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Outlook 2006: Welcome

The outlook for 2006 is bright, if a bit complicated with the disruptive impact of interactive technology on media, content, marketing and commerce. That’s where our sector-by-sector forecast can help you with your customer acquisition and retention plans this year.

As is our practice, we have assembled the leading minds in marketing and media to discuss each DM vertical with granularity and clarity. I urge you to turn every page and read every article. Ones that I wouldn’t miss are Don Libey’s take on the new catalog and The Feedroom chief Bart Feder’s Q&A on technology’s impact on media, content and advertising. Heather Dougherty of Nielsen//NetRatings is rightly optimistic about e-commerce, and major Draft Inc. agencies feel the same way about the growing measurability trend worldwide.

Here are some of the trends I expect to see this year:

• Buzz marketing, or word of mouth, will be big. At least, talk of it will be.

• E-commerce will be more about “interactions, not transactions,” as The Home Depot Inc. chairman/CEO Bob Nardelli says.

• Mergers and acquisitions of direct and interactive agencies as well as search and e-mail marketing services firms will rise.

• Marketers will start turning to the Internet for branding.

• Google – possibly the best advertising vehicle to date – will face pushback from competitors, media, regulators and even Wall Street. They become another Microsoft if the consumer turns against them. Easy on the global ambitions talk.

• Online publishers will place more content behind walls.

• Blogs and consumer-generated media will proliferate. The American consumer is becoming the American producer. If it can happen online, it can happen offline.

• Broadband’s increased household penetration will dramatically change Internet advertising. It also will enable smart television broadcasters to better adapt to online media.

• Apple Computer will become content providers’ biggest ally in creating a culture where consumers pay for intellectual property – audio, video or written.

• Content – audio, video, words – will be delivered on smaller and smaller screens. Paradoxically, sales of big-screen HDTV sets will soar, setting in motion one of the biggest contradictions of our age.

• Search, e-mail and public relations will receive more marketing dollars.

• Everyone will continue to bash the 30-second television spot without understanding the principles of marketing. Every marketing vehicle has its place in a media plan and the consumer purchase consideration cycle.

• The catalog becomes more of a print showroom to online inventory and sales.

• The word “multichannel” will compete with “word of mouth” for cliché of the year.

• Walmart.com may overtake Amazon as the No. 1 retailer online.

• Business-to-business publications will lose more readers and advertisers to the Internet. Savvy publishers will follow them.

• Postal reform and rate hikes: Don’t ask.

• More outsourcing of call centers even as inbound call and Web chat services opportunities abound here. India: worry about the 200 million Chinese learning English.

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