keystrokes it takes to enter that information into computers! Think of the time it takes!

It has been proven that electronic invoicing leads to fewer discrepancies and errors. Electronic invoicing results in faster pro cessing—and faster payments. Surely that’s something every radio station would welcome.

It is time to join the 21st century. If the TV networks can do it, the radio stations can, too. K

the world’s highest wireless phone penetration (at 75 percent versus 32 percent in the U.S.) wireless Internet users can access information services—news, weather, sports, travel—along with banking, stock trading, auctions, entertainment and chat. Goods can be paid for using the phone and charged to the wireless phone bill. Japan’s NTT DoCoMo has 13 million subscribers to its “i-mode” service, less than two years after launch. In addition to providing “always on” Internet access, i-mode offers a simple interface and a range of high-quality information, entertainment and commerce services.

Now the U.S. is poised to experience similar growth. Wireless service carriers, such as Sprint, Verizon, AT&T and Nextel, are moving to higher-speed, better-quality networks as early as next year.

Because wireless devices have limitations—screen size, bandwidth, and user interface—many experts have downplayed the significance of wireless advertising. However, here are five reasons the wireless Internet could be the most powerful advertising medium yet:

Mobile: Users can view ads not just on their desktop but at various points in their decision-making process—including the purchase location.

Personal: Unlike users of a household computer, a wireless user tends to be a specific, “targetable” individual.

Location sensitive: To support 911, the FCC is requiring (by October 2001) wireless providers to be able to identify a caller’s physical location. Assuming privacy and permission concerns are met, advertisers can then target people when they are near retail outlets, sports stadiums, amusement parks, etc.

Voice-integrated: Unlike today’s desktop Internet or other media, advertisers can create an immediate, natural voice response mechanism.

Inexpensive to produce: Because of the small-screen size, production costs of wireless advertising will be lower than TV or print.

Advertisers face a variety of crucial strategic options. Since the medium can support immediate purchasing, advertisers who have historically spent their budgets brand-building must completely rethink their marketing strategies—or lose share to competitors who do. Advertisers must also strike deals with partners, ranging from carriers like Sprint, to media companies like AOL/Time Warner, to device manufacturers like Nokia, to wireless ISPs like OmniSky.

With the exception of a few players like Virgin, advertisers have not taken lead roles in wireless deals. Just as consumer products manufacturers like Procter & Gamble took a leadership role in the early development of television, today’s advertisers must shape the wireless Internet industry to suit their needs.

Advertisers must move quickly to sort through these options and lay the groundwork for future success. The wireless Web is an opportunity they can’t afford to miss.