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AAF Conference: Advertainment, Globalism Carry Risks

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DALLAS Advertisers and agencies must take special care when planning branded entertainment deals and global campaigns, as consumer acceptance remains a challenge, and, in the case of the former, industry standards have not been clearly defined, legal experts said at the American Advertising Federation's 2004 conference here on Sunday.

"The blending [of entertainment and marketing] is going to be subject to a lot of regulation," said Leo Burnett executive vice president and general counsel Carla Michelotti, who is also the outgoing AAF chairperson.

Michelotti warned participants to make sure they're negotiating with the right people when they want to see their product in a movie or hear about it in a song. "There are a variety of people who own intellectual property," she said. "One of the most complicated things to do is finding who are you doing the deal with."

Doug Wood, a New York-based partner at the marketing law firm Reed Smith Hall Dickler, said marketers must also keep in mind that a uniform pricing structure and measurement criteria do not yet exist for infotainment, and consumer acceptance could be a challenge, especially when efforts target kids. For example, in the case of online games promotions, "The question regulators and the American Psychological Association are asking is, 'Should these be illegal because they're causing a blur in children's minds about what is a product and what is a game?'" he said.

Wood was also a panelist in a conference session about the global legal landscape, where he advised agencies and clients to consider concerns that could arise from global campaigns. A print ad in Sweden, for instance, was pulled because its main visual element (a woman in undergarments seductively eyeing a man) was viewed as being stereotypical, he said.

He offered two other examples to illustrate the importance of respecting a country's culture. Saudi Arabia banned a Benetton ad featuring three kids with their tongues out because it's illegal in that country to show a human organ. A Toyota ad starring Brad Pitt was pulled in Malaysia in 2002 because there were no Asians in the ads. "The Malaysian authorities thought it was insulting that all they showed were pretty Caucasians," he said.

One session concentrated on the importance of non-traditional media, in light of what Valassis chairman Al Schultz called a "do not bother me world."

Schultz, whose Livonia, Mich.-based company specializes in non-traditional media, such as free-standing inserts, direct mail and polybags, challenged participants to "be as creative in media planning process as you are in creative development."

He noted a recent project Valassis handled for furniture giant Ikea, which wanted to deliver catalogs to more households than it did the previous year without increasing the budget. Valassis was able to do that in large part by creating a polybag promoting Ikea that included a catalog alongside the morning newspaper. "We were able to deliver to four million households for the same budget they spent a year before," he said.

The conference has about 900 registrants, an attendance level on par with last year, according to association representative Mary Hilton. The conference runs through Tuesday.