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Gone in 30 Seconds

In other words, the art of advertising is turning into the science of advertising. Agencies now need math guys.

The signs of change are seen in dollars. In 2006, network television advertising revenue increased 2 percent while Internet ad spending rose 35 percent, the Interactive Advertising Bureau said.

It is clear that ad money is moving to the Internet from traditional advertising. This year, TNS Media Intelligence predicts that all ad spending will grow 1.7 percent compared with last year. TNS also said Internet ad spending would rise 16 percent and network TV revenue would rise 1.3 percent.

"We're seeing [money] coming from TV and print," said Sheryl Draizen, IAB's general manager. Among digital spending, search-based advertising gets the biggest piece of the pie, 40 percent, IAB said.

The change is seen in agency acquisitions. On Thursday, the ad company Publicis Groupe of Paris said it was buying France's largest digital ad shop, the latest attempt by a traditional agency to buy what it does not have.

The change also is seen in the migration of clients, who now demand the quantifiable results that digital advertising can provide.

In April, Nike pulled its running-shoe campaign from longtime ad agency Wieden+Kennedy, which had developed the iconic "Just Do It" tagline and many memorable television commercials. Wieden+Kennedy lost the account because Nike did not believe the agency had the necessary digital expertise to promote Nike shoes online.

Nike caught a whiff of the future from its Nike+ interactive online campaign, dreamed up last year by the leading-edge agency R/GA Associates of New York. The Web site, meant to sell Nike running shoes that interface with an iPod to record a runner's mileage, claims a community of thousands of runners who share workout music available for purchase on Apple's iTunes. The site is more than traditional advertising -- it attempts to be a utility for Nike runners.

"Technologists are pretty foreign to the traditional agency model, but they're an important part of the future," said Bob Greenberg, chairman and chief executive of R/GA, which began life 30 years ago as a Hollywood animation house. "Traditional creative is becoming less and less important."

Even the TV networks sense the demise of the 30-second spot. Every network is reallocating resources to expand its programming to the Web to follow viewers and advertisers. A report by Forrester Research last year found that about half of the more than 100 advertisers surveyed said their ad agencies were "ill-equipped" to deal with the upheaval in the TV industry.

Advertisers now ask themselves: What is advertising anymore? The answer may not include an agency.

Treonauts.com was launched in 2004 by Andrew Carton, a London gadget-head and entrepreneur. It began as an online love letter to his favorite toy, the Treo 600 smartphone. Now, three years later, Treonauts.com has grown far beyond a fan site to include product reviews, blogs and a store that produces revenue for Carton along with what he gets from national advertisers like AT&T that buy space on his site. The site gets 250,000 visitors per month, Carton said, and is profitable enough to be his day job. He declined to give revenue figures.

Treonauts.com became a success by doing an end around the advertising-marketing machine. Yet the Treo devices get untold millions of dollars worth of free advertising and positive publicity from the site. All without the help of a Darrin Stephens.

"A company, particularly a consumer electronics company like Palm, should ensure that it is able to manage not only the 'one-to-many' big-marketing messages, but more importantly today also the 'one-to-one' communication" found among groups such as Treonauts, Carton wrote via e-mail.

Charlie Simpson, director of Palm's Web and retail-direct sales, said his company "has toyed with" the idea of paying Treonauts for marketing help, but worries that such a deal would compromise the site's independence in the mind of consumers.

Palmer, Greenberg, the aQuantive executives and more than 40,000 others are expected to make the trip to Cannes this weekend. But the ad festival and what it represents has a decidedly last-generation feel to some in the industry.

"Cannes is a tire fire made of ego, and it will burn or at least smolder forever," said Advertising Age columnist Bob Garfield. "But it's becoming increasingly irrelevant." Garfield predicts a "chaos scenario" for media and advertising -- a future in which traditional firms could become extinct. "There's a lot of talent there. If it could be harnessed to be help marketers instead of in the service of making the most hilarious 30-second spot ever, everybody could prosper."

To hear Frank Ahrens narrate an example of an interactive advertisement, go to washingtonpost.com/technology


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