As the great and the good of America's advertising media industry settled into their seats in Orlando's Royal Pacific Resort last week, they were posed an uncomfortable question by Interpublic Media's recently appointed chairman/ceo Mark Rosenthal.

Surveying the 14,000-plus delegates attending the 2006 Association of Advertising Agencies annual media conference, Now, Soon and the Future, Rosenthal pondered the question of gender, racial and ethnic diversity - an issue currently at the fore of the advertising community's consciousness.

"How do you truly have a diverse agency that is speaking to a diverse set of clients?," he asked rhetorically, letting his eye travel around the packed auditorium. He paused: "I look around this room ... and this is not a diverse industry."

Rosenthal, president/coo of MTV Networks prior to joining Interpublic, asked another rhetorical but equally red-hot question: what is the most effective way to deliver the advertising message at a time when advertising is shifting from traditional to nontraditional media?

His answer was deceptively simplistic. "Religious, relentless focus on the consumer - that was the mantra that drove [MTV's] business," quoth Rosenthal. "If you understand that and are so microfocused on that, you cannot go wrong."

Other speakers hailed the media diversity increasingly available to consumers, arguing that despite greater competition, TV viewing time had increased because consumers had greater choice. Mike Shaw, president of sales and marketing for ABC Television Network, said the average consumer now watched 4 hours and 32 minutes of TV daily.

"Through all of this choice, we've given consumers exactly what they want," Shaw said. "I don't actually believe that more choice is going to lead to less viewing."

Meantime, the time-honored call from agencies to media suppliers to provided ever more measurement research again echoed around the auditorium.

This time it was the turn of Universal McCann evp-coo Jean Pool, who declared her discombobulation at the lack of commercial data from traditional (as compared to digital) media: "We as an industry are way behind other countries," she said. "Personally, that really embarrasses me."

She also confronted the issue of advertising clutter, which she described as pervading "every conceivable nook and cranny of everyday life."

Interruption by commercials every six or seven minutes during a TV program is excessive, Pool maintained. She also spoke for many in accusing pop-up ads and other online advertising gizmos of being invasive.

Her contention about clutter was underscored by the findings of a joint AAAA-Harris Interactive study released during the conference. This concluded that around one-third of consumers say there is too much advertising interrupting their programming.

Commented Pool: "We may think we're really cute with some of these tactics. But what does the day in the life of an average consumer look like?"

Data sourced from New York Times; additional content by WARC staff