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The American Association of Advertising Agencies, in a very commendable but nevertheless convoluted way, is attempting to put the shoe on the wrong foot by publishing guidelines to control the conduct of consultants retained to work both for advertisers and advertising agencies.

If guidelines will help eliminate questionable and unethical business practices (and I believe they will), and if the Four A's truly is serious in its intentions (and I believe it is), why does not the association consider publishing guidelines to govern the conduct of its membership in dealing with consultants?

Effective self-regulation-with sanctions such as publicity and revocation of membership-time and time again has been demonstrated to be one of the best forms of regulation. The National Advertising Division/National Advertising Review Board process, in which the industry duly takes pride, is in itself a case in point.

To borrow a line from Nancy Reagan, agencies, by learning to "just say no," will take a giant stop toward eliminating the abuses the guidelines address.

At the same time, from my experience in industry, with trade associations and as a consultant, I am well persuaded advertisers can no more relinquish responsibility for the conduct of consultants they retain than they can relinquish responsibility for the advertising prepared by their agencies.

Ron Cox, of Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. and chairman of the Association of National Advertisers, is absolutely right in his observation that ". . . the clients set the rules."

I commend the Four A's for this initiative. Now, "let's get the shoe on the right foot" and all work together to elevate the standards and practices of advertisers, consultants and agencies alike.

DeWitt F. Helm Jr.

Managing partner

Achenbaum Bogda Associates

New York

Mr. Helm is a former president of the Association of National Advertisers.

Value of media audits

As one of only a handful of independent media auditing firms, I believe Erwin Ephron's Forum article, "How do you rate your TV ad buyer?" (AA, Sept. 22), was on the mark with one exception.

Comparing an advertiser's media costs to what other advertisers pay for their media violates the single most important tenet that media auditing firms should subscribe to, which is that of client confidentiality.

Yes, the comparison to SQAD or NetCosts is only a benchmark comparison. But it does provide for a somewhat objective benchmark. As Mr. Ephron accurately points out, each media deal is specific to that deal. The market dynamics change, buyers change, etc. . . . so a comparison from one advertiser to another isn't really an accurate comparison.

The audit's ultimate goal should be to provide clients accountable, objective information to better manage their agency's media buying process. Cost per points/CPMs are only a small part of the process. Stewardship can substantially impact a client's media buy and post-buy delivery. It can be analyzed and should be incorporated into the media auditing process. If media audits are conducted properly, they can provide clients with ongoing, timely information to better maximize their agency's capabilities.

Thomas E. Bridge

Managing director

Media Management Inc.

St. Louis, Mo.

Wrong about Caddy ads

I just read Rance Crain's Sept. 8 critique ("Catera's daffy duck ads don't fly, but Mr. K. will move Nissan Altimas") . . . All was well until he insisted "ads for all other Cadillac models are beamed at the over-60 crowd . . ." Obviously, Rance has not been paying attention . . . Cadillac's advertising from the past year has been totally dominated by spots for the DeVille in which the car is serenaded to jazzed-up versions of "Making Whoopee." The last Eldorado spot I saw featured startling camera angles and surprisingly hard rock music. Everything from the yuppie actors to the lyrics of the songs is geared toward the baby boomer segment.

The ad strategy is great; the execution, however, is irresponsible. Bad move, Foote, Cone & Belding. Sega, what were you thinking?

Steve Scherer

Associate creative director

Eric Mower & Associates

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