Media Panels Big Query: Why Merge?


New York -- America Online Inc.'s deal to buy Time
Warner Inc. was the elephant in the room at a panel discussion among 13 executives here
last week.

To get things rolling, moderator Arthur Miller posed a
hypothetical scenario -- a board of directors discusses the pros and cons of merging
"King Media" and "Funny," surely inspired by the real-life
old media-new media combination.

Turner Broadcasting System Inc. president Steve Heyer got
to the nub: "After the money questions, what do we really think we can build
together" that couldn't be done with a distribution deal or strategic alliance?

Maintaining that "multimedia platforms win,"
Heyer also cautioned that cross-media ad sales cannot be done just for their own sake.
"It's got to be idea-driven," he added. "It isn't about just
gluing it together."

Internet Advertising Bureau chairman Rich LeFurgy agreed:
"You have to look at: Does the combination make sense? What are the synergies of

Those are aspects the ad community also would want to
explore, added SFM Media LLC chief operating officer Steve Farella and Unilever PLC
worldwide head of media Alan Rutherford, with the latter noting that he'd want to
know if "this new organization would help us [to reach consumers] effectively."

Some panelists expressed annoyance at the TV- and
cable-network upfront marketplace, an annual ritual during which perhaps 70 percent of TV
and cable ad spending is done in advance of the coming season.

Rutherford questioned the wisdom of buying the bulk of a
client's TV time in five days or so. It amounts to "the blind leading the
blind," said Bob Brennan, president of Starcom Media Services, the media buying arm
of Leo Burnett Co., since agencies are buying time well before TV spots are done or
creative strategies are even developed.

The "Media 2000" discussion was sponsored by Advertising