Editor's Letter

By Published on .

In this issue's profile of Mark Wnek, the fiercely determined new chairman and CCO of Lowe/N.Y., in a characteristically unambiguous statement calls America "the greatest country in the world." While the Brit adman had entertained other U.K. offers, he had America in his sights for some basic reasons. Answering questions about the motivations for his move, Wnek says, "I'm not going to pretend there isn't something to the fact that I grew up in an east European family that had squeezed itself out of communism. Strange as that may sound, most of the answer to your question is in there. Anyone interested in advertising-how could you not want to go to the big show?"

Blimey. That's some real, heady, land of opportunity stuff. And apparently America is not just the big show because of the money.

Several weeks earlier, at the Four A's Management Conference, another Brit ad star talked about America in a different yet equally admiring context. As one of the more amusing highlights of a conference agenda that featured panel titles like "Where is the Internet?," Mother/London CD Mark Waites presented a collection of predictably fantastic and boundary-stretching work from the U.K. Later, in a more, um, informal discussion at the bar, Waites argued very plainly that America, not Britain is the land of advertising glory. The U.S. does the biggest and best work, said Waites. It's a refrain I've heard from many Brits and I agree with it (though reviewing the reel of Jonathan Glazer-see p. 49-I'm reminded of how many of the truly phenomenal British ads he has directed).

So why does it take a bunch of Brits and a Canadian to point out the inherent value in American advertising? And how will the U.S. continue to be a mecca for those seeking the pinnacle of the discipline if agencies here (with exceptions, of course) have no concept of the value of what they do? Now, as someone who is neither an American nor a fan of some of the features of the American regime at present, I am in the uncomfortable position of adding, to the growing list of things I never thought I would hear myself saying, this new entry: American ad agencies should act more ... American.

America and Americans are not typically shy about their perceived place in the world. So why is there so much, well, downright un-American behavior being exhibited by the ad industry?

A sorry example, as reported in the Ad Age story on the Hilton account review, would be agencies giving away to a client their very reason for being-their ideas (this goes for you too, Canadians-see the recent Rogers pitch), guaranteeing that the general estimation of what they offer drops several points.

A story like that makes it that much more poignant to recall how many conference discussions revolve around complaints about a lack of respect for advertising, the lack of talent, the lack of this, the lack of that. It's when discussions like that are followed by reports of agencies doing ridiculously counterproductive things that the great line from the classic Miller High Life campaign pops into my head: "America, is that really you?"

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