Independence

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A dozen years ago, when our independent agency was in its infancy but doing just fine thank you, a brash young man from New York came a-courting. He too ran an agency, far smaller than ours, apparently passed on to him by his father.

After the briefest of intros and cursory ad gossip, he got right to his point. "I want a West Coast presence. I want a car. I want to buy you guys."

"Us?" my partner and I, bigger fish than he, gulped in unison. "You're kidding. We'll #*#*#*' buy you!" Hey, no one has an exclusivity on brashness.

Long fade to last week, when this publication, hot on the Deutsch follow-ups and knowing nothing of our now-ironic encounter with Donny, called to ask if we might have a thought or two on the subject of .

Well, yes, we do hold these truths to be self-evident: that despite the M&A mania in both the advertising and automotive industries-and continual media speculation to the contrary-we, and our longstanding client, American Honda, remain fiercely independent.

It is not my place to explain Honda's thinking. My guess is it has everything to do with pride and heritage. If so, rightly so.

As for us, the most discreet and delicate way to explain our stance is to paint a picture, a composite portrait of a number of subsequent encounters we've had with significantly more substantial suitors.

The man, and it's always a man, arrives by limo, a courtly 20 minutes late. The venue is his suggestion, a private dining club, as is the appointed time, that quiet empty late afternoon before cocktail hour. He appears invigorated, as though fresh from a massage and a facial. We do not.

The man is truly universal; one part each British, French, American and Asian. Tiger Woods can't hold a candle to this guy. And certainly doesn't dress as well.

The man is famous, at least to us, two ad guys with roots in Chicago and fathers who drove for a living, one a police motorcycle, the other a bus. And the man is thoroughly briefed. He knows more about us than we do.

The man immediately launches into the question of our exit strategy. We wonder if he possesses knowledge of an imminent earthquake. We then explain our goal of an eventual assumption by our associates.

The man provides us a short course in economics-valuations, P/E ratios, income and earnings multiples. He does not seem interested in the social sciences-the loyalty and longevity of our people or the college tuitions staring them in the face-except to inquire as to how much staff we consider minimally essential to running our business.

The man talks big picture. Something about joining their global family. Something else about a first-class trip abroad to pose for a group photo that will appear in their annual report. He says our group will include executives from other units in the Under-$1 Billion Category. He says the photo session always coincides with the award show in Cannes and that our suites would be seaside. We flash on our office view of the Pacific and that not-so-shabby Santa Monica beach a block away.

The man pulls an org chart from his Hermes attache. He points out our rectangle and who we would e-mail for answers.

The man dismisses the issue of conflicts, a naive concept given the global economy. As luck would have it, he says, the automobiles currently in their stable are not sold in the States. We suggest the reason for that is nobody in the States would buy them.

The man feigns ennui discussing our clients. He does not ask what they might think of all this or suggest any tangible benefit for them. He knows what they represent-chips on a green board of chance.

The man does pay homage to our product. He assures us his executive committee would find a place on its Web site for at least one of our executions.

The man never talks money, a detail to be dealt with, when and if, by others. We are relieved to hear that, having been warned long ago by our respective dads about every man and his price.

The man checks his Patek-Phillipe. He asks how long at this hour it will take his driver to get him to LAX as he has yet another meeting in San Francisco.

This night, for Rubin and Postaer, there is no free dinner.

Mr. Postaer is exec VP-director of creative services, Rubin Postaer & Associates, Santa Monica, Calif.

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